Posts Tagged ‘c’est-tu’

A friend from Central America was reading a Montréal newspaper article and came across an expression he didn’t know:

C’est-y pas beau?

He asked what this expression means and what the y is doing in there.

Here’s an example context (that I’ve made up) of how the expression was used:

Le gouvernement va augmenter la taxe sur l’essence. C’est-y pas beau, ça?
The government is going to increase tax on gas. Well ain’t that nice?

Can you guess now what that y means? It means the exact same thing as tu when used informally to create a yes-no question.

C’est vraiment necessaire.
C’est-tu vraiment necessaire?

It’s really necessary.
Is it really necessary?

C’est ben cher.
C’est-tu ben cher?

It’s really expensive.
Is it really expensive?

Y and tu, when used to create informal yes-no questions, are variants of one another.

The question c’est-y pas beau? contains sarcasm. The person asking this question dislikes the situation it refers to and is using the question to highlight this fact.

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A woman who was making a phone call hung up when there was no answer on the other end. In French, she an equivalent of: “There’s no answer. Is this the right number?”

To say that there wasn’t any answer, she used the verb répondre. Here’s what she said:

Ça répond pas. C’est-tu le bon numéro ça?

The expression ça répond pas is the one that’s always used to say that there’s no answer on the other end. You can understand ça here as meaning the same thing as on.

If you were talking about a telephone call you’d made yesterday and we’re telling someone about it today, you could say instead ça répondait pas, there was no answer.

The question c’est-tu le bon numéro ça? means the same thing as est-ce que c’est le bon numéro ça? The tu after c’est transforms the sentence into a yes-no question, in an informal way.

Bon here means right, correct. Le bon numéro, the right number. La bonne adresse, the right address. La bonne réponse, the right answer.


Refresh your French or get caught up: The OffQc book 1000 Québécois French is a condensed version of all the language that appeared in the first 1000 posts on OffQc. You can buy and download it here.

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Here are 10 of the most googled French usages that led readers to OffQc this year. Do you know them all?


When feeling taken aback by something, you can say voyons don’. (Don’ is in fact donc, but the c is silent here.) You can also say ben voyons don’ for more effect. (Ben sounds like bain; it’s a contraction of bien.) Voyons don’ is similar to the way you might say oh come on in English. For example, maybe you’ve just spilled your coffee for the second time today. Voyons don’! Come on! Or maybe a friend is getting back together with a terrible ex. Ben voyons don’! Oh come on!


Whether it’s pronounced with one syllable (as fak) or two (as fa-que), this means so, just like the French word alors. Faque qu’est-ce qu’on fait à soir? So what’re we gonna do tonight? Faque c’est ça! So there you have it! So there you go! Because of its resemblance to the English F word, a friend from Central America asks me if it’s rude to say faque. Nope! You can faque all you like.


You know how in English people say things like shoot, dang, crikey, cripes, etc., to avoid using the original swear word it comes from? Same thing with tabarnouche — it’s a toned-down version of the vulgar Québécois tabarnak. C’est un bon produit, mais tabarnouche! C’est super cher. It’s a good product, but jeez! It’s super expensive.


Here’s another thing you can say when you’re surprised, taken aback. Picture it — a mother has just told her son he can’t go out and play because he’s got homework to do. He says: Ben làààà! Oh come oooon! Nooo! Or maybe you’ve just found out that everyone at work got a pay increase but you. Ben là! What the? For real?


When you want to say it’s/that’s fine, it’s/that’s ok in French, you can say c’est correct. Maybe your partner just burnt the toast, but you don’t mind. C’est correct, là! C’est pas grave. It’s fine! It’s no big deal. Note that correct is pronounced informally as correc’ in spoken language, without the final t.


If a friend made a comment and you wanted to show your entire agreement, you might say c’t’en plein ça! Exactly! Spot on! C’t’en is a contraction of c’est en. It sounds like en with an st sound attached to the front (st’en). C’est en, on the other hand, sounds like cé t’en.


Not limited to Québécois French, this expression simply means it’s not easy, it’s complicated. Apprendre cinq langues en même temps, c’est pas évident! Learning five languages at once isn’t easy!


You just got a parking ticket? C’est plate. Broke up with your girlfriend? Ah c’est plate. You can use c’est plate (or c’est platte) in the same way you might say in English that stinks, that’s sucks, that’s too bad.


