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Archive for December, 2015

Here are 10 of the most googled French usages that led readers to OffQc this year. Do you know them all?

VOYONS DON’

When feeling taken aback by something, you can say voyons don’. (Don’ is in fact donc, but the c is silent here.) You can also say ben voyons don’ for more effect. (Ben sounds like bain; it’s a contraction of bien.) Voyons don’ is similar to the way you might say oh come on in English. For example, maybe you’ve just spilled your coffee for the second time today. Voyons don’! Come on! Or maybe a friend is getting back together with a terrible ex. Ben voyons don’! Oh come on!

FAQUE

Whether it’s pronounced with one syllable (as fak) or two (as fa-que), this means so, just like the French word alors. Faque qu’est-ce qu’on fait à soir? So what’re we gonna do tonight? Faque c’est ça! So there you have it! So there you go! Because of its resemblance to the English F word, a friend from Central America asks me if it’s rude to say faque. Nope! You can faque all you like.

TABARNOUCHE

You know how in English people say things like shoot, dang, crikey, cripes, etc., to avoid using the original swear word it comes from? Same thing with tabarnouche — it’s a toned-down version of the vulgar Québécois tabarnak. C’est un bon produit, mais tabarnouche! C’est super cher. It’s a good product, but jeez! It’s super expensive.

BEN LÀ

Here’s another thing you can say when you’re surprised, taken aback. Picture it — a mother has just told her son he can’t go out and play because he’s got homework to do. He says: Ben làààà! Oh come oooon! Nooo! Or maybe you’ve just found out that everyone at work got a pay increase but you. Ben là! What the? For real?

C’EST CORRECT

When you want to say it’s/that’s fine, it’s/that’s ok in French, you can say c’est correct. Maybe your partner just burnt the toast, but you don’t mind. C’est correct, là! C’est pas grave. It’s fine! It’s no big deal. Note that correct is pronounced informally as correc’ in spoken language, without the final t.

C’T’EN PLEIN ÇA

If a friend made a comment and you wanted to show your entire agreement, you might say c’t’en plein ça! Exactly! Spot on! C’t’en is a contraction of c’est en. It sounds like en with an st sound attached to the front (st’en). C’est en, on the other hand, sounds like cé t’en.

C’EST PAS ÉVIDENT

Not limited to Québécois French, this expression simply means it’s not easy, it’s complicated. Apprendre cinq langues en même temps, c’est pas évident! Learning five languages at once isn’t easy!

C’EST PLATE

You just got a parking ticket? C’est plate. Broke up with your girlfriend? Ah c’est plate. You can use c’est plate (or c’est platte) in the same way you might say in English that stinks, that’s sucks, that’s too bad.

C’EST-TU

In spoken language, tu can serve the same purpose as est-ce que. C’est-tu, then, means the same thing as est-ce que c’est. This tu is not the second-person singular meaning you; instead, it’s used to form a yes-no question in informal language. C’est-tu correct? Is it/that okay? C’est-tu normal? Is it/that normal?

T’ES MALADE

This literally means you’re sick, you’re ill (where t’es is a contraction of tu es sounding like ), but you’ll also hear t’es malade used informally in the sense of you’re crazy. T’es malade, toi! You’re crazy!

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A mother in Montréal spoke with her young boy. The boy made a comment in jest; laughing, his mother retorted, “You sure of that?”

Can you say how she might’ve asked this in French?

Here’s what she asked:

T’es sûr de t’ça, toi?
You sure of that?

T’es is a spoken form of tu es — it sounds like té.

What about de t’ça?

De t’ça simply means de ça; it’s a spoken form that you’ll hear frequently in conversations. How is it pronounced? Say de with a t sound on the end of it, then say ça.

If you’re wondering now if you need to say de t’ça instead of de ça, you don’t. De ça is always fine, even when speaking informally with francophone friends. But you can also try it out, if you really want to.

If you know how the yes-no tu works in spoken language, maybe your guess as to how the mother said this was one of these:

T’es-tu sûr de ça, toi?
T’es-tu sûr de t’ça, toi?

Although possible, that’s not how she said it.

Remember, in t’es-tu, the only part that means you is t’. The tu here serves only to transform t’es into a yes-no question. (This tu serves the same purpose as est-ce que.)

If your answer to the question used tu es instead of t’es, know that you’re not very likely to hear that in spoken language. Tu es virtually always contracts to t’es, unless the speaker wishes to give particular emphasis to his words.

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A few posts back, we looked at different examples using marde. Let’s turn that post about marde into part 1 of a new series about swearing in Québécois French and continue now with part 2: maudit.

One of the examples in part 1 was:

AH BEN MAUDITE MARDE!

Do you remember what this means from part 1? The expression maudite marde literally means damned shit, but you can use it the way you might say things in English like damn it, bloody hell or even just shit. Maudite marde, j’ai perdu ma Rolex! Damn it, I lost my Rolex! You might add ah ben before it (ben is a contraction of bien; it sounds like the French word bain), as in ah ben maudite marde! Well, damn it! Well, shit!

