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Posts Tagged ‘conversation’

Here’s another shortcut in pronunciation taken from a telephone conversation that occurred in Montréal:

Ben, dis-y que tu veux pas.

= Ben, dis-lui que tu veux pas.
= Well, tell ’em/tell ‘er you don’t wanna.

The woman pronounced dis-y instead of dis-lui. This is something you’ll hear frequently in conversations.

To be more precise, she pronounced it as dzi-zi.

The letter d is pronounced dz before the French i sound (dis > dzi), and the s of dis causes the following y sound to be pronounced as zi (dis-y > dzi-zi).

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When a friend of mine was speaking on the phone, he asked if the person on the other end could hear him:

Allô? M’entends-tu? Allô?
Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?

Remember, this question sounds conversational in Québec despite using the inversion (m’entends-tu). You can review in #717 when the inversion sounds natural in spoken French and when it doesn’t.

We’ve already come across two other ways this same question was asked in the same context of telephone conversations, which were: est-ce que tu m’entends? and tu m’entends-tu?

So, all three of these questions that we’ve come across work during a conversation in Québec:

1. M’entends-tu?
2. Est-ce que tu m’entends?
3. Tu m’entends-tu?

… which the Québécois pronounce as:

M’entends-tsu?
Est-ce que tsu m’entends?
Tsu m’entends-tsu?

They’re pronounced that way because t before the French sound u is pronounced ts in Québec. It’s the “tsu” part of what’s called the “tsitsu” on OffQc.

The most informal sounding question of the three is tu m’entends-tu?, which uses the colloquial yes-no question marker -tu. I suggest you wait until you’ve heard it used in real conversations before using it yourself.

Homework!

Can you ask the 5 questions below in French using the 3 ways described above?

Remember, during informal conversations, the second person singular tu almost always becomes t’ when the next word begins with a vowel (e.g., tu es becomes t’es), so use this contraction when possible.

The answers follow the questions… no peeking!

1. Do you understand?
2. Do you want some?
3. Did you lock the door?
4. Does your back hurt?
5. Are you sure it works?

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Answers:

1. Comprends-tu? Est-ce que tu comprends? Tu comprends-tu?
2. En veux-tu? Est-ce que t’en veux? T’en veux-tu?
3. As-tu barré la porte? Est-ce que t’as barré la porte? T’as-tu barré la porte?
4. As-tu mal au dos? Est-ce que t’as mal au dos? T’as-tu mal au dos?
5. Es-tu sûr que ça marche? Est-ce que t’es sûr que ça marche? T’es-tu sûr que ça marche?

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We’ve been looking at questions that use as-tu and t’as lately, so let’s continue with another one that you’ll find useful:

T’as quel âge?
How old are you?

Maybe you’ve learned to ask this question as quel âge as-tu?, which is of course correct, but it doesn’t sound like the sort of thing someone would be very likely to say in a regular conversation.

In entry #717, I wrote about when the inversion can still sound conversational in Québec, and when it doesn’t. With question words (comment, pourquoi, quand, etc.), the inversion is largely avoided in conversations. This is also true of the question asking quel âge.

Remember, tu as generally contracts to t’as in regular conversations, which is why you’re more likely to hear t’as quel âge? than tu as quel âge?

You may even hear the question asked with toi added in:

T’as quel âge, toi?

Just remember that asking t’as quel âge? is informal — it’s OK to use it with someone you’ve become friends with, for example.

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In the last entry (#717), there was an example of a yes-no question using the inverted form as-tu:

As-tu mal à la tête?
Do you have a headache?

Even though this question uses the inversion, it still works at the conversational level of French in Québec. You can read more about when the inversion is used and avoided in Québec in entry #717.

Another way that you may hear people ask as-tu questions is with the formulation t’as-tu. This formulation is an informal one that you may catch people use during everyday conversations.

Below are some examples. I’ve translated them into informal English to help convey the feel of the t’as-tu form:

T’as-tu vu ça?
Didja see that?

T’as-tu une cigarette?
Ya got a cigarette?

T’as-tu une blonde?
D’ya have a girlfriend?

T’as-tu peur?
You afraid?

All of those questions could have also simply been asked with as-tu rather than t’as-tu. So, where on earth does t’as-tu come from then?

The t’as part of t’as-tu is a contraction of tu as. This contraction occurs very frequently in French, and not just as part of the formulation t’as-tu but anywhere tu and as come together.

The -tu part of t’as-tu is the famous yes-no question marker so prevalent in the French of Québec.

All the questions above can be answered with yes or no. We can understand the -tu part of t’as-tu as meaning “yes or no?” like this:

T’as-tu une blonde?
= Tu as (oui ou non) une blonde?

How is t’as-tu pronounced?

The t’as part sounds like tâ, or like “taw” using an English approximation. The -tu part sounds like tsu. That’s because tu is a tsitsu word, and you remember all about those tsitsu words… right?? So, t’as-tu sounds like tâ-tsu.

Similarly, as-tu sounds like â-tsu.

