You’ll find lots of examples on OffQc of how là is used in Quebec French. In this entry, I’ll pull together the most important ones that you want to know.
Là is a little word, but the Québécois give it a good workout. You won’t go long without hearing it.
One way you’ll hear là used is in the sense of “that” when placed after a noun.
à ce moment-là
at that moment
C’est quoi c’t’affaire-là?
What’s that thing?
You’ll also hear là used in the sense of “there.”
Go there, go stand there, etc.
là-bas / là-haut
down there / up there
With a look of surprise, maybe you’ll hear someone exclaim:
Mais qu’est-ce tu fais là?! (Mais quesse tu fais là?!)
What the heck are you up to (there)?!
In spoken French, là will frequently be tacked onto the end of a sentence. It can sometimes be translated with “oh” in English.
Stop it, will you! Oh, stop it!
Oh, come on!
Tu vas capoter, là!
You’re totally gonna love it!
J’allais oublier, là…
Oh, I almost forgot…
Je sais pas, là.
I dunno. Oh, I dunno.
Ça va faire, là!
OK, that’s enough! Cut it out!
Sometimes you’ll hear là used to express an opinion with moi là.
Moi là, j’m’en câlice!
Personally, I don’t give a fuck!
You’ll also hear là take on the meaning of “now” (with the present tense) or “then” (with the past tense).
Ça finit LÀ!
End it now! This is where it ends!
Et là, on ajoute le beurre.
And now we add the butter.
Là, tu parles!
Now you’re talkin’!
Pis là, j’ai perdu mes clés.
And then I lost my keys.
If you hear là repeated with the first là more heavily stressed, it can take on a more urgent meaning, like “right away.”
— Viens-t’en là là! (Come right away!)
— Là là? (What, right now?)
— LÀ là! (Yeah, right NOW!)
Or consider this example, where we can imagine a speaker who has just lost his temper:
OK, là là, j’suis tanné! (OK, là là, chui/chu tanné!)
OK, so now I’m fed up!
But not all là là‘s are created equal. Just because you hear two là‘s together, it doesn’t automatically mean “right away” in all cases:
Mets-toi là, là.
(Just) go there; (just) go stand there, etc.
The first là means “there,” and the second one is an example of là added to the end of a sentence.
That’s it, là! I suggest that you listen to a lot of spoken French so that you can hear the rhythm of sentences using là, tone of voice, and the pronunciation of là in Québec.
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