Archive for July, 2013

Here are 5 new examples of spontaneous French from conversations or that I’ve overheard someone say in Montréal.

1. Y’est moins dix.

It’s ten to.
(Il est moins dix.)

It was ten to three (14 h 50) when the person said this. You’ll often hear il est pronounced as y’est ().

Dix gets dziduated in Québec. It sounds like dziss.

2. Y’a moins de choix que la dernière fois.

There’s less choice than last time.
(Il y a moins de choix que la dernière fois.)

This person was talking about how there was less to choose from in a shop compared with last time. Il y a is generally pronounced y’a in regular conversations.

3. Y’a pas de quoi être fier.

That’s nothing to be proud of.
(Il n’y a pas de quoi être fier.)

The opposite of y’a is y’a pas, which is generally how you’ll hear il n’y a pas pronounced during regular conversations.

4. Excusez!


A man knocked over his chair by accident in a restaurant, making a lot of noise. He apologised to the people around him by saying excusez.

Maybe you’ll remember the elderly lady who burped behind me and said pardon, ‘scusez to the people around her.

5. Ciao!


Ciao is used very frequently in Montréal to say “bye.”

In the original Italian, ciao means both “hi” and “bye.” Francophones in Québec use it to say “bye.”

La banlieue, c'pas pour moiUrban French

La banlieue, c’pas pour moi. The burbs aren’t for me.

If ever there was an example of urban French, this would have to be it.

The image is of an advertisement, seen in a métro station, for urban condos located in Montréal.

No lawns, please and thank you!

Read Full Post »

Chère madame qui m'a vu me décrotter le nezHere’s more fun stuff from Rabii!

Rabii’s blog posts are written in the form of comical letters to different people who’ve crossed his path in Montréal.

Below you’ll find some entertaining French to learn from three different posts, or “letters,” that he’s written.

After each number below is the title of one of his blog posts, which you can click on to go the post in question.

1. Chère madame qui m’a vu me décrotter le nez

Dear lady who saw me picking my nose

Rabii says to the lady who witnessed the whole nose-picking scene:

Tu as tout vu, mais je m’en fous, je l’assume : je suis un décrotteur occasionnel.

You saw it all, but I don’t care, and I’m not afraid to say it: I’m an occasional nosepicker.

se décrotter le nez, to pick one’s nose
un décrotteur occasionnel, an occasional picker

Now that you know se décrotter le nez, you can also say:

se décrotter les yeux, to pick the crud out of one’s eyes
se décrotter les oreilles, to clean one’s ears out

2. Cher ami qui veut fourrer son iPhone

Dear friend who wants to screw his iPhone

Rabii says to his friend:

Pour vrai, j’ai peur d’arriver chez toi trop tôt un jour, d’ouvrir la porte de ta chambre et te pogner en train de le fourrer, ton iPhone.

Seriously, I’m afraid I’ll arrive at your place too early one day, open your bedroom door and catch you screwing your iPhone.

pogner quelqu’un, to catch someone
en train de fourrer, in the act of screwing
fourrer son iPhone, to screw one’s iPhone

You can read all about the verb pogner in “Everything you ever wanted to know about the québécois verb pogner.”

3. Cher gars qui traite sa blonde comme d’la marde

Dear guy who treats his girlfriend like shit

Rabii comes to the defence of a nice girl whose boyfriend talked to her like shit while shopping in Montréal.

Nonetheless, Rabii admits to sometimes wondering if girlfriends are really even necessary:

Y’a des jours où j’me dis : « Qui a besoin d’une blonde quand on a Netflix? »

There are days when I think, “Who needs a girlfriend when you’ve got Netflix?”

une blonde, a girlfriend
traiter quelqu’un comme de la marde, to treat someone like shit

You can check out this earlier post on OffQc with content from Rabii.

You can read all of Rabii’s blog posts on Urbania.

Read Full Post »

I heard two strangers say these examples of French yesterday in Montréal. They are both related to money.

1. Est-ce qu’y’a quelqu’un qui a jusse vingt cennes?

A street kid asked this question of all the passers-by around him. It means: “Is there anybody who’s got just twenty cents?”

I’ve written it above exactly as he pronounced it.

est-ce qu’y’a [esskya] = est-ce qu’il y a
jusse = juste
vingt cennes = vingt cents

Cenne is a feminine word, une cenne. It’s an informal pronunciation of cent.

Cent is a masculine word, un cent. When cent means “cent” (as in $0.01), it’s pronounced like the English word “sent.” Don’t pronounce it like the French word for 100 in this sense.

Cent is a more formal usage than cenne. The word cent is used on Canadian coins, for example. In regular conversations, it’s pronounced cenne.

You may remember that sou also means “cent” in Québec.

vingt cennes
vingt sous
twenty cents

The terms cenne noire and sou noir both referred to the penny, but this coin is no longer in circulation in Canada. The noir part referred to the colour that the coin took on through use.

2. Payez-vous débit ou comptant?

A cashier asked me this. It means: “Are you paying by debit or cash?”

When you pay by debit card, the money is taken immediately out of your bank account.

