Lesson 5: What do you do for a living ?

Learn how to ask somebody for his / her profession. Learn different profession names in French, how to ask polite questions and what the possessive adjectives are. You will also see the difference between “tu” and “vous“, or how to politely address to other people.

1. Dialogue: What do you do for a living ?

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie Monsieur  ?
– Je suis professeur d’histoire.
Et vous Madame, que faites-vous dans la vie ?
– Je suis médecin. Je travaille dans un hôpital.
Qu’est-ce que votre voisin fait dans la vie, Monsieur ?
– Mon voisin ? Je crois qu’il est pompier.
Que fait votre fille dans la vie ?
– Ma fille est vétérinaire.
Et toi, qu’est-ce que tu fais dans la vie?
– Je travaille dans un salon de coiffure. Je suis coiffeur.

 2. Notes


Asking questions: Est-ce que / Qu’est-ce que / Que …

Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ? = What do you do for a living ? / What is your occupation ? / What do you do ? (Formal and polite  expression)
que = what (very common word in French). It can have several meanings.
using tu: informal, used only between young people or friends. 


Qu’est-ce que tu fais ? What are you doing ? 

Comment vas tu ? How are you doing ?
using vous: formal and polite. Used with people you don’t know or to whom you need / want to refer with respect.


– Que faites-vous dans la vie ?

– Où habitez-vous ? Where do you live ? 

est-ce que : a very common way of asking questions in French.

Qu’est-ce que …. =  What do you …. (Que + est = Qu’est (e != e))

no inversion of the subject and verb in questions with est-ce que. 

Qu’est que tu fais ? Whare are you doing (right now)
Qu’est ce que tu fais dans la vie ? What do you do for a living ? 
est-ce que tu travailles ? Where do you work ? 
est-ce que tu habites ? Where do you live ? 


Que faites-vous dans la vie ? = Qu’est-ce que vous faites dans la vie ?

It is a very formal way of asking questions in French.

Conjugation: faire | travailler

Faire ( to do ) Travailler ( to work )
je fais
tu fais
il fait / elle fait / on fait
nous faisons
vous faites
ils / elles font
je travaille
tu travailles
il /elle / on travaille
nous travaillons
vous travaillez
ils / elles travaillent

Additional Grammar

Possessive adjectives (adjectifs possessifs): my, your (polite and friendly forms)

I’m speaking about my neighbour(s):

  • mon voisin: my neighbour
  • ma voisine: my (female) neighbour
  • mes voisins: my neighbours (the “s” in voisins is not pronounced !)

I’m speaking about your neighbour(s):

  • ton voisin:  your neighbour
  • ta voisine: your (female) neighbour
  • tes voisins: your neigbours

I’m speaking about your neigbour(s) (polite)

  • votre voisin: your neighbour  
  • vos voisins: your neighbours

 3. Exercises

Type in the French translation of the sentence in English. If you are stuck or need a suggestion, look closely into the dialogue above. Some detail might have escaped your attention.
  The punctuation marks have already been added there for you. Don't add the punctuation mark ( " . ", " ? ", " ! ") at the end of the sentence as it won't validate your answer ! Sometimes you may be asked to add a comma ( " , ") inside a sentence.
  For the French characters, if you don't know how to type them on your keyboard, please use the virtual keyboard provided below the exercise. The French characters are necessary for the sentences to be correctly completed. Otherwise, your sentence won't be validated.
  Please, remember: this kind of exercise, that is reading the lesson first and then trying to retrieve it from your memory and / or helping yourself by looking back into the lesson is EXTRAORDINARILY efficient. You will be surprised how fast you will learn and how quickly you will actually build your own sentences.

1. What do you do for a living, sir?
Qu’est-ce que , Monsieur ?
2. What does your neighbour do for a living ?
a) ? (polite)
b) ? (friendly)
3. She is a doctor.
4. I’m a firefighter and she’s a veterinary.
Je .
5. I work at school.
6.I’m a professor of French
7. Where do you work ? (friendly)
a. ? (inversion)
b. ? (est-ce que)

4. Homework

  1. Write in French what kind of work you do and where (in what place) you work. Record your work.
  2. Choose 5 people from your surroundings and write what their professions are and where they work.

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