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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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During a conversation in French last weekend, a young woman in her 20s used three expressions over and over while speaking:

1. Là, j’étais comme…
2. Moi là…
3. Fa’ que là…

Here’s what they mean (because you’ll definitely be hearing them during French conversations):

  • Là, j’étais comme…

This is similar to the English “then I was (just) like…” used by certain people when telling a story about something that happened.

She pronounced j’étais informally as j’tais. When j collides with t, the j makes a ch sound.

Là, j’étais comme : « De quoi tu parles?? »
Then I was like, “What are you talking about??”

  • Moi là…

She often gave her opinion about something by starting off with moi là. It’s similar to saying “personally” or “as for me” in English.

Moi là, j’aime pas ça.
Personally, I don’t like it.

Sometimes it’s also said with pis (an informal pronunciation of puis) when relating events. It’s just an informal way of saying “and.”

Pis moi là, j’étais comme : « De quoi tu parles?? »
And me, I was like, “What are you talking about??”

  • Fa’ que là…

This is similar to saying “so then” in English, where fa’ que (from fait que) means “so” and means “then.”

Fa’ que là, j’ai dit : « De quoi tu parles?? »
So then I said, “What are you talking about??”

She always said fa’ que là with three syllables, but you’ll also hear it said with two: fak là.

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1. de quoi tu parles?

Confused, a guy asked his friend de quoi tu parles?, or “what are you talking about?” Using the inversion here (de quoi parles-tu?) would sound much less conversational.

2. viens-t’en!

A mother told her child to come to her by saying viens-t’en, “come here.” The opposite (go away) is va-t’en. The infinitive forms are s’en venir (to come along) and s’en aller (to go away). Je m’en viens means “I’m coming.”

3. un esti de gros cave

A guy told his friend that the person they were talking about was un esti de gros cave, or “a big fucking idiot.” Esti is a swear word in Québec. Cave (idiot) isn’t a swear word, but it is an insult.

4. chu allé

During a conversation, my neighbour’s child pronounced je suis allé informally as chu allé. Another informal pronunciation you may hear is chui allé. My young neighbour also got into an argument with an another neighbour. He told her she was crazy: t’es folle!

5. y’a rien de bon icitte

An angry lady in a restaurant said y’a rien de bon icitte, “there’s nothin’ good here.” Some native speakers may find it odd to hear a learner of French say icitte instead of ici. Saying y’a rien de bon ici is perfectly conversational too.

Il y a is generally pronounced as y’a during conversations. In this example, y’a rien is an informal pronunciation of il n’y a rien.

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1. Espace

During a conversation, the French word espace came up.

Remember, this word is pronounced espâce (a bit like “espawss”), but it’s never written the accented â.

2. Aucune câlisse d’idée!

Just overheard somebody say this — it’s means “(I’ve got) no fucking idea!”

3. Ç’a pas d’allure!

A reader of OffQc asks about the meaning of this expression. It means “that makes no sense!”

It becomes ça n’a pas d’allure if we include the ne.

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