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Archive for November, 2015

In this post, let’s review the basic use of the French en.

I want one.
J’en veux un.

To say I want one in French, you’ve got to include en. You can’t say je veux un. Instead, you say j’en veux un.

Why?

We can translate en as of them here. What we’re really saying when we say j’en veux un is I want one of them. In English, you have the choice of omitting of them. You can say I want one, or you can say I want one of them. In French, you don’t have that choice; you must include the en.

The English of them goes after the number: I want one of them. The French en goes before the verb: J’en veux un.

Read through these examples:

J’en veux un.
J’en veux deux.
J’en vois trois.
J’en mange quatre.
J’en prends cinq.

They mean:

I want one. I want one of them.
I want two. I want two of them.
I see three. I see three of them.
I eat four. I eat four of them.
I take five. I take five of them.

When you say j’en veux un, you’re necessarily talking about an object whose name is a masculine noun in French, like un oiseau or un gâteau or un vélo. If you’re talking about an object whose name is a feminine noun in French, like une chemise, you’ll say j’en veux une to say that you want one of them.

More examples:

Il en donne quatre.
Tu en veux neuf.
Tu en prends cinq.
Il en voit une.

They mean:

He gives four. He gives four of them.
You want nine. You want nine of them.
You take five. You take five of them.
He sees one. He sees one of them.

In spoken language, il en contracts to y’en. Tu en contracts to t’en. Here’s how those last examples can be heard in spoken language:

Y’en donne quatre.
T’en veux neuf.
T’en prends cinq.
Y’en voit une.

Here now are examples of en in sentences used in the past tense. Note the placement of en — it goes before the auxiliary and past participle:

J’en ai vu trois.
J’en ai mangé quatre.
J’en ai pris cinq.

They mean:

I saw three. I saw three of them.
I ate four. I ate four of them.
I took five. I took five of them.

You can’t say j’ai vu trois or j’ai mangé quatre. You’ve always got to include that en, even when speaking in an informal style. No exceptions… sorry!

Pronunciation tip: The ai in those last three examples above is really pronounced n’ai because of the liaison.

More past tense:

Il en a donné quatre.
Tu en as pris cinq.
Tu en as donné un.
Il en a vu une.

They mean:

He gave four. He gave four of them.
You took five. You took five of them.
You gave one. You gave one of them.
He saw one. He saw one of them.

In spoken language, those last four can come out like this instead:

Y’en a donné quatre.
T’en as pris cinq.
T’en as donné un.
Y’en a vu une.

Again, because of the liaison, a and as in these examples are really pronounced n’a.

Here are examples where en is used in sentences including a verb in the infinitive. Again, watch where the en goes:

Je veux en acheter un.
Je compte en faire quatre.
Je crois en voir cinq.
J’aimerais en faire dix.

They mean:

I want to buy one (of them).
I intend to make four (of them).
I believe I see five (of them).
I’d like to make ten (of them).

Can you say the following in French?

I see ten.
I bought two.
I want to buy one.
He ate four.
He wants to take five.
You took one.
You want to eat one.

Now you can also add to your knowledge saying things like this:

J’en veux un comme ça.
I want one (of them) like that.

J’en ai pris un troisième.
I took a third one (of them).

J’en veux un noir.
I want a black one (of them).

J’en veux une avec du fromage.
I want one (of them) with cheese.

J’en veux un autre.
I want another one (of them).

Je compte en faire d’autres.
I intend to make more (of them).

If you say j’en veux on its own not followed by anything else, it means I want some. You can use this with uncountable things — sugar and water, for example.

Don’t confuse j’en veux with je t’en veux. J’en veux means I want some, but je t’en veux means I’m upset with you. That’s because the expression en vouloir à quelqu’un means to be upset with someone.

Keep reading about en:

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I posted some pre-winter images to the OffQc Facebook page recently, but I wanted to put them here on the blog too, for your reference. They’re images of a few aspects typical of Montréal at this time of year.

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This first image was taken on 19 November at 4 o’clock in the afternoon (16:08, to be precise), on Sainte-Catherine at McGill College. November is the month where you think it’s 10 at night, then look at the clock and see it’s only 5. On the bright side, the temperature was mild when I took this photo: 13 degrees.

image

This second image is of driveways fitted with white, plastic shelters along their length. Homeowners have these shelters installed to prevent snow from accumulating on the driveway — no tiring shovelling at 5 in the morning before going to work because of an overnight snowstorm.

