Archive for December, 2015

If you know the television show, you know the answer to the question: Tout le monde en parle.

There’s that en again… A reader of OffQc mentioned this show’s name after we looked at en the first time back in #1060. It’s a good starting point to look at another way en is used.

Remember how en goes before the conjugated verb? For example, j’en veux un. I want one (of them). En means of them here.

But en can also translate as about it, like in the television show title Tout le monde en parle. In fact, en can translate as a lot of things: of them, of it, about it, about them, some, some of it, some of them, none, none of it, none of them… (Have pity on the learner of English who has to learn all those. In French, on the other hand, you just have to say en.)

Let’s use tout le monde en parle as our model.

Tout le monde en parle.
Tout le monde en bénéficie.
Tout le monde en souffre.
Tout le monde en profite.
Tout le monde en rêve.

Loosely speaking, en means of it in all of these. Everybody’s talking of it. Everybody benefits of it. Everybody suffers of it. Everybody profits of it. Everybody dreams of it.

Of course, that’s not idiomatic English. In English, you say: Everybody’s talking about it. Everybody benefits from it. Everybody suffers from it. Everybody profits from it. Everybody dreams of it. But you can see how the sense behind them all is of it.

Maybe you noticed that with all the examples above, we can put de after the verb:

parler de quelque chose
bénéficier de quelque chose
souffrir de quelque chose
profiter de quelque chose
rêver de quelque chose

Je parle de mon problème.
J’en parle.

Je bénéficie de leur aide.
J’en bénéficie.

Je souffre de reflux gastrique.
J’en souffre.

Je profite du beau temps.
J’en profite.

Je rêve de partir en Australie.
J’en rêve.

With the past tense, remember that en goes before the auxiliary.

Tout le monde en a parlé.
Tu en as bénéficié.
J’en ai souffert.
Il en a profité.
J’en ai rêvé.

Keep reading about en:

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During a conversation, a guy said a French equivalent of “I’m gonna wait a little bit.” But when he said it, he used a number of pronunciations typical of spoken language.

Here’s what he said: j’vas attend’ un p’tit peu. (This means the same thing as je vais attendre un petit peu.) A bit of explanation is necessary here! Let’s start at the beginning.

The guy didn’t say je vais; he said j’vas. Vas rhymes with pas. In j’vas, je has contracted to j’. To pronounce j’vas, just put the French j sound on the front of vas and say it all in one syllable. J’vas is a spoken form often heard in conversations.

Next, let’s look at attend’. In fact, this spelling with the apostrophe is never used. I’ve just used it here to signal that the infinitive attendre was pronounced without its re ending. Careful, though, attend’ doesn’t sound like attend; it sounds like attende. This dropping of the re ending isn’t unique to attendre. It can happen with all the infinitives using the re ending. Vendre, battre, mettre, etc., can drop down to vend’ (vende), batt’ (batte), mett’ (mette). In writing, this dropping of the re is never shown. Even in informal writing, the full spelling is used — vendre, battre, mettre, attendre.

Un petit peu was pronounced as un p’tit peu. If you visualise the p’ as coming at the end of un instead, I think you’ll find it easier to pronounce. Do you remember that t, when it’s followed by the French i sound, is pronounced like the ts in the English word cats? unp tsi peu Now say it fast.

Get operational quickly in conversational Québécois French! An overview of the most important features of spoken language that you need to know — $10

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You know those shoe protector sprays they try to sell you when you buy a new pair of boots but that you never want to buy because you’ve just spent a small fortune on the boots themselves?

As I was paying for new winter boots, the employee showed me one of the sprays. To convince me to buy it, she told me, “it can even last two winters.” Can you guess how she said that in French? Clue: She didn’t use the verb durer anywhere in there.

Here’s another clue: The verb she used is an informal one derived from an English word. We’ve in fact seen this verb a number of times already on OffQc. The English word it derives from contains the letters gh, which make an f sound.

Any idea? OK, OK, I’ll tell you the English word it derives from: tough. Can you guess now? Here’s what she said in French: ça peut même toffer deux hivers. And, yes, I bought the spray.

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I think potato chips manufacturers might want to get a hold of some bilinguals.

Une bite (France) and une graine (Québec) are both vulgar French words for the penis.

Look at what I saw on a store shelf:

It's hard.

It’s hard.

Check this one too, which I posted a while back to the OffQc Facebook page:

With an exclamation mark.

With an exclamation mark.

Here we’ve got bites again, and we’ve also got what looks like graines.

In reality, it says grain bites (not graines but grain) but it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to spontaneously interpret grain as graines here appearing as it does right next to bites.

