Can that be? Is that possible?
We’ll come back to this question in a minute; let’s back up and look first at the verb se pouvoir.
Se pouvoir means être possible, to be possible.
Ça se peut.
= C’est possible.
= That’s possible.
If you say ça se peut exactly as written, it has three syllables: ça / se / peut. But se can lose its vowel sound in regular speech, so you’re much more likely to hear this pronounced with two syllables instead as: ça s’peut. To say this, just put the s sound on the end of ça, then say peut. (It sounds like sass peu).
Let’s say now that we want to ask is that possible?, i.e., turn ça s’peut into a yes-no question. Of course, you can put est-ce que in front of it and that would work (est-ce que ça s’peut?), but there’s a different way frequently used in regular conversations that you’ll want to know — it uses tu.
Is that possible?
Remember, this tu doesn’t mean you. All it does is transform ça s’peut into a yes-no question in an informal way. This tu means the same thing as est-ce que, but whereas est-ce que is put before the subject, tu is placed after the verb.
The question ça s’peut-tu? has three syllables: ça s’ / peut / tu. (It sounds like sass peu tu. But maybe you’ll remember that the letter t before the French u sound in fact sounds like ts in Québécois French [like the ts in the English word cats], so, more accurately, we can say it sounds like sass peu tsu.)
In a conversation yesterday, I heard someone say:
Ça s’peut très bien.
That may very well be.
That’s entirely possible.
He could’ve said this after having been asked ça s’peut-tu?, for example.
The next time you want to say c’est possible in a conversation, for a change use ça s’peut instead. There’s nothing wrong with c’est possible, of course, but ça s’peut is used so frequently that you can be using it too. You can incorporate the informally asked ça s’peut-tu? into your usage as well, and surprise your listeners with your natural-sounding French.