It’s not necessary for you to adopt t’as-tu to make yourself understood by the Québécois. As-tu is always good. (It’s important to understand t’as-tu though because you’ll be hearing it.) And, of course, you can always use est-ce que, or just make your voice rise at the end of a statement to turn it into a yes-no question.

These questions all ask the same thing:

As-tu compris?
T’as-tu compris?
T’as compris?
Tu as compris?
Est-ce que t’as compris?
Est-ce que tu as compris?

How’s that for variety?

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To invert, or not to invert, that is the question.

To invert, or not to invert, that is the question.

Did you learn that questions using the inversion automatically sound more formal in French? This isn’t always the case in the French of Québec. In fact, you’ll hear the inversion used quite often when questions are asked in everyday conversations.

The questions below all sound perfectly conversational despite the fact that they use the inversion:

Veux-tu un lift? from entry #707
Do you want a lift?

Pourrais-tu me donner dix piasses, s’il te plaît? from entry #382
Can you give me ten bucks, please?

En veux-tu? from entry #382
Do you want some?

As-tu mal à la tête? from entry #382
Do you have a headache?

Me l’apporterais-tu, s’il te plaît? from entry #382
Can you bring it to me, please?

Sais-tu comment ça s’est passé? from entry #318
Do you know how it happened?

However!

Using the inversion with question words (comment?, pourquoi?, quand?, où?, etc.) does sound more formal in French, even in Québec. In regular conversations, the inversion is typically avoided in these kinds of questions.

None of the conversational questions below use the inversion:

Comment t’as su? from entry #712
(as opposed to comment as-tu su?)
How did you know?
How did you find out?

Pourquoi vous me dites ça? from entry #318
(as opposed to pourquoi me dites-vous cela?)
Why are you telling me this?
Why are you saying this to me?

C’est arrivé quand? from entry #318
(as opposed to quand est-ce arrivé?)
When did it happen?

Il restait où? from entry #318
(as opposed to où restait-il?)
Where was he living?

You’ll also sometimes hear question words get thrown to the end of a question, like in the last two examples above.

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I have no idea who this guy is.

Just another stock photo. I have no idea who this guy is.

Here’s some everyday French to learn taken from a conversation that a guy in his 30s in Montréal had with a co-worker on the phone.

We can tell from the language that this guy is on familiar terms with the person he spoke to.

One of the first things the guy asked when the other person answered the phone was:

Je dérange-tu?
Am I disturbing you? Are you busy?

Remember, the -tu in this question doesn’t mean “you.” Instead, it’s an informal yes-no question word. We reviewed this in entry #703.

Tu is always pronounced tsu in Québec, whether it means “you” or used as the informal yes-no question marker. It’s a tsitsu word!

[In the Tranches de vie video from the Listen section, the girl asks the same question but in a different way: je te dérange?]

Throughout the guy’s conversation, he used the expression fait que a lot. It’s used essentially in the same way that anglophones say “so,” or like the French word alors.

Here are a few examples of things he said using fait que:

Fait que c’est bon.
So that’s good.

Fait que c’est ça.
So there you have it.

Fait que tu peux m’appeler.
So you can call me.

Fait que je vais t’envoyer le texte.
So I’m going to send you the text.

He also asked for his co-worker’s opinion by asking:

Qu’est-ce t’en penses?
(sounds like: kess t’en penses?)
Whaddya think?

If we remove the informal contractions, we get: qu’est-ce que tu en penses? The question form qu’est-ce que often gets shortened to qu’est-ce (sounds like “kess”) before the subject tu (another example: qu’est-ce tu veux?). The combination tu en often contracts to t’en (qu’est-ce t’en penses?).

At the end of his conversation, he ended with:

OK, on se r’parle! (verb: se reparler)
OK, we’ll be in touch again!

A final note about the yes-no question marker -tu from above:

The yes-no -tu is used at an informal level of speech very frequently in Québec. This doesn’t mean that est-ce que isn’t used in Québec, however.

An example of a yes-no question that the same guy asked during his conversation using est-ce que is:

Est-ce que tu penses que tu peux faire les modifications dans le texte?
Do you think you can make the changes in the text?

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Here’s some more everyday French overheard in Montréal for you to learn.

1. Elle cherche la chicane.

She wants to a pick a fight.

I overheard a woman say this to her friend. Une chicane is a fight or argument, so chercher la chicane is to go looking for a fight, or to pick a fight with someone.

A quarrelsome person cherche toujours la chicane.

2. C’est à quelle heure, l’autobus?

What time does the bus come?

A lady arriving at a bus stop asked this of a young girl who had already been waiting for a while.

3. Vous avez une très belle chemise!

That’s a really nice shirt!

Here’s a phrase you can use as a conversation starter with someone.

An employee in a shop said this to me when I was wearing my favourite shirt.

4. Un commis à la quincaillerie, merci!

A clerk in hardware, please!

Speaking of employees, this was announced over the loudspeaker by a Canadian Tire employee who was looking for un commis (clerk) in the hardware department.

Commis is pronounced commi. And don’t pronounce those Ls in quincaillerie. The caille part of quincaillerie rhymes with the French word faille.

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