Or am I the only one who sees these things?

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During a conversation, a man said in French I saw ’em — not I saw them, but an informal French equivalent of I saw ’em. Do you know how to render that in French maintaining the same level of informality?

Let’s back up and start with I saw them.

Je les ai vus.

Les here means them. In spoken French, this les can contract in a similar way that the English them can contract to ’em — the initial consonant sound of les can drop. In other words, les becomes ’es.

J’es ai vus.
I saw ’em.

The liaison occurs between es and ai, so j’es ai vus sounds like jé zé vu.

I’m still working on the new contractions guide, which will deal with stuff just like this. In the meantime, if you’re new here and haven’t checked out what’s on offer in the OffQc store, you can take a look here.

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In an effort to turn all of you into experts on using en, here’s more help! If you haven’t yet read the entry from #1060 about how en works, start there first, then come back here.

In this post, there are no translations, no explanations. You learned how en works in #1060, so this post is just about seeing more examples to get things to sink in. Read these examples a few times (read them quickly), then leave it at that. You can come back and read them as often as you like.

The wording between parentheses is an informal equivalent.

J’en veux un.
J’en veux une.
J’en prends un.
J’en vois deux.
J’en mange une.

J’en ai vu un.
J’en ai mangé deux.
J’en ai pris cinq.
J’en ai perdu neuf.

Tu en prends deux (t’en prends deux).
Tu en veux cinq (t’en veux cinq).
Tu en manges une (t’en manges une).

Tu en as pris cinq (t’en as pris cinq).
Tu en as vu deux (t’en as vu deux).
Tu en as perdu une (t’en as perdu une).

Il en voit deux (y’en voit deux).
Il en veut deux (y’en veut deux).
Il en prend cinq (y’en prend cinq).

Il en a pris cinq (y’en a pris cinq).
Il en a mangé deux (y’en a mangé deux).
Il en a vu un (y’en a vu un).

J’en veux. Je n’en veux pas (j’en veux pas).
J’en ai mangé. Je n’en ai pas mangé (j’en ai pas mangé).
J’en ai vu. Je n’en ai pas vu (j’en ai pas vu).

Je veux en manger un.
Je veux en prendre deux.
Je veux en acheter dix.
Je veux en faire une.

Tu vas en manger deux.
Tu vas en prendre cinq.
Tu vas en faire une.

J’en prends un autre.
Je veux en prendre un autre.
J’en veux un troisième.
J’en veux un noir.
J’en veux une comme ça.

Il en prend une autre (y’en prend une autre).
Il veut en prendre une autre (y veut en prendre une autre).
Il en veut un troisième (y’en veut un troisième).
Il en veut un noir (y’en veut un noir).
Il en veut un comme ça (y’en veut un comme ça).

If you understand how en works but still find it difficult, just read these sentences over again periodically. It’ll all come together in your mind at some point. Don’t bother reading more explanations in an attempt to become better at it. Just read the examples above a few times (and every once in a while after that), then go do something else!

Keep reading about en:

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I saw this sign in front of a clothing shop in Montréal. I’ve hidden the text at the top of the sign where we see one possible French name for the article of clothing this boy is wearing.

Can you guess the term on the sign?

(Don’t worry about the hood for a moment. We’re looking for a general term that covers both hooded and hoodless versions.)

Here are some clues:

  • The term is unique to the French spoken in Québec/Canada.
  • The term is related to the soft fluffiness of the material.
  • The term contains two words. The first word begins with c; the second word begins with o.

Give up? Here’s the answer! (The link points to an image — the same image, but with the text not cut off.)

Now that you know the term, do you wonder how to pronounce the second word? Oua in French sounds like wa. Ouaté rhymes with raté. Just change the r to a w sound, and you’ve got it.

What does ouaté mean, anyway? It means fleeced. It’s the adjective form of the feminine noun ouate, which is a ball of cotton wool, like the kind you might use to remove make-up or nail polish. Coton ouaté could be translated literally as fleeced cotton. The term coton ouaté can be used where English says sweatshirt.

The sweatshirt in the image has a hood (un capuchon). If we wanted to be more specific and say hooded sweatshirt, we could say un coton ouaté à capuchon. This is a possible equivalent of the English-borrowed hoodie.

Update (2 December 2015): To be more clear — when you use the term coton ouaté, people will generally assume the hoodless version, in the same way that people assume the hoodless version when you say sweatshirt in English. If you want to insist that the sweatshirt has a hood while still using the term coton ouaté, you can say coton ouaté à capuchon. A different term for a hooded sweatshirt that you can also use is chandail à capuchon.

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