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Posts Tagged ‘est-ce que’

Do you remember chu, that informal pronunciation of je suis used in Québécois French?

je suis > j’suisj’su’s = sounds like chu

Sometimes you’ll also see chu spelled as chus. Either way, it sounds like chu. But what about chu-tu? What does it mean in the questions below?

Chus-tu la seule à faire ça?
Chu-tu en train de virer fou?

If chu means je suis, does that mean chu-tu means je suis tu? Yes! But it most definitely doesn’t mean something like “I am you.”

If you read OffQc, there’s no fooling you — you know tu here is used to ask yes-no questions and has nothing to do with the second-person singular subject tu.

You can replace the tu with oui ou non to help you understand the questions.

Chus-tu la seule à faire ça?
Chus-[oui ou non] la seule à faire ça?
Am I the only one who does that?

Chu-tu en train de virer fou?
Chu-[oui ou non] en train de virer fou?
Am I going crazy?

Asking yes-no questions with tu is an informal equivalent of asking yes-no questions with est-ce que. The difference is that est-ce que goes before the subject and verb, but tu goes after them.

Est-ce que c’est vraiment ça?
C’est-tu vraiment ça?

Est-ce que je suis le seul à faire ça?
Je suis-tu le seul à faire ça?
But pronounced:
Chu-tu le seul à faire ça?

Est-ce que tu as vu ça?
Tu as-tu vu ça?
But pronounced:
T’as-tu vu ça?

Est-ce que je suis en train de virer fou?
Je suis-tu en train de virer fou?
But pronounced:
Chu-tu en train de virer fou?

When the letter t appears before the French u sound, it’s pronounced ts (like the ts sound in the English words cats, bats and hats).

Chu-tu is really pronounced chu-tsu.
C’est-tu is really pronounced cé-tsu.
T’as-tu is really pronounced tâ-tsu, etc.

It’s a small difference, but the Québécois will hear it. If you’re not sure what this ts thing sounds like, there’s only one remedy — start listening to lots of spoken French from Québec. If you haven’t listened to much spoken French before, you might not notice the ts sound at first. But once you’ve managed to hear it, you’ll realise just how prevalent its use really is.

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You’ll hear yes-no questions asked frequently with -tu, so it’s a good idea to devote time to understanding how they work.

You don’t ever have to ask yes-no questions with -tu yourself. You can always use the est-ce que form that you’ve already learned and you’ll be covered for any situation where you need to ask a yes-no question. That said, it’s still important to understand how yes-no questions are formed using -tu because you’ll definitely hear this formulation when people speak.

To begin, take three examples of yes-no questions using est-ce que:

Est-ce que c’est possible? (oui/non)
Est-ce que tu m’aimes? (oui/non)
Est-ce que je peux savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

These questions could also be asked without est-ce que by making the voice rise at the end:

C’est possible? (oui/non)
Tu m’aimes? (oui/non)
Je peux savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

In Québec, you can also hear these same questions asked with -tu inserted after the conjugated verb.

C’est-tu possible? (oui/non)
Tu m’aimes-tu? (oui/non)
Je peux-tu savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

Asking yes-no questions with -tu is an informal usage. It does not occur in formal speech or writing. Its use is limited to informal spoken language situations.

This -tu can appear in any verb tense. For example, in the past tense (j’ai dit, j’ai fait, etc.), it gets placed after the auxiliary verb. The auxiliary verb in j’ai dit and j’ai fait is ai.

Did I say that?
Est-ce que j’ai dit ça?
J’ai dit ça?
J’ai-tu dit ça?

Did I do that?
Est-ce que j’ai fait ça?
J’ai fait ça?
J’ai-tu fait ça?

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

J’ai-tu vraiment fait ça, moi?
Did I honestly do that?

Remember, this -tu is used to ask yes-no questions. It’s never used with question words like quand, comment, pourquoi, etc. Those aren’t yes-no questions! You cannot ask: Quand j’ai-tu dit ça?

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Olivier is a teenager in the TV series Les Parent. He asks his parents for money a lot. Of course, they never give it to him, but he still asks.

In one episode, Olivier asks his mother for $20 like this:

Est-ce que tu me passerais vingt piasses?

Maybe you’ll remember that the vowel sound made by the letter a in the verb passer is â (aww).

In another episode, Olivier asks his father for $20. But this time, he asks for it like this:

Tu me passerais-tu vingt piasses?

Both questions mean the same thing, and both belong to conversational Quebec French.

Do you remember that -tu is sometimes used to ask a yes-no question in French?

Tu me passerais-tu vingt piasses?
Tu me passerais-[oui ou non] vingt piasses?

The -tu in bold doesn’t mean “you” like the first tu that begins the question. (Another example: C’est-tu correct? = Est-ce que c’est correct?)

You’ll often hear tu me said in one syllable instead of two. The vowel sound of me can drop, leaving only tu m’ said like one word:

Tu m’passerais-tu vingt piasses?

Maybe you’ll also remember that tu sounds like tsu in Quebec French:

Tsu m’passerais-tsu vingt piasses?

Of course, the spelling tsu doesn’t exist. Tu is always spelled tu.

Remember, you can always ask yes-no questions with est-ce que. Don’t go thinking that it’s not used in Quebec French because that would be untrue. But you will hear the form with -tu used as well, so listen for examples of it so that you can learn to understand it.

[Both quotes from Les Parent. First quote from “Accident de parcours,” season 4, episode 16, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 13 February 2012. Second quote from “L’empire contre-attaque,” season 4, episode 17, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 20 February 2012.]

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In a scene from Les Parent, the young boy Zak comes marching into the house and asks his father if they’ve got any wrapping paper.

Zak has bought a Christmas present for his mother (a funny-looking candle thing that looks like it might be from Dollarama), and now he’s excited to wrap it up. He asks his father:

On a-tu du papier d’emballage?

His father picks up a box of wrapping paper off the floor and brings it to Zak so that they can wrap the present together.

Zak starts slicing away carelessly at the wrapping paper with a pair of scissors and pulling at the tape (he takes about one metre’s worth). Then he goes and tears the paper as he wraps it around the gift, and now the weird candle thing is sticking out…

(A little like the wrapping jobs I used to do as a kid, and sometimes still today. Those gift wrappers in the shopping centres are good but there’s no fooling anybody with that, is there?)

Back to Zak…

His father looks at his son’s wrapping paper nightmare, and stops him from continuing. He hands Zak a very handy gift bag to put the present in instead. Referring to the bag, he says to his son:

Inventé par les gars, pour les gars!

I still preferred Zak’s bad wrapping job though.

A look at some of the language: On a-tu du papier d’emballage? Zak could have also said this as Est-ce qu’on a du papier d’emballage? They both mean the same thing, and you could hear either one in a conversation. The -tu in this question doesn’t mean “you” — it’s just an informal way to ask a yes-no question. (More here about that.)

Maybe you’ll also remember that gars is pronounced as gâ. In entry #345, I politely pointed out with a hockey example that you don’t want to pronounce gars as garce. So if you were at a hockey match and you called out bravo les garces! allez les garces! instead of bravo les gars! allez les gars!, you might run into a little trouble. (I’d find that funny though and I’d have to make you my best friend. Some hockey players may not share our sense of humour.)

[The quotes above come from Les Parent, “Noël emballant,” season 4, episode 11, Radio-Canada, Montreal, 21 November 2011.]

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