Archive for June, 2016

A friend from Central America was reading a Montréal newspaper article and came across an expression he didn’t know:

C’est-y pas beau?

He asked what this expression means and what the y is doing in there.

Here’s an example context (that I’ve made up) of how the expression was used:

Le gouvernement va augmenter la taxe sur l’essence. C’est-y pas beau, ça?
The government is going to increase tax on gas. Well ain’t that nice?

Can you guess now what that y means? It means the exact same thing as tu when used informally to create a yes-no question.

C’est vraiment necessaire.
C’est-tu vraiment necessaire?

It’s really necessary.
Is it really necessary?

C’est ben cher.
C’est-tu ben cher?

It’s really expensive.
Is it really expensive?

Y and tu, when used to create informal yes-no questions, are variants of one another.

The question c’est-y pas beau? contains sarcasm. The person asking this question dislikes the situation it refers to and is using the question to highlight this fact.

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During a French conversation in Montréal, a woman spoke about a well-known person she liked for his straightforwardness. In French, she said an equivalent of at least he tells it like it is.

An expression you’ll often hear in French, especially in political commentary, is dire les vraies affaires.

Some who “says the real things” is someone who tells it like it is, someone who gets to the point without mishmashing his words. We’ve seen other examples of the word affaires recently, which gets a lot of use in colloquial French.

Knowing this, you can probably now guess how the woman said at least he tells it like it is during the conversation. She said:

Au moins i’ dit les vraies affaires.

Remember, il contracts to i’ in spoken language, which is often shown in informal writing as y.

On va se dire les vraies affaires.
Let’s tell it like it is (to each other). We’re going to tell it like it is (to each other).

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A woman was looking for a mosquito spray in a store in Montréal (i.e., a spray that you spray on yourself to keep mosquitoes away).

Can you guess how she said mosquito spray in French?

There are in fact two words for mosquito in French: un moustique and un maringouin. She used moustique.

How did she say spray? We’ve in fact seen it before: she called it un pouche-pouche, which is an informal term. Any sort of spray bottle might be called a pouche-pouche in colloquial language, like a spray bottle with water in it.

Perhaps you’ll remember from a past post that a mother-to-be with a slightly detached placenta asked in an online forum if it would be okay to take a dip in the pool on hot days. Another woman provided her with this advice to keep cool:

Moi, j’ai toujours un pouche-pouche d’eau dans le réfrigérateur. Quand je me peux p’us, je m’arrose de cette eau très froide et OH que ça fait du bien!
I always keep a spray bottle filled with water in the refrigerator. When I can’t take it anymore, I spray myself with the cold water and OH does it ever feel good!

The woman looking for the mosquito spray, then, called it un pouche-pouche à moustiques.

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While shopping in an office supplies store in Montréal, I came across two signs for sale: one reads vente de garage, and the other vente-débarras.

Both terms refer to what’s known in English as a garage sale, which is an informal sale held by the residents of a house, usually in their driveway or on their front lawn.

At garage sales, people usually sell off whatever household items they no longer want, like books, furniture, kitchenware and blackrubberything that’s been sitting at the back of your garage for the past decade.

Is there any difference between the two French terms vente de garage and vente-débarras?

Although they both refer to a garage sale, only vente-débarras is approved by the Office québécois de la langue française. The Office encourages this term in the hope they’ll render vente de garage obsolete because it derives from English.

The term vente de garage is nowhere near obsolete, however. In regular language, it’s still the usual term used to talk about garage sales.

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Let’s take a look at a general French expression (not limited to Québec), useful in conversations: d’après moi (d’après toi, etc.). We’ll look at two ways you can use this.

The first way it can be used is to emit an opinion, as in in my opinion, if you ask me, personally I think…

D’après moi, ça va marcher.
I think it’s going to work.
If you ask me, it’s going to work.
Personally, I think it’s going to work, etc.

D’après moi, il te niaise.
If you ask me, he’s putting you on (having you on, fooling you, stringing you along, joking with you, etc.). Remember: il in spoken language sounds like i’.

A second way this expression can be used is to invite someone to make a guess about something:

— T’as quel âge, toi?
— D’après toi?
— How old are you?
— How old do you think I am? (It literally means in your opinion? The person saying d’après toi? is curious to see what age the other person will guess.)

It can also be used with a sarcastic or aggressive tone:

— C’est quoi ton problème?
— D’après toi?!
— What’s your problem?
— What do you think my problem is!


Refresh your French or get caught up: The OffQc book 1000 Québécois French is a condensed version of all the language that appeared in the first 1000 posts on OffQc. You can buy and download it here.

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During a French conversation in Montréal, one guy asked another if he had time to accompany him somewhere. His friend said yes because he wasn’t in a rush. Let’s look at how he said in French I’m not in a rush.

To say in a rush, he used the adjective pressé. In its full form, we can say I’m not in a rush as je ne suis pas pressé.

But I’m sure you’ve already guessed that this isn’t quite how he pronounced it. Here’s what he really said: j’pas pressé, là.

J’pas pressé is a contraction of je ne suis pas pressé. First, the ne is dropped, leaving us with je suis pas pressé. The remaining je suis can then contract to j’su’ pas (sounds like chu pas) or even further to j’pas (sounds like ch’pas). A contracted j’ makes the French ch sound before p; that’s why j’pas sounds like ch’pas.

J’su’ pas pressé, là.
J’pas pressé, là.

The  here doesn’t necessarily translate to any word in particular in English. It just helps to add a sort of nonchalance, a sort of hey, I’m not in a rush, so why not? feel to what he’s said.

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Let’s take a regular French sentence as it would be written in codified French (i.e., the standardised form of language taught in French classes, used mostly in writing, described in grammar books, etc.), and then modify it one step at a time to take it to a colloquial sounding equivalent.

Let’s use the French for he’s not scared of that.

The French for to be scared of is avoir peur de. In French, you have fear of something, so you use avoir and never être to say this.

Using avoir peur de, we can say he’s not scared of that in French as il n’a pas peur de ça.

As a first step to making this sound colloquial, let’s remove the ne in the ne pas construction because colloquial language avoids the use of ne like the plague. This gives us il a pas peur de ça.

Now that il and a come together, they can morph into a single unit sounding like ya. This gives us y’a pas peur de ça.

Finally, in colloquial language, you’ll often hear de ça pronounced as de t’ça. To say this, just put a t sound on the end of de, then say ça.

il n’a pas peur de ça
il a pas peur de ça
y’a pas peur de ça
y’a pas peur de t’ça

Let’s try another: she didn’t talk to me about that. As a starting point, we’ll use elle ne m’a pas parlé de ça.

Our first step is to remove the ne, leaving us with elle m’a pas parlé de ça.

Do you know how you you might hear the subject elle pronounced in spoken language? It can sound just like the French word à. We’ll use the spelling à’ here, where the apostrophe represents the contracted L sound of elle. This gives us à’ m’a pas parlé de ça.

Finally, we can apply the same change to de ça as in our first example above: à’ m’a pas parlé de t’ça.

elle ne m’a pas parlé de ça
elle m’a pas parlé de ça
à’ m’a pas parlé de ça
à’ m’a pas parlé de t’ça


Refresh your French or get caught up: The OffQc book 1000 Québécois French is a condensed version of all the language that appeared in the first 1000 posts on OffQc. You can buy and download it here.

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