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Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

Un conseil : Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo.

At the marché Jean-Talon in Montréal, a yellow sign advises bike owners to lock up their bikes:

Assurez-vous de bien barrer votre vélo. Be sure to lock your bike securely.

Do you remember from earlier posts on OffQc that the Québécois also sometimes call a bike un bécik at the informal level of language?

Bécik entered the language via English. It’s how the Québécois pronounce bicycle.

Barrer is used in Québec in the sense of “to lock up.” It’s pronounced bâré. The â sound comes close to the “aww” sound of English.

The verb barrer appeared in this list of 50 words pronounced with the â sound in Québec, but not written with the accented â.

barrer la porte
to lock the door

barrer son vélo
to lock one’s bike

barrer son bécik
to lock one’s bike
[this one sounds especially québécois]

You can use barrer to talk about locking any kind of door: a house door, bathroom door, bedroom door, shop door, etc.

barrer sa case
barrer son casier
to lock one’s locker

Both case and casier also appeared in the list of 50 â-sound words. They’re pronounced câz and câzié in Québec.

barrer sa case avec un cadenas
barrer son casier avec un cadenas
to lock one’s locker with a padlock

The second a in cadenas also uses the â sound. That darn â sound is all over the place! The Québécois pronounce those last two examples as:

bâré sa câz avec un cadnâ
bâré son câzié avec un cadnâ

Just behind the sign in that same image, we see a bike locked up to a rack. What’s the term used in Québec for a bike rack?

A sign in the marché Jean-Talon (see below) shows us one way to say “bike rack” in French:

un support à vélo
a bike rack

The term support à vélo (or support à vélos) is standard Québécois French. But during spontaneous conversations, you might also hear:

un rack à vélo
un rack à bécik
[these both sound especially québécois; the second one in particular is guaranteed to make your French teacher’s skin go all goose pimply]

A rack for bikes is called “un support” in French, but you’ll also hear “un rack.”

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You’ll often hear the verb barrer used in Québec in the sense of “to lock,” as in locking a door, a bike, a car, or anything really that can be locked up to prevent people’s access to it. For example, you can say barrer une porte (lock a door).

In Québec, barrer is pronounced bârrer. The vowel â sounds a little like “aww.”

This use of barrer comes from a different meaning of the same verb, which is to close up a door with a bar or plank. Using barrer to mean closing up with a lock is just an extension of this idea.

The Usito dictionary gives us examples of this québécois use of barrer in the sense of locking up, which, in fact, is not exclusively québécois. The authors of the dictionary point out that this use is also known in parts of France and other French-speaking areas.

Francophones elsewhere in the world who do not use barrer like this prefer to use fermer à clé or verrouiller instead. These two ways are of course also understood in Québec.

Three good examples of barrer provided by Usito are:

barrer la porte en sortant
to lock the door on the way out

barrer son vélo avec un cadenas*
to lock up one’s bike (with a lock)

barrer son auto
to lock one’s car

The opposite of barrer is débarrer, “to unlock.”

débarrer les portières d’une auto
to unlock the doors of a car

Here are more examples that you can learn (not from the dictionary):

La porte est barrée.
The door is locked.

La porte est débarrée.
The door is unlocked.

As-tu barré la porte?
Did you lock the door?

Trottoir barré J’ai barré mon vélo en bas de la côte.
I locked my bike at the bottom of the hill.

J’ai mis mon passeport* dans ma valise barrée.
I put my passport in my locked-up suitcase.

You’ll frequently see signs reading rue barrée and trottoir barré in the streets of Montréal. In this sense, it just means that the street or sidewalk is closed.

*Both cadenas and passeport use the â sound: cadnâ, pâspor.

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