Débit is pronounced débi. Comptant sounds like the French word content. The expression payer comptant means “to pay cash” (and not “to pay happy”!).

Read Full Post »

Chu dans marde!

In spoken French, you’ll often hear the word combination dans la said as dans. Before looking at that, let’s take two expressions used in Québec:

être dans la marde
avoir les yeux dans la graisse de bines

1. être dans la marde

This expression, which literally means “to be in the shit,” is used to describe being up shit’s creek, to be in a rough spot, to be screwed, to be in for it.

2. avoir les yeux dans la graisse de bines

This expression literally means “to have one’s eyes in the bean grease.” When someone has a dazed or spaced out look in their eyes, their eyes are in the bean grease!

Both of these expressions contain the word combination dans la:

dans la marde
dans la graisse de bines

Informal pronunciation of dans la

At an informal level of spoken French, sometimes la loses its initial consonant sound, leaving just ‘a.

When this happens in the word combination dans la, we could say that the remaining ‘a sound gets “swallowed up” in the nasal vowel sound of dans.

This is why you’ll hear dans la marde and dans la graisse de bines from the two expressions above sound like:

dans marde
dans graisse de bines

T’es dans marde!
(té dans marde)
You’re screwed!
You’re gonna get it!

J’sus dans marde!
(chu dans marde)
I’m screwed!
I’m so in for it!

On est vraiment dans marde, hein!
You can hear Cynthia pronounce this here at 3:44.

T’as les yeux dans graisse de bines!
(t’a les yeux dans graisse de bines)
You look so spaced out!

Dans la may contract whenever these two words come together during informal speech, not just in the two expressions above.

With certain informal expressions, like the two above, it sounds kind of unnatural to say them with the full dans la. So you can say them with the contracted form explained above.

But elsewhere, with regular expressions (like dans la rue, dans la bouteille, dans la vie, etc.), you can continue to say the full dans la. It’s not necessary for you to apply the contraction here, even though you may hear native speakers do it spontaneously.

Read Full Post »

Qu'est-ce t'as dit?Qu’est-ce t’as dit?

During a conversation yesterday, a friend of mine said this to another friend: qu’est-ce t’as dit?

It means:
What did you say? or
What did you just say?

The friend who asked this question didn’t hear what had just been said. The question was used to get our friend to repeat himself.

We can pull 3 very important things out of this question to help you with French pronunciation.

1. qu’est-ce
2. t’as
3. dzi

1. qu’est-ce

You’ll notice that she didn’t say:
Qu’est-ce que tu as dit?

Although possible, she didn’t say this either:
Qu’est-ce que t’as dit?

What she said was:
Qu’est-ce t’as dit?

There’s no que in there, and she pronounced tu as as t’as.

Her question is an informal usage. The qu’est-ce part sounds like kess, which means her question sounded like kess t’as dit?

During conversations, you’ll very frequently hear questions that use tu asked like this, with just qu’est-ce, for example:

qu’est-ce t’as fait? (what did you do?)
qu’est-ce t’en penses? (what do you think about that?)
qu’est-ce tu veux? (what do you want?)

2. t’as

The truth is that you’ll hear tu as a lot less than you maybe expected during conversations. It’s very frequently pronounced t’as. (The s is silent.)

Tu has a very strong tendency of becoming t’ when the next word begins with a vowel. So, not only will you hear t’as, you’ll also hear:

t’es (= tu es),
t’en (= tu en),
t’étais (= tu étais),
t’avais (= tu avais), etc.

To ask your friend’s opinion about something (as in “what do you think about that?”), you can ask qu’est-ce t’en penses?, which sounds more conversational than qu’est-ce que tu en penses?

As an alternative, you can also leave the que intact and just contract tu en to t’en, like this: qu’est-ce que t’en penses? This also sounds conversational, and you can use it.

3. dzi

You didn’t go and forget about the dzidzu on me, did you? I even made up a word to describe this feature of québécois pronunciation! When the letter d precedes the French i and u sounds, it gets pronounced as dz.

So, really, when my friend asked our other friend to repeat himself, her question sounded like this:

Kess t’a dzi?

Here are 15 more words that are dzidzuated in Québec:

  1. distance (dzistance)
  2. jeudi (jeudzi)
  3. mordu (mordzu)
  4. répondu (répondzu)
  5. cardiaque (cardziaque)
  6. maladie (maladzie)
  7. applaudir (applaudzir)
  8. dur (dzur)
  9. ordi (ordzi)
  10. disque (dzisque)
  11. direction (dzirection)
  12. module (modzule)
  13. maudit (maudzit)
  14. disposer (dzisposer)
  15. diplomate (dziplomate)

Don’t go overboard with the zzzz sound though. It’s really just a short dz sound, not some long drawn-out thing that sounds like you’re over-buzzing all over the place! Listen to spoken French from Québec and you’ll hear it all the time. It’s a standard feature of québécois pronunciation.

Read Full Post »

MontréalThese 7 examples really are “street French” because I overheard someone say each one of them in the street!

1. Pardon, ‘scusez!

While waiting in line to get on an STM bus, an elderly woman behind me burped. It caught her off-guard, and she apologised to the people around her by saying pardon, ‘scusez!

