Posts Tagged ‘ça se peut’

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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Sometimes you’ll hear people say that, in Québécois French, the second-person singular tu (meaning you) gets added in anywhere and everywhere in sentences… without rhyme or reason!

On y va-tu?
T’as-tu vu ça?
Ça se peut-tu?
Shall we go?
Did you see that?
Is that possible?

But, as we’ve seen before, the tu they’re referring to isn’t the second-personal singular at all. It’s a yes-no question marker used in informal language.

On y va-[oui/non]?
T’as-[oui/non] vu ça?
Ça se peut-[oui/non]?

If you leave out the yes-no tu, the question still means the same thing:

On y va?
T’as vu ça?
Ça se peut?

But, rather than just making the voice rise at the end like in those last examples, the tu is often included when formulating yes-no questions — or at least in informal language, it is.

The answer to the title of this blog post is ça se peut-tu, with a t in peut, not an x. That’s because the tu in ça se peut-tu isn’t the second-person singular; it’s not the subject. The conjugation, then, aligns with ça (i.e., peut), not tu (i.e., not peux).

Why is this important?

The next time you hear someone say the Québécois add in the second-person singular tu just about anywhere they like as if it were salt, you’ll know it’s not true!

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Here are 4 examples of French overheard in conversations in Montréal. You can scroll down for details about each one.

1. Y’est quasiment déchargé.
2. Moi, là, …
3. Ça s’peut!
4. Inquiétez-vous pas.

1. Y’est quasiment déchargé.

It’s almost dead (uncharged).

This is what a man said when looking at his cell.

Quasiment means the same thing as presque here, or almost in English. You’ll hear quasiment used frequently in conversations.

Y’est (sounds like ) is an informal pronunciation of il est.

2. Moi, là, …

Me… As for me…

You’ll very often hear someone express a point of view or provide some sort of personal information with moi, là. You can understand it as meaning as for me, personally, etc.

Moi, là, ça fait deux mois que j’viens icitte.
Personally, I’ve been coming here for two months.
Me, I’ve been coming here for two months.

3. Ça s’peut!

Maybe! That’s possible!

Ça s’peut is an informal way of pronouncing ça se peut. Ça s’peut sounds like sass peu.

Ouais, ça s’peut…
Yeah, that’s possible…

Ça s’peut pas!
No way! That’s impossible!

4. Inquiétez-vous pas.

Don’t worry.

We’ve seen before that you might hear don’t worry said informally as inquiète-toi pas. The vous form inquiétez-vous pas is also heard.

Why are inquiète-toi pas and inquiétez-vous pas considered informal?

The affirmative forms are inquiète-toi and inquiétez-vous. The negated forms above were created by just adding pas, rather than changing word order and saying ne t’inquiète pas and ne vous inquiétez pas.

inquiète-toi pas, inquiétez-vous pas
informal, spoken language

ne t’inquiète pas, ne vous inquiétez pas
written standard

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