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Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

Un conseil : Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

At the marché Jean-Talon in Montréal, a yellow sign advises bike owners to lock up their bikes:

Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo. Be sure to lock your bike securely.

Do you remember from earlier posts on OffQc that the Québécois also sometimes call a bike un bécik at the informal level of language?

Bécik entered the language via English. It’s how the Québécois pronounce bicycle.

Barrer is used in Québec in the sense of “to lock up.” It’s pronounced bâré. The â sound comes close to the “aww” sound of English.

The verb barrer appeared in this list of 50 words pronounced with the â sound in Québec, but not written with the accented â.

barrer la porte
to lock the door

barrer son vélo
to lock one’s bike

barrer son bécik
to lock one’s bike
[this one sounds especially québécois]

You can use barrer to talk about locking any kind of door: a house door, bathroom door, bedroom door, shop door, etc.

barrer sa case
barrer son casier
to lock one’s locker

Both case and casier also appeared in the list of 50 â-sound words. They’re pronounced câz and câzié in Québec.

barrer sa case avec un cadenas
barrer son casier avec un cadenas
to lock one’s locker with a padlock

The second a in cadenas also uses the â sound. That darn â sound is all over the place! The Québécois pronounce those last two examples as:

bâré sa câz avec un cadnâ
bâré son câzié avec un cadnâ

Just behind the sign in that same image, we see a bike locked up to a rack. What’s the term used in Québec for a bike rack?

A sign in the marché Jean-Talon (see below) shows us one way to say “bike rack” in French:

un support à vélo
a bike rack

The term support à vélo (or support à vélos) is standard Québécois French. But during spontaneous conversations, you might also hear:

un rack à vélo
un rack à bécik
[these both sound especially québécois; the second one in particular is guaranteed to make your French teacher’s skin go all goose pimply]

A rack for bikes is called “un support” in French, but you’ll also hear “un rack.”

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Débarre ta villeIn the last post about how to talk about locking up your bike in French, we saw the verb barrer.

I was reminded of this verb’s opposite earlier today on the métro, when I spotted a free newspaper sitting on a seat.

The front page reads:

Débarre ta ville
Unlock your city

If you can lock things up with barrer, then you can unlock them with débarrer, like:

débarrer un cadenas
to open a lock

débarrer une porte
to unlock a door

Débarre ta ville is a treasure hunt from the STM.

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Bien verrouillerDo you know what a bike lock is called in French? What about those U-shaped bike locks… what are those called? How about locking up your bike: can you talk about this in French?

I saw this sign in a park. Bien verrouiller, c’est important! “It’s important to lock up well!” And it’s true — bike robberies are commonplace in Montréal, so be sure to never leave your bike unattended without locking it up.

The sign uses the verb verrouiller in the sense of “to lock.” But maybe you’ll remember from a previous post that the verb barrer is very frequently used in Québec in the same sense.

Barrer is pronounced with the â sound, even though the letter a in this verb isn’t actually written with the circumflex accent. Remember, â sounds something like “aw” to an English speaker.

Both of these expressions mean “to lock my bike”:

verrouiller mon vélo
barrer mon vélo

A lock is called un cadenas in French. When you say cadenas, don’t bother pronouncing that letter e in the middle, and don’t say the s on the end either. It’s pronounced cadnâ.

We can also be more specific and say cadenas pour vélo, or “bike lock,” if the context hasn’t already made it clear.

In the image, we see two kinds of locks, in fact. One is a U-shaped lock, the other one is a cable. That U-shaped lock is called un cadenas en U. The cable is called un câble. We can also call it un cadenas à câble.

You noticed that câble is spelled with â, right? This word takes the â sound.

When you choose where to lock your bike, choose something solid, like a pole, un poteau. We read on the sign:

Roue et cadre attachés à un support solide
Wheel and frame locked up to a solid support

Guess what… cadre is pronounced câdre. That’s another word that uses the â sound but it has trouble openly admitting it!

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L'accent québécoisThe â sound is one of the most distinctive features of the québécois accent.

You can always identify a French speaker from Québec by listening for the â sound!

The sound made by â in Québec sounds something like “aww” to an English speaker.

To hear â pronounced, listen to Ricardo pronounce carré, or hear Martin Matte pronounce câline and passait. All three of these words use the â sound.