You can drive your car right into the shelter and leave it parked underneath, or you can continue into the garage. In an attempt to minimise visual pollution, only white (i.e., snow-coloured) shelters are permitted in Montréal. These shelters are practical, but they’re also disliked by people who find them to be an eyesore.

A general name in French for a car shelter is un abri d’auto, but the term un abri Tempo is frequently used instead, where Tempo is the name of a car shelter manufacturer.

In the image above, you can see these shelters have been installed in front of virtually every house on the street. Everybody in the neighbourhood is ready for the snow.

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In French, someone asked who sings that song? But the question didn’t include the French word chanson, and it didn’t begin with qui.

Any idea how the question might’ve been asked?

Here’s what the speaker said:

C’est qui qui chante c’te toune-là?
Who sings that song?

C’est qui qui is often used to ask who questions. C’est qui qui a dit ça? Who said that? C’est qui qui a écrit ça? Who wrote that? Maybe we can compare this formulation to English’s who is it that (e.g., who is it that sings that song?).

C’te toune-là means that song, where toune (a feminine noun) means song, just like chanson does. C’te is a contraction of cette. To pronounce c’te, first say te. Now put an s sound on the front of it: s’te.

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Vendredi fou

The day after Thanksgiving in the United States is called Black Friday — it’s a day when stores offer their products at discount.

Black Friday exists in Canada now too, and on the same day as in the US. But, unlike in the US, the Canadian Black Friday isn’t a post-Thanksgiving event because Thanksgiving in Canada falls on a different day.

What’s Black Friday called in Québec?

There isn’t just one way — there are three!

1. Vendredi fou
2. Vendredi noir
3. Black Friday

Looking at shop windows in Montréal, there seems to be a definite preference for the term Vendredi fou (literally, Crazy Friday). Vendredi noir (literally, Black Friday) comes in second place. Finally, the untranslated Black Friday is much more rare than the other two, but I did see it in two shop windows.

Here’s some of what I saw (in Montréal):

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi fou

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Vendredi noir

Black Friday

Black Friday

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We’ve seen quite a few times now how the verb niaiser can be used to render the expression I’m just kidding (you) into French:

J’te niaise,

which is a contraction of je te niaise. J’te niaise sounds like ch’te nyèz. (Ch’te sounds like the French word te with the French ch sound stuck on the front of it.) It literally means I’m kidding you, I’m joking you.

During a conversation, though, an elderly woman said I’m just kidding in a different way. She didn’t say j’te niaise. In fact, she didn’t use the verb niaiser at all, but she did use the plural noun blagues, meaning jokes.

Can you guess how she said it?

Here’s what she said:

C’est des blagues que j’fais!
I’m just kidding (you)!
(literally, “I’m making jokes,” “it’s jokes that I’m making”)

J’fais is a contraction of je fais. It sounds like ch’fais.

Getting back to j’te niaise, if you haven’t learned that one yet, learn it now. It’s used frequently. The negative form is also used a lot: j’te niaise pas, meaning I’m serious, I’m not kidding, for real, etc.

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During a conversation, a guy said a French equivalent of my friend’s father. But he didn’t use the word ami, and he didn’t use de either.

Can you guess how he said it?

You’ve learned to show possession with de. For example, la maison de mon père means my father’s house. But there’s another way to show possession you should learn to understand — instead of de, it uses à.

Here’s what the guy said:

le père à mon chum
my friend’s father

Using à like this instead of de to show possession is felt to be an informal usage.

Finally, the guy referred to his friend as his chum. The ch in chum is pronounced the English way, not the French way. Chum sounds as though it were written tchomme in French. (Tch in French makes the same sound as the English ch, like the ch in church.) Chum is an informal Québécois equivalent of ami here.

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More French from the radio today — a radio host said this about a song she’d just played on air:

Eille, c’est què’qu’chose, là!
Hey, it’s really great [that song]!
Hey, it’s really somethin’ [that song]!

Què’qu’chose is a contraction of quelque chose, meaning something. This contracted form sounds as if it were written quèc chose in French, or like keck shows using English spelling.

If something’s què’qu’chose, it’s great, remarkable, or just like in English, “something.”

Eille, an interjection meaning hey, sounds like the eille ending of the French word abeille, meaning bee.

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