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Posts Tagged ‘inversion’

Here’s a very short video from the SAAQ (Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec) warning of the dangers of sending textos au volant, text messages while driving. (Le volant is the steering wheel.)

There’s little spoken word in the video, but you’ll still review a few things from colloquial language. This video has been added to the Listen to Québécois French section.

T’es là?
Are you there?

Oui
Ça va?
Yes
How are you?

m’ennuie
t’es où?
bored
where are you?

pas loin
j’arrive
not far
almost there

Quand t’es là…
When you’re here (eyes on phone)…

… t’es pas là.
… you’re not there (eyes on road).

es-tu là?!?
are you there?!?

T’es là? is an informal equivalent of tu es là? and es-tu là? Remember that tu es generally contracts to t’es in informal language, which sounds like té. You’ll hear the speaker say t’es when he says quand t’es là, t’es pas là.

The texted message m’ennuie is short for je m’ennuie.

T’es où? is an informal equivalent of où es-tu? Informal language avoids the inversion after question words like où, comment, pourquoi, etc., so you’re much more likely to hear t’es où? in spoken language than où es-tu?

Listen to the vowel sound used in  and pas when the speaker says quand t’es là, t’es pas là. We’ve heard this vowel sound in a few different videos lately, including this one where Korine Côté says Montréal, je suis là! and this one where the speaker says on a pas d’chat.

At the end, the texted message es-tu là? can also be heard in spoken language as t’es-tu là? (Both are possible in spoken language.) In es-tu là?, tu is the second-person singular tu meaning you. But in t’es-tu là?, the second-person singular isn’t tu but t’. Tu in t’es-tu là? is an informal yes-no question marker.

Es-tu là?
Are you there?

T’es-tu là?
You’re-(yes/no) there?

All three of these questions ask “are you there?”:

Es-tu là?
T’es là?
T’es-tu là?

“Where are you?” in informal language is:

T’es où?

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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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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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