By “informal,” I mean a word or expression far more likely to be found in normal, spontaneous, everyday language — between friends and family, for example — than in high literature or business correspondence or news reports.
In many posts on OffQc, you’ve no doubt noticed that I very often say that such-and-such a word or expression is an informal usage. Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder if all Québécois words and expressions are informal…
They’re not. There are many words and expressions unique to Québec that you’re just as likely to hear in everyday, spontaneous language as you are in a televised news report or formal language, in the same way that words like téléphone and café can cross language levels.
Below are some examples of both informal and level-neutral Québécois French.
Informal (between friends, for example)
- pogner, to grab, catch
- checker, to check
- c’est-tu…?, is it…?, is that…?
- capoter, to flip out
- m’as, I’m gonna (+ infinitive)
- c’est don’ bin cute!, is that ever cute!
- pis là, and then
- faque, so
- enweille!, come on then!
- un char, car
Level-neutral (not limited to one language level)
- un cégépien, cégep student
- faire l’épicerie, to go food shopping
- magasiner, to shop, shop around for
- une tête-de-violon, fiddlehead
- la poudrerie, blowing snow
- un melon d’eau, watermelon
- une pourvoirie, grounds where you can hunt, fish, trap
- à l’arrêt, at the stop sign
- un téléroman, soap opera
- un REER, retirement investment, pronounced ré-èr
It’s true that a lot of the language on OffQc falls more in the informal category than the level-neutral one. I do this because this is the language that’s more difficult to learn.
Informal words and expressions are less likely to appear in dictionaries and learning materials than the level-neutral ones. Informal usages are also sometimes “hidden” from learners by language instructors who judge them negatively or, outside of Québec, may be unknown to them if they aren’t familiar with the Québécois variety of French.