The â sound occurs in words written with the accented â (like âge and fâché), but it can occur in certain words written with an unaccented letter a too (like tasse and case).

When the word is written with the accented â, there’s little doubt — say aww! But when it’s written with an unaccented letter a, it isn’t as obvious if it takes the â sound. That said, you may begin to notice some patterns.

To help you out a bit, below are 50 words taking the â sound in Québec but all written with an unaccented letter a. I’ve underlined the letter a in each word that makes the â sound.

This list isn’t exhaustive, it’s just a list of 50 words that I felt were useful.

  1. amasser
  2. barrage
  3. barreau
  4. barrer
  5. barrière
  6. bas
  7. base
  8. baser
  9. basse
  10. brassage
  11. brasser
  12. brasserie
  13. carré
  14. carreau
  15. carrément
  16. cas
  17. case
  18. casier
  19. casse-croûte
  20. casser
  21. chat
  22. classe
  23. classement
  24. classer
  25. classeur
  26. dépasser
  27. entasser
  28. espace
  29. gars
  30. gaz
  31. gazer
  32. gazeux
  33. jaser
  34. jasette
  35. matelas
  36. paille
  37. pas
  38. passage
  39. passager
  40. passe
  41. passeport
  42. passer
  43. ramassage
  44. ramasser
  45. rasage
  46. raser
  47. surpasser
  48. tas
  49. tasse
  50. tasser

Remember, the letters rs in gars aren’t pronounced. This word sounds like gâ. The final s in bas, cas, matelas, pas, tas is silent. These words sound like bâ, câ, matlâ, pâ, tâ.

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You’ll often hear the verb barrer used in Québec in the sense of “to lock,” as in locking a door, a bike, a car, or anything really that can be locked up to prevent people’s access to it. For example, you can say barrer une porte (lock a door).

In Québec, barrer is pronounced bârrer. The vowel â sounds a little like “aww.”

This use of barrer comes from a different meaning of the same verb, which is to close up a door with a bar or plank. Using barrer to mean closing up with a lock is just an extension of this idea.

The Usito dictionary gives us examples of this québécois use of barrer in the sense of locking up, which, in fact, is not exclusively québécois. The authors of the dictionary point out that this use is also known in parts of France and other French-speaking areas.

Francophones elsewhere in the world who do not use barrer like this prefer to use fermer à clé or verrouiller instead. These two ways are of course also understood in Québec.

Three good examples of barrer provided by Usito are:

barrer la porte en sortant
to lock the door on the way out

barrer son vélo avec un cadenas*
to lock up one’s bike (with a lock)

barrer son auto
to lock one’s car

The opposite of barrer is débarrer, “to unlock.”

débarrer les portières d’une auto
to unlock the doors of a car

Here are more examples that you can learn (not from the dictionary):

La porte est barrée.
The door is locked.

La porte est débarrée.
The door is unlocked.

As-tu barré la porte?
Did you lock the door?

Trottoir barré J’ai barré mon vélo en bas de la côte.
I locked my bike at the bottom of the hill.

J’ai mis mon passeport* dans ma valise barrée.
I put my passport in my locked-up suitcase.

You’ll frequently see signs reading rue barrée and trottoir barré in the streets of Montréal. In this sense, it just means that the street or sidewalk is closed.

*Both cadenas and passeport use the â sound: cadnâ, pâspor.

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Trottoir barré

You’re walking happily along the street listening to your favourite music.

Suddenly, you’re confronted with a closed sidewalk sign:

TROTTOIR BARRÉ

So you cross the street and walk on the other side.

A little frustrating in the moment maybe, but you keep on your way. In a few seconds, you won’t even remember that it happened.

Of course, you could choose to stop and get upset about the inconvenience.

But that’s not going to open up the sidewalk for you, and it’ll just slow you down.

The same thing happens with learning a language.

You’re moving forward in French with a swing in your step when you unexpectedly walk into a trottoir barré sign.

Maybe you didn’t understand what someone said. Maybe you forgot some vocabulary. Or maybe you had trouble pronouncing something and felt embarrassed.

Either way, you have a choice — cross the street and forget about it, or stop and get upset.

Which one do you choose?

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