‘Scusez is a shortened form of excusez. Instead of saying just pardon or just excusez, she said both. I guess she was particularly embarrassed.

2. J’viens d’avoir un flash.

A woman on her Vespa was parked along the side of a street. She was talking into her mobile phone and said j’viens d’avoir un flash, “I just had an idea” or “I just thought of something.”

I didn’t catch much else, but I think she was making plans to meet up with the friend she was talking to.

3. Un peu d’change, monsieur?

A homeless man in the street asked me for spare change by saying un peu d’change, monsieur? You’ll often hear change referred to as change in Québec.

On the other hand, the word monnaie is used throughout the French-speaking world, including Québec, in the sense of spare change.

I’ve also been asked un peu d’monnaie, monsieur? in the street in Montréal.

4. Fouille-moi, là.

The woman who said this was explaining to someone else that a package had been delivered to the wrong address. When she was asked how it happened, she used the expression fouille-moi, “beats me” or “who knows.”

Fouiller means “to search.” The idea behind this expression is “search me (for the answer, but you’re not gonna find it!).”

If you don’t know how to pronounce fouille, it sounds something like the English “phooey” (as in “oh phooey!”). If you were to pronounce this expression as “phooey-moi,” you’re pretty close to the way it sounds.

She also stuck in a at the end of her expression. Maybe you’ll remember that is added to end of all kinds of statements in Québec during conversations.

5. Y’a-tu quelqu’un qui était là?

A woman said this while speaking into her mobile. It means: “Was anybody there?” or “Is there someone who was there?” It’s not as difficult to understand as you may think.

Il y a is often pronounced y’a during conversations. The opposite, il n’y a pas, is often said as y’a pas. So, now you know that y’a-tu quelqu’un qui était là? means il y a-tu quelqu’un qui était là? But what about that tu in there?

That tu is a yes-no question word used during informal speech. To understand it, we can render it as oui ou non:

Il y a (oui ou non) quelqu’un qui était là?

6. Let’s go, let’s go!

A man was leading a group of school kids in the street. When they started to scatter about a bit, he urged them to hurry up and come all together again as a group. He called out: let’s go, let’s go!

This expression obviously comes from English, but everybody in Québec understands it. In fact, it’s used often enough that I think we can just call it a French expression used in Québec!

7. OK les amis, suivez-moi!

That same group of school kids was also led by a woman accompanying the man who said the expression above. When she wanted the kids to follow her in the street, she said: OK les amis, suivez-moi!, “OK friends, follow me!”

When you want to call out to your friends in French, you say les amis!, with the les included in it. For example, you can call out to a group of your friends by saying: hey, les amis!

Read Full Post »

Espace réservé aux trous de culRabii Rammal’s blog posts on the website version of Urbania are written in the form of letters.

The “letters” are addressed to strangers who have crossed Rammal’s path in the city and caught his attention for different reasons.

A few blog post titles will give you an idea of what to expect from Rammal:

Cher gars qui voulait se parquer dans le spot pour handicapés,
Dear guy who wanted to park in the spot for handicapped people,


Cher gars qui pue,
Dear guy who stinks,


Chère fille qui a assassiné un gars à la banque,
Dear girl who murdered a guy at the bank,

In his blog post about the guy who wanted to park in the handicapped spot even though he wasn’t handicapped, Rammal describes this act as “something that only an asshole does,” c’est trou de cul de faire ça.

Rammal tells the guy:

C’est trou de cul faire ça. C’est le genre de truc que si t’allais voir un trou de cul et tu lui demandais : « Hey, trou de cul, te stationnerais-tu dans un spot pour handicapés? » ben il te répondrait : « Oui, ça m’semble être quelque chose que ma qualité de trou de cul me pousserait à faire ».

Only an asshole does that. It’s like if you went up to an asshole and asked: “Hey asshole, would you park in a spot for handicapped people?,” he’d answer: “Yes, as an asshole, that seems like something I’d be very inclined to do.”

un trou de cul
(sounds like troud cu)
an asshole

C’est trou de cul de faire ça.
Only an asshole does that.

se stationner
to park

un spot
(informal; sounds like spotte)
a spot

Y s’est stationné dans un spot pour handicapés.
He parked in a handicapped spot.

In his blog post about the girl who “murdered” a guy at the bank (she didn’t really murder him, she verbally blasted him), Rammal witnesses an argument between four people waiting in line at the bank.

While in line, two male friends talk to each other about driving up to Tremblant. Male friend A then takes a dig at male friend B by saying that he drives like a girl: tu chauffes comme une fille.

Two female friends waiting in line behind the guys hear the comment. One of the girls chews the guy out for his comment. An argument follows, with gender stereotypes flung about, like when one of the guys insults the angry girl by saying that she must be dans sa semaine, or that it must be “that time of the month.”

chauffer comme une fille
conduire comme une fille
to drive like a girl

être dans sa semaine
to be on the rag
to be that time of the month

You can read Rabii Rammal on Urbania. You can also follow @rabiirammal and @_URBANIA on Twitter.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »