expression of cause

In addition to the words pourquoi (why) and parce que (because) there are several other ways of asking why and giving explanations. This page will explore lots of possibilities for how to ask why and give an answer in French. Some of these expressions are more literary but they’re definitely worth knowing.

questions asking how and why

pourquoi + indicatif

This is the most basic way of asking why in French. The indicatif can be the present tense, passé composé, imperfect, plus-que-parfait, futur simple, past future or passe simple.

  • Pourquoi est-ce qu’elle n’est pas venue? Why didn’t she come?

comment se fait-il que + subjunctive

This example and the following example are both ways of asking, “How is it that?”. The following example is used more in spoken language as the est-ce que is dropped.

  • Comment se fait-il qu’il puisse être si arrogant? How is that he can be so arrogant?

comment ça se fait que + subjunctive

  • Comment ça se fait que tu n’aies pas compris la question? How is that you didn’t understand the question?

comment expliquer + noun

This is used for asking how to explain a specific thing or idea. The English equivalent is, “How can you explain…?

  • Comment expliquer la Sainte-Trinité? How can you explain the Holy Trinity?

comment expliquer que + subjunctive

This expression is similar to the previous expression but differs in that it asks, “How can you explain that…”

  • Comment expliquer que la terre tourne? How can you explain that the Earth rotates?

ways of answering questions

The following are ways of answering questions in French.

parce que

Parce que means because and is the most common and easiest way to answer a question asking for a reason.

  • Pourquoi est-ce qu’il était en retard? -Parce que sa voiture est tombée en panne? Why was he late? Because his car broke down.

puisque

Puisque translate to “since”.

  • Puisqu’il a perdu le pari, il a dû quitter Las Vegas. Since he lost the bet, he had to leave Las Vegas.

comme

Comme means like or as. In this situation it’s used at the beginning of a sentence and translates to “as”.

  • Comme elle était malade, son ami est venu lui rendre visite. As she was sick, her friend came to visit her.

sous prétexte que

In French un prétexte is an excuse. Sous prétexte que translates roughly to “given the excuse that”.

  • Il a raté la réunion sous prétexte qu’il était trop occupé. He missed the meeting given the excuse that he was too busy.

vu que, étant donné que, du fait que

The above all mean “given that”.

  • Vu que le coût de la vie sur la Côte d’Azur est si cher, les gens preferent habiter en Espagne. Given that the cost of living on the Côte d’Azur is so expensive, people prefer to live in Spain.

grace à

Grace à literally translates to thanks to when making an positive attribute.

  • Grace à son français, il a trouve un bon travail. Thanks to his French, he found a good job.

à cause de

À cause de translate to because of when laying blame.

  • À cause de la pluie, nous ne sommes pas venus. Because of the rain, we didn’t come.

faute de

Faute de can translate to for the lack or want of something.

  • Il n’a pas pu trouver un travail faut d’experience. He couldn’t find a job due to the lack of experience.

pour + infinitif passé

This would translate to “for verb + ing”.

  • Il s’est fait arreté par les gendarmes pour avoir conduit trop vite. He was stopped by the police for driving too fast.

en effet, car

These are both similar to parce que (because) but they’re much more literary.

  • La tondeuse ne marche pas, car elle manque d’essence. The lawnmower doesn’t work because it lacks (needs) gas.
  • La tondeuse ne marche pas; en effet; elle manque d’essence. (same meaning)
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