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Posts Tagged ‘cadenas’

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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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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