Archive for January, 2011

Any idea what the verb se maganer means in French?

In a scene from 30 vies, François tells a teaching colleague that she’s trying too hard to help a troubled student. As he speaks, he tells her:

Tu te maganes pour rien.
You’re taking on way more (work) than you have to.

[Said by the character François in 30 vies, season 1, episode 2, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 11 January 2011.]

Maganer quelque chose is an informal expression meaning “to damage something.”


J’ai magané mes souliers.
I damaged my shoes.

In the quote above, se maganer is used in the sense of taking on too much work, with the idea that it’s “damaging” to onself — not necessarily damaging in a literal sense, but definitely excessive.

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Thomas is in the kitchen, drying his hands with a tea towel (un linge). When his mother walks in, she gives him a little lecture. She wants him to use a special towel to dry his hands in the kitchen, not the tea towel meant for the dishes.

Of course, Thomas doesn’t see what difference it makes! Here’s how he said that to his mother:

Qu’est-ce ça change?
What’s the difference? What difference does it make?

[Said by the character Thomas in Les Parent, “Blues d’automne,” season 3, episode 7, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 25 October 2010.]

Qu’est-ce (sounds like “kess”) is an informal way of saying qu’est-ce que in the quote above. This informal pronunciation sometimes appears in relaxed, spoken French. The quote above was pronounced kess ça change.

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The English expression “to fail (something),” like an exam, is échouer (à quelque chose) in French.


J’ai échoué à mon examen.
I failed my exam.

Alongside échouer, there’s an informal verb used fairly frequently in French that you might want to learn: couler.


J’ai coulé mon année.
I flunked at school (my school year).

T’as coulé ton examen?!
You flunked your exam?!

T’as in the example above is an informal pronunciation of tu as.

You’ll especially hear the informal verb couler used in this sense when talking about flunking tests and exams at school, or even an entire school year.

[This entry was inspired by the character Michel in La Galère, season 3, episode 9, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 15 November 2010.]


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If you spend any time around French-speaking kids, you won’t go long without hearing one of them say that they gotta go pee! How might you hear this said in French? With the expression j’ai envie!

Although it’s generally children who’ll say j’ai envie in this sense (they’re not embarrassed to tell the world), it’s not impossible to hear an adult say it too on occasion, especially if they’re trying to be playful. This informal expression is not limited to Quebec French.

The expression j’ai envie is usually used when the context is clear, such as a kid knocking on the bathroom door screaming j’ai envie!!! Otherwise, you may hear it said as j’ai envie de pipi, which is the full form of this expression.

[This entry was inspired by the character Dominique in 30 vies, season 1, episode 1, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 10 January 2011.]

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Something often missing from French textbooks is how to ask questions in a natural way with the word pourquoi. When people speak informally, the inversion is generally not used after this question word.


Pourquoi tu fais ça?
Why are you doing that?

Pourquoi tu t’en vas?
Why are you going away?

Pourquoi tu mens?
Why are you lying?

[This entry was inspired by Natalie in Les Parent, “Blues d’automne,” season 3, episode 7, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 25 October 2010. Here, Natalie asked “Why do you say that?” in French. Now that you’ve read the examples above, you should be able to figure out how she said that informally using tu.]

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If you heard the expression d’enfer, you’d be correct in thinking that it meant “of hell.” Literally, that’s what it means.

Informally, d’enfer can take on another meaning, though.

In a scene from La Galère, a teenager named Hugo is excited that he’s going to get a new apartment. But he’s not going to get just any old apartment — no, he’s going to get un appart d’enfer!

D’enfer can be added after a noun to mean amazing, awesome, wild…

Un appart is an informal way of saying un appartement. The final t in appart is pronounced.


Un appartement d’enfer, c’est cher!
An amazing apartment is expensive!

Tu vas avoir un appart d’enfer à Montréal!
You’re going to get an amazing apartment in Montreal!

[This entry was inspired by the character Hugo in La Galère, season 3, episode 10, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 22 November 2010.]

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Imagine you ask a friend a question. Surprised, he or she wants to know why you’re asking.

Maybe you don’t want to admit why you’re asking. Or maybe the reason just isn’t important. In English, you might answer, “no, no, just asking.”

How might you hear this said in French? Stéphanie from La Galère gives an example:

Je demandais ça comme ça, là.
I was just asking.

[Said by the character Stéphanie in La Galère, season 3, episode 10, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 22 November 2010.]

The at the end of her sentence isn’t necessary, but it adds a certain informal flavour and nonchalance to what she says.

When you say this, you could also shake your head a little and put on a “it’s no big deal” look on your face.

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