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Posts Tagged ‘on peut-tu’

Two women shopping together in a shop were ready to pay for their items. One of the women approached a cashier; because that cashier didn’t appear to be receiving customers at the moment, the woman asked her in French an equivalent of can we pay here?

To ask the question, the woman used the verb passer. This verb is often used when talking about paying at the cash. For example, you’ll hear cashiers say passez ici!, which is an equivalent of next, please! In some stores, an automated system will tell you to proceed to the next available cash by saying something like passez à la caisse 5, meaning proceed to cashier 5.

Here’s how the woman asked her question:

On peut-tu passer ici?
Can we pay here?
(literally, can we pass here?)

On peut-tu means the same thing as est-ce qu’on peut. The tu here turns on peut into a yes-no question. It doesn’t mean you.

On peut.
On peut-tu?

We can.
Can we?

On peut savoir pourquoi.
On peut-tu savoir pourquoi?
On peut-tu savoir pourquoi t’es jamais revenu?

We can know why.
Can we know why?
Can we know why (can you tell us why) you never came back?

On peut passer ici.
On peut-tu passer ici?

We can go through here.
Can we go through (can we pay) here?

Listen to the way the Québécois pronounce passer and its conjugated forms. You can hear Korine Côté pronounce the conjugated form passe in this video from the Listen to Québécois French section. It comes in at 0:54.

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1. In the last entry, we saw how je suis en can contract to j’t’en, where j’ makes a ch sound (ch’t’en).

We’ve seen je suis reduced to just a ch sound before in Lisa LeBlanc’s song J’pas un cowboy (official video on YouTube here). J’pas is a contraction of je (ne) suis pas, and it sounds like ch’pas.

2. In a radio ad, I heard a woman say prendre une marche avec mon chum, to take a walk with my boyfriend.

The expression prendre une marche is a calque of the English expression to take a walk (and felt to be incorrect by certain people for that reason).

3. Parle-moi can be negated informally as parle-moi pas. Parle-moi pas comme ça. Don’t talk to me like that.

The same goes for dis-moi ça (dis-moi pas ça), demande-moi (demande-moi pas), dérange-moi (dérange-moi pas), etc.

4. Learn the phrase on peut-tu…? It means can we…?, is it possible to…? The tu here signals that this is a yes-no question. On peut-tu aller le voir? Can we go see him, it? On peut-tu arrêter de chiâler? Can we stop complaining?

5. OK, not Québécois French, but still of interest — Montréal’s got a street name change in the city centre, boulevard Robert-Bourassa.

If you’re new to OffQc, check out C’est what? 75 mini lessons in conversational Québécois French for an overview of important features of spoken language. (You can buy and download it here immediately.)

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A googler landed on OffQc searching for an answer to what on peut-tu means in Quebec French.

It’s an informal question starter meaning the same thing as est-ce qu’on peut.

On peut-tu faire ça? means est-ce qu’on peut faire ça? (Can we do that?)

On peut-tu changer de sujet? means est-ce qu’on peut changer de sujet? (Can we change the subject?)

Just remember that the form using on peut-tu is informal only. It can be heard in everyday relaxed speech, but you’ll come across it much less in writing (unless it’s particularly informal writing).

The -tu part in on peut-tu has nothing to do with “you” (second person singular tu). It’s an informal yes-no question marker instead.

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