Before we start looking at more examples of maudit, let’s check how it’s pronounced.

You’ll remember that the letter d in fact sounds like dz (like the dz sound in the English words beds, heads, etc.) when it comes before the French i sound, as it does in maudit. This means maudit sounds like mô-dzi (ô sounds like oh), or, using English approximations, like moh-dzee. The feminine form maudite sounds like mô-dzite. But, rather than sounding like the English word eat, the ite ending of maudite sounds much like the English word it, with a short i sound. In other words, using English approximations, maudite sounds like moh-dzit, not moh-dzeet.

MAUDIT QUE C’EST CHER!

You can use maudit que to add a lot of emphasis. Maudit que c’est cher! Damn that’s expensive! Maudit que t’es chanceuse! Damn you’re lucky! Maudit que t’es beau! Damn you look good!

C’EST QUOI TON MAUDIT PROBLÈME?

Maudit is an adjective, so you can put it before a noun and damn it. C’est quoi ton maudit problème? What’s your damn problem? Just remember to use the masculine or feminine form as necessary. C’est quoi c’te maudite affaire-là? What is that damn thing? (C’te is an informal, spoken form of cette; it sounds like te with an s sound on the front of it: s’te.Maudite journée d’marde, j’ai pogné un ticket. Damn shitty day, I got a ticket. (Pogné sounds like ponnyé. The final t in ticket is pronounced, and the stress falls on the final syllable.)

Y’ÉTAIT EN MAUDIT

If someone’s really angry, that person can be said to be en maudit. Y’était en maudit. He was pissed off. Tout le monde est en maudit contre lui. Everybody’s pissed off with him. Ça va mettre tout le monde en maudit. That’s going to piss everybody off. (In spoken language, mettre can lose its final re, meaning it’ll sound like mette.)

If you want to say je suis en maudit, know that je suis en can contract in spoken language — first je suis contracts to j’s’, which sounds like the French ch (like the ch in choix), and then a t sound slips in. Ch-t-en maudit, then, is a spoken pronunciation of je suis en maudit.

Y’EN AVAIT EN MAUDIT

En maudit has another meaning — a hell of a lot. Je l’aime en maudit. I love it/him/her a hell of a lot. Y’en avait en maudit. There was a hell of a lot (of it). There were a hell of a lot (of them). (Y’en avait en maudit is a contraction of il y en avait en maudit. If you’re not sure how en works in il y en avait, you can start learning about that here. Or the short answer: en means of it, of them, and it gets placed before the verb avait.)

Keep reading about swearing in Québécois French:

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An employee advised his co-worker that he was going on supper break by saying a French equivalent of “I’m going for supper.” Can you guess how he said it?

The employee used a first-person present tense conjugation of s’en aller (to go), followed by the verb souper (to eat supper, to have supper). In other words, to say to go for supper, he used the expression s’en aller souper.

One way s’en aller conjugates is as je m’en vais, giving us je m’en vais souper — but that’s not what he said. Another way it conjugates is as je m’en vas, where vas rhymes with pas. The conjugation je m’en vas is a colloquial form and contracts in spoken language to j’m’en vas, giving us j’m’en vas souper. This still isn’t quite what the employee said, though.

Here, finally, is what he said:

M’en vas souper.
I’m going for supper.

M’en vas is a reduction of the conjugation je m’en vas, where the pronoun je is no longer present.

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One way we haven’t seen en used yet is when it appears with an imperative.

But first, remember from #1060 how you saw sentences like the ones below?

J’en achète un.
I buy one (of them).

J’en obtiens un.
I get one (of them).

J’en ai acheté un.
I bought one (of them).

J’en ai obtenu un.
I got one (of them).

In that post, you learned about where en goes in those sentences and what it means. If you haven’t read that post yet, start there.

I saw this sign in front of a shop in Montréal:

image

On the sign, we read:

Achetez-en 1
Obtenez-en 1
à 50% de rabais

Buy 1 (of them)
Get 1 (of them)
at half price

En means the same thing here as in #1060, but the position of it is different with the imperative. Take note of where it goes:

prends-en un!
prends-en deux!
achètes-en une!

take one (of them)!
take two (of them)!
buy one (of them)!

In the same way that you can’t say je veux un, you can’t say prends deux. Instead, you say j’en veux un (I want one, I want one of them) and prends-en deux (take two, take two of them).

But take note: when –er verbs (like acheter) are used in the imperative, second-person singular (i.e., the tu form), there’s no s on the end of the verb:

tu achètes
but:
achète!
and not:
achètes!

However…

The s gets put back on when en follows:

achètes-en!
achètes-en un!
achètes-en un nouveau!

buy some (of them)!
buy one (of them)!
buy a new one (of them)!

Keep reading about en:

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