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Posts Tagged ‘ça se peut-tu’

We looked at 7 ways to express anger in French like the Québécois without swearing here, and 12 words used in Québécois French that you might be mispronouncing here. Let’s look now at 6 different expressions you can use in situations where you want to express surprise over a matter. (Depending on context, some of these might also be used to express anger.)

1. TU M’NIAISES-TU? (are you kidding me?)

A friend tells you he’s found ten thousand dollars hidden in the floorboards of his apartment. Tu m’niaises-tu?

This question means the same thing as me niaises-tu? or tu m’niaises? (tu me niaises?) In tu m’niaises-tu?, only the first tu means you (tu m’niaises). The second tu turns tu m’niaises into a yes-no question, in an informal style (tu m’niaises-tu?). The second tu means the same thing as est-ce que here, but it gets placed after the verb instead.

To pronounce this, move the contracted m’ to the end of tu (tum’ / niaises / tu). Remember that tu in Québec sounds like tsu. The t sounds like the ts of the English words cats, bats, rats, etc.

The conjugated form niaises sounds like nyèz. The verb niaiser means to joke, to kid.

2. NON MAIS ÇA S’PEUT-TU? (can that be? is that possible?)

A friend tells you about something terrible a group of people did. Non mais ça s’peut-tu, du monde de même?

Du monde de même means people like that. Du monde means people, and de même means like that, comme ça. The whole thing literally means is it possible, people like that?, the idea being how can people like that exist? or how can people be like that?

Ça se peut means that’s possible, that can be. It contracts to ça s’peut. To pronounce it, move the contracted s’ to the end of ça (ça s’ / peut). Just like in number 1, tu turns this into a yes-no question: ça s’peut-tu?

The example above non mais ça s’peut-tu, du monde de même? conveys surprise mixed with indignation.

3. BEN VOYONS DON’! (oh come on!)

Your landlord is increasing the rent again. Ben voyons don’!

We saw this expression in 7 ways to express anger. It can also be used to express surprise.

4. T’ES PAS SÉRIEUX! (are you serious? for real?)

Your co-worker tells you a rude customer started yelling and threatening the employees. T’es pas sérieuse!

T’es is a contraction of tu es; it sounds like té. The negated form tu n’es pas contracts to t’es pas.

English usually asks are you serious? in the affirmative, whereas French asks you’re not serious? in the negative.

5. C’EST PAS VRAI! (are you serious?, for real?)

Your neighbour tells you his house has been broken into for a second time this year. C’est pas vrai!

This expression means the same thing as t’es pas sérieux! above. Ce n’est pas contracts to c’est pas in spoken language.

6. C’EST QUOI C’T’AFFAIRE-LÀ? (what’s up with that?)

You work in a supermarket. A customer asks where the eggs on special are. You advise him there aren’t any left. He gets upset you’ve advertised a product you don’t have in stock; he yells: Ben là, c’est quoi c’t’affaire-là? (Ben là means oh come on.)

C’t’affaire-là (literally, that matter) is a contraction of cette affaire-là. The contracted c’t’ sounds like st (staffaire).

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Learn how words contract in spoken Québécois French (with audio): read Contracted French

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In the Québécois French guide 1000, there’s an example question (#8) that reads:

Ça s’peut-tu?
Can that be? Is that possible?

We’ll come back to this question in a minute; let’s back up and look first at the verb se pouvoir.

Se pouvoir means être possible, to be possible.

Ça se peut.
= C’est possible.
= That’s possible.

If you say ça se peut exactly as written, it has three syllables: ça / se / peut. But se can lose its vowel sound in regular speech, so you’re much more likely to hear this pronounced with two syllables instead as: ça s’peut. To say this, just put the s sound on the end of ça, then say peut. (It sounds like sass peu).

Let’s say now that we want to ask is that possible?, i.e., turn ça s’peut into a yes-no question. Of course, you can put est-ce que in front of it and that would work (est-ce que ça s’peut?), but there’s a different way frequently used in regular conversations that you’ll want to know — it uses tu.

Ça s’peut.
Ça s’peut-tu?
That’s possible.
Is that possible?

Remember, this tu doesn’t mean you. All it does is transform ça s’peut into a yes-no question in an informal way. This tu means the same thing as est-ce que, but whereas est-ce que is put before the subject, tu is placed after the verb.

The question ça s’peut-tu? has three syllables: ça s’ / peut / tu. (It sounds like sass peu tu. But maybe you’ll remember that the letter t before the French u sound in fact sounds like ts in Québécois French [like the ts in the English word cats], so, more accurately, we can say it sounds like sass peu tsu.)

In a conversation yesterday, I heard someone say:

Ça s’peut très bien.
That may very well be.
That’s entirely possible.

He could’ve said this after having been asked ça s’peut-tu?, for example.

The next time you want to say c’est possible in a conversation, for a change use ça s’peut instead. There’s nothing wrong with c’est possible, of course, but ça s’peut is used so frequently that you can be using it too. You can incorporate the informally asked ça s’peut-tu? into your usage as well, and surprise your listeners with your natural-sounding French.

If you want to read more about what’s in the Québécois French guide 1000, that’s here. If you want to buy and download it right now, that’s here.

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I grabbed a handful of usages that have appeared on OffQc since post #1000 and put them in a cloud. Can you explain to yourself how each one might be used? You can click on the image for a larger version.

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