Posts Tagged ‘elle’

Let’s take a regular French sentence as it would be written in codified French (i.e., the standardised form of language taught in French classes, used mostly in writing, described in grammar books, etc.), and then modify it one step at a time to take it to a colloquial sounding equivalent.

Let’s use the French for he’s not scared of that.

The French for to be scared of is avoir peur de. In French, you have fear of something, so you use avoir and never être to say this.

Using avoir peur de, we can say he’s not scared of that in French as il n’a pas peur de ça.

As a first step to making this sound colloquial, let’s remove the ne in the ne pas construction because colloquial language avoids the use of ne like the plague. This gives us il a pas peur de ça.

Now that il and a come together, they can morph into a single unit sounding like ya. This gives us y’a pas peur de ça.

Finally, in colloquial language, you’ll often hear de ça pronounced as de t’ça. To say this, just put a t sound on the end of de, then say ça.

il n’a pas peur de ça
il a pas peur de ça
y’a pas peur de ça
y’a pas peur de t’ça

Let’s try another: she didn’t talk to me about that. As a starting point, we’ll use elle ne m’a pas parlé de ça.

Our first step is to remove the ne, leaving us with elle m’a pas parlé de ça.

Do you know how you you might hear the subject elle pronounced in spoken language? It can sound just like the French word à. We’ll use the spelling à’ here, where the apostrophe represents the contracted L sound of elle. This gives us à’ m’a pas parlé de ça.

Finally, we can apply the same change to de ça as in our first example above: à’ m’a pas parlé de t’ça.

elle ne m’a pas parlé de ça
elle m’a pas parlé de ça
à’ m’a pas parlé de ça
à’ m’a pas parlé de t’ça


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’s some random French I overheard today in Montréal while out.

All of these examples of French were said by a group of three women in their 60s in the seating area of a public space.

1. Y’a une place icitte.

There’s a place (to sit) here.

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il y a. Icitte means ici and is often heard at the informal level of language.

2. Amène une chaise.

Bring a chair. Get a chair.

The verb amener is used here to tell someone to bring something. There’s another example of this below.

3. Qu’est-ce tu veux?

What d’you want?

Qu’est-ce sounds like kess. Dropping que here (qu’est-ce tu veux instead of qu’est-ce que tu veux) is an informal usage.

4. Amène-moi un biscuit.

Bring me a cookie.

Here’s another example of the verb amener. The woman who said this yelled it out to her friend who was ordering food.

5. A s’en vient.

She’s coming.

You’ll often hear elle pronounced informally as a, like the a in ma, ta or la. The verb s’en venir is frequently used: je m’en viens, I’m coming; tu t’en viens, you’re coming; y s’en vient, he’s coming; y s’en viennent, they’re coming.

One of the three women said this as her friend was coming back to their table after ordering food.

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A woman from Montréal said this yesterday about another woman:

Elle reste dans le coin.
She lives in the area.

There are a few things from this short sentence that I’d like to point out to you so that you’ll recognise what’s being said if you hear something similar.

Let’s work backwards in the sentence starting from the end: dans le coin (in the area). When dans and le come together, it often gets reduced to dans l’ in speech, even when the next word begins with a consonant. It sounds like danle, as if it were just one word, without pronouncing the e at the end.

Elle reste dans l’coin.

Next, the verb rester is frequently used in Québec in the sense of “to live [somewhere].” At an informal level of speech, the conjugated form reste is very likely to be pronounced resse.

Elle resse dans l’coin.

Finally, don’t be surprised to hear the subject elle pronounced as a. This is strictly an informal spoken usage. You don’t need to adopt it yourself, but you do need to be able to recognise it.

A resse dans l’coin.

And that’s exactly how the woman pronounced it.

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Here are five very useful examples of conversational French that have come up in conversations or that I’ve overheard in Montréal over the past few days.

You can read the notes for each example for tips on how to give a more natural feel to your French when you speak and to understand what you hear.

1. Comment il s’appelle, lui?

What’s his name? What’s that guy’s name?

When asking about names, you’ve learned to ask comment s’appelle-t-il? and comment t’appelles-tu?, etc., using the inversion after comment.

It’s perfectly correct, but it’s not usually what people say spontaneously. The person who asked comment il s’appelle, lui? didn’t use the inversion after comment. Similarly, you can ask comment tu t’appelles?

You’ll hear il pronounced very frequently as i during conversations. When this informal pronunciation appears in writing, it’s almost always written as y. The question sounded like comment y s’appelle, lui? There’s no liaison (no t sound) between comment and y.

2. T’as pas mal de stock.

You’ve got a lot of stuff.

This was said to me when I was carrying several bags of stuff. The word stock doesn’t refer to merchandise here. It just means “stuff” or “things.”

Pas mal here isn’t a negative. It’s a set expression meaning “a lot” or “quite a bit.” Another example: j’étais pas mal fatigué, “I was pretty tired.”

When using pas mal, keep the words pas and mal together in the same breath when you say them.

Don’t say: j’étais pas / mal fatigué.
Say: j’étais / pas mal fatigué.

Using the example from above:
Don’t say: t’as pas / mal de stock.
Say: t’as / pas mal de stock.

T’as is an informal way of saying tu as.

3. Fait que, dans le fond…

So, basically…

The expression fait que tends to pepper a lot of informal conversations in French. It means “so,” like alors or donc. For example: fait que, dans le fond, t’as deux choix, “so, basically, you’ve got two choices.” The expression fait que is a shortened form of ça fait que.

Fait que has two syllables, but you’ll also hear it pronounced with one as faque (sounds like fak).

As for dans le fond, it’s used in the same way that English speakers say “basically” to resume. You’ll hear faque dans le fond… just as often as the English expression “so, basically…” (in other words, often!).

4. Elle veut pas.

She doesn’t want to.

The speaker didn’t say elle ne veut pas. She said elle veut pas. To tell the truth, she didn’t say elle veut pas either. She said a veut pas!

Not only did she not include ne in her negative sentence, she pronounced the subject elle informally as a. If this happens, it’s only when elle is a subject. You’d never hear someone pronounce c’est pour elle as “c’est pour a” because elle isn’t a subject here.

It’s always acceptable for you to pronounce the subject elle as elle, even during informal conversations. Native speakers certainly don’t expect to hear a non-native pronounce elle informally as a.

Back to the example above — if you still wanted to maintain some informality when you speak, you could just leave out ne and say elle veut pas, avoiding pronouncing elle as a. Leaving out ne during regular, informal conversations with friends and co-workers will go unnoticed.

Of course, you can also say the full elle ne veut pas, no problem. It’s just that in spontaneous speech during informal conversations, ne is largely absent. But you don’t have to adopt this if you don’t want to.

5. C’est quoi la saveur? C’est quoi la grandeur?

What flavour is it? What size is it?

A customer in a café asked the employee working at the cash about a drink they serve. He wanted to know what flavour it was: c’est quoi la saveur? He also wanted to know what size it was offered in: c’est quoi la grandeur?

Questions using c’est quoi? are very commonly heard in French, for example: c’est quoi le problème?, “what’s the problem?” and c’est quoi la différence?, “what’s the difference?”

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