In spoken language, tu can serve the same purpose as est-ce que. C’est-tu, then, means the same thing as est-ce que c’est. This tu is not the second-person singular meaning you; instead, it’s used to form a yes-no question in informal language. C’est-tu correct? Is it/that okay? C’est-tu normal? Is it/that normal?


This literally means you’re sick, you’re ill (where t’es is a contraction of tu es sounding like ), but you’ll also hear t’es malade used informally in the sense of you’re crazy. T’es malade, toi! You’re crazy!

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By “informal,” I mean a word or expression far more likely to be found in normal, spontaneous, everyday language — between friends and family, for example — than in high literature or business correspondence or news reports.

In many posts on OffQc, you’ve no doubt noticed that I very often say that such-and-such a word or expression is an informal usage. Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder if all Québécois words and expressions are informal…

They’re not. There are many words and expressions unique to Québec that you’re just as likely to hear in everyday, spontaneous language as you are in a televised news report or formal language, in the same way that words like téléphone and café can cross language levels.

Below are some examples of both informal and level-neutral Québécois French.

Informal (between friends, for example)

  • pogner, to grab, catch
  • checker, to check
  • c’est-tu…?, is it…?, is that…?
  • capoter, to flip out
  • m’as, I’m gonna (+ infinitive)
  • c’est don’ bin cute!, is that ever cute!
  • pis là, and then
  • faque, so
  • enweille!, come on then!
  • un char, car

Level-neutral (not limited to one language level)

  • un cégépien, cégep student
  • faire l’épicerie, to go food shopping
  • magasiner, to shop, shop around for
  • une tête-de-violon, fiddlehead
  • la poudrerie, blowing snow
  • un melon d’eau, watermelon
  • une pourvoirie, grounds where you can hunt, fish, trap
  • à l’arrêt, at the stop sign
  • un téléroman, soap opera
  • un REER, retirement investment, pronounced ré-èr

It’s true that a lot of the language on OffQc falls more in the informal category than the level-neutral one. I do this because this is the language that’s more difficult to learn.

Informal words and expressions are less likely to appear in dictionaries and learning materials than the level-neutral ones. Informal usages are also sometimes “hidden” from learners by language instructors who judge them negatively or, outside of Québec, may be unknown to them if they aren’t familiar with the Québécois variety of French.

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I thought it would be useful to take another look at how il y a transforms in colloquial language to y’a, and to y’a-tu when used as part of a yes-no question. It’s a frequently occurring feature, so it’s a good idea to become familiar with it.

In the OffQc guide 1000, sentence number 111 reads:

Y’a-tu moyen d’avoir un remboursement?
Is there any way to get a refund?
Any chance of getting a refund?

Y’a-tu moyen de is an informal equivalent of est-ce qu’il y a moyen de. You’ll remember that il y a is generally pronounced y’a in informal language. By adding tu after it, we can turn it into a yes-no question.

= il y a-[oui ou non]…?

That tu is definitely not the second-person singular tu meaning you.

In the same way, tu in all of the following is used to ask a yes-no question:

C’est correct. It’s fine, ok.
C’est-tu correct? Is it fine, ok?

Ça se peut. It’s possible.
Ça se peut-tu? Is that possible?

J’ai vraiment dit ça, moi. I really said that.
J’ai-tu vraiment dit ça, moi? Did I really say that?

Back to y’a-tu…?, remember that this means is there…? or are there…? Wherever you might have used est-ce qu’il y a…?, you’re likely to hear y’a-tu…? used spontaneously in conversations, although questions with est-ce que remain entirely possible.

Y’a-tu quelque chose qui va pas?
Is something the matter? Is something wrong?
(Quelque chose might be pronounced informally as què’que chose, where què’que sounds like “kek.”)

Y’a-tu moyen de bloquer les alertes/les notifications?
Is there a way to block the alerts/notifications?
(e.g., on a smartphone)

In an older post on OffQc, we came across the use of y’a-tu moyen de in a scene from 19-2, when a father in a moment of anger yelled at his son:

Y’a-tu moyen d’êt’ obéi dans c’te maison-là?!
Is there any chance of being obeyed in this house?!

Êt’ is an informal pronunciation of être, where the -re ending isn’t enunciated. C’te is a contraction of cette. To pronounce it, first say te. Then put an s sound at the beginning of it: s’te.


Understand spoken Québécois French and sound less bookish when speaking: 1000 examples of use (#945)

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