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Posts Tagged ‘m’as’

“I’m gonna check [that] this evening.” A man said an equivalent of this in French. Can you guess how? Make an attempt before reading on.

Square Dorchester, à Montréal [février 2016]

Square Dorchester, à Montréal [février 2016]

Did your attempt sound like the following?

Je vais vérifier ça ce soir.

It’s correct, but it’s not what he said. Let’s look at how he did.

Maybe you know that, in conversational French, ce soir is often said instead as à soir.

Je vais vérifier ça à soir.

And maybe you know also know that vérifier is often said informally as checker.

Je vais checker ça à soir.

Maybe you know too that je vais is often said as j’vas in spoken French, where vas rhymes with pas.

J’vas checker ça à soir.

But did you know that je vais and j’vas might also be said as m’as in conversations? M’as rhymes with pas.

M’as checker ça à soir.

That’s exactly how the man said it.

M’as comes from s’en aller. In the same way that je vais can be conjugated colloquially as je vas (which contracts to j’vas), the first-person conjugation je m’en vais can be conjugated colloquially as je m’en vas (which contracts to j’m’en vas).

Je m’en vas
contracts to j’m’en vas, which
contracts to m’en vas, which
contracts to m’as.

M’as is an informal usage. You’re not required to use it yourself (nobody expects non-native speakers to use it), but do be sure to understand it.

You can stick with je vais when you need to use prescribed French (in French class, in writing, etc.), but you might want to give j’vas a try from time to time to give your French a colloquial feel — when speaking with francophone friends, for example.

You’ll know if and when you can use m’as when you reach a high level of mastery in French.

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By “informal,” I mean a word or expression far more likely to be found in normal, spontaneous, everyday language — between friends and family, for example — than in high literature or business correspondence or news reports.

In many posts on OffQc, you’ve no doubt noticed that I very often say that such-and-such a word or expression is an informal usage. Maybe you’ve even begun to wonder if all Québécois words and expressions are informal…

They’re not. There are many words and expressions unique to Québec that you’re just as likely to hear in everyday, spontaneous language as you are in a televised news report or formal language, in the same way that words like téléphone and café can cross language levels.

Below are some examples of both informal and level-neutral Québécois French.

Informal (between friends, for example)

  • pogner, to grab, catch
  • checker, to check
  • c’est-tu…?, is it…?, is that…?
  • capoter, to flip out
  • m’as, I’m gonna (+ infinitive)
  • c’est don’ bin cute!, is that ever cute!
  • pis là, and then
  • faque, so
  • enweille!, come on then!
  • un char, car

Level-neutral (not limited to one language level)

  • un cégépien, cégep student
  • faire l’épicerie, to go food shopping
  • magasiner, to shop, shop around for
  • une tête-de-violon, fiddlehead
  • la poudrerie, blowing snow
  • un melon d’eau, watermelon
  • une pourvoirie, grounds where you can hunt, fish, trap
  • à l’arrêt, at the stop sign
  • un téléroman, soap opera
  • un REER, retirement investment, pronounced ré-èr

It’s true that a lot of the language on OffQc falls more in the informal category than the level-neutral one. I do this because this is the language that’s more difficult to learn.

Informal words and expressions are less likely to appear in dictionaries and learning materials than the level-neutral ones. Informal usages are also sometimes “hidden” from learners by language instructors who judge them negatively or, outside of Québec, may be unknown to them if they aren’t familiar with the Québécois variety of French.

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Today’s three usages come to us by way of a woman in her 70s. I overheard her speaking with her husband in Montréal.

1. une sacoche

One of the things the woman talked about was her handbag (or purse), which she called une sacoche. I don’t recall her exact words now, but here’s an example:

J’ai laissé ma sacoche sous la table.
I left my handbag (purse) under the table.

2. un char de police

Not far from us, a man got arrested outside. The woman talked about the police cars on the scene.

We’ve seen the masculine word char before, which means “car” in Québec. The woman used this word to talk about the police cars, calling them chars de police.

Y’a deux chars de police.
There are two police cars.

Remember, y’a is an informal (and the most frequent) pronunciation of il y a.

3. m’as

The woman also used the contraction m’as, which means “I’m gonna…” It’s pronounced mâ.

M’as te dire une affaire, là.
I’m gonna tell you something.

M’as aller m’en chercher un.
I’m gonna go get myself one.

If these don’t make sense to you, replace m’as with je vais.

Where does m’as come from?

je m’en vais
je m’en va’s
m’en va’s
m’as

Je m’en vais is a variation of the simpler je vais.

You don’t have to start using m’as yourself. Nobody expects a non-native Québécois to use it. Do learn what it means though so you’ll understand it when you hear it. It’s always fine to use je vais. (Note that the Québécois very often say je vas as well, which sounds like je vâ.)

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