Posts Tagged ‘pronunciation’

A reader of OffQc asks how to pronounce because he’s been hearing two pronunciations of it. In fact, it’s not just that has two pronunciations but also ça. Let’s look at how they’re pronounced in this post.

(Below, IPA stands for International Phonetic Alphabet. In French, it’s called the alphabet phonétique international, or API.)

What are the two ways that is pronounced?

1. la (or [la] in IPA)
Rhymes with ma, ta, sa.

2.  (or [lɑ] in IPA)
Rhymes with bas, cas, pas.

In là-dessus, là-dessous, là-dedans, etc. (where is joined by a hyphen to an adverb), it’s pronounced the first way — like [la].

Elsewhere, is pronounced the second way — like [lɑ]. In the following, is pronounced [lɑ]: Moi là, j’pense que… Pis là, y’est parti. Je sais pas, là! C’est juste là, devant toi.


Ça also has two pronunciations. What are they?

1. ça (or [sa] in IPA)
Rhymes with ma, ta, la.

2. çâ (or [] in IPA)
Rhymes with bas, cas, pas.

When ça is used as a subject, it’s pronounced the first way — like [sa]. Ça fait mal. Ça s’peut pas! Ça commence aujourd’hui.

Elsewhere, ça is pronounced the second way — like []. C’est ça qui est ça! Pourquoi t’as fait ça? Quand ça? J’aime pas ça. C’est comme ça.

We can continue looking at this in future posts.

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I’m getting pretty excited — we’re only two posts away from #900, which means #1000 is appearing on the horizon!

How about some random pronunciation stuff today (maybe review for some of you)?


Do you know how the Québécois pronounce nombril (belly button)Nombril is pronounced nom-bri in Québec. The pronunciation nom-bril is heard in France.

If something’s le nombril du monde, it’s “the belly button of the world,” or in idiomatic English: the centre of the universe.


Do you remember how the Québécois pronounce lundi? There’s a dz sound in it: lun-dzi. That’s because the letter d makes a little buzzing dz before the i sound.

Not only will you hear dz in lundi, you’ll hear it in all the names of the days of the week: lun[dz]i, mar[dz]i, mercre[dz]i, jeu[dz]i, vendre[dz]i, same[dz]i, [dz]imanche.

If you want to adopt this yourself, don’t go overboard pronouncing dz. It’s not dzzzzzzzzzzz! Just dz.


If you listen to lots of spoken Québécois French, you know how â sounds (a little like aw). But even if you’re aware of this, you might still be surprised to hear words that you’ve known for a long time pronounced with the Québécois â. Can you say how fâché sounds using the â sound? What about château?

The â sound is shown in API (alphabet phonétique international) as:

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Here’s some random French I overheard today in Montréal while out.

All of these examples of French were said by a group of three women in their 60s in the seating area of a public space.

1. Y’a une place icitte.

There’s a place (to sit) here.

Y’a is an informal pronunciation of il y a. Icitte means ici and is often heard at the informal level of language.

2. Amène une chaise.

Bring a chair. Get a chair.

The verb amener is used here to tell someone to bring something. There’s another example of this below.

3. Qu’est-ce tu veux?

What d’you want?

Qu’est-ce sounds like kess. Dropping que here (qu’est-ce tu veux instead of qu’est-ce que tu veux) is an informal usage.

4. Amène-moi un biscuit.

Bring me a cookie.

Here’s another example of the verb amener. The woman who said this yelled it out to her friend who was ordering food.

5. A s’en vient.

She’s coming.

You’ll often hear elle pronounced informally as a, like the a in ma, ta or la. The verb s’en venir is frequently used: je m’en viens, I’m coming; tu t’en viens, you’re coming; y s’en vient, he’s coming; y s’en viennent, they’re coming.

One of the three women said this as her friend was coming back to their table after ordering food.

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Say this sentence:

Puis là, je lui dis que je n’aime pas ça.
So then, I tell him that I do not like that.

If I asked you to transform this sentence into something more colloquial sounding, the way you might hear it said during a regular conversation, could you do it?

Maybe you know that the ne in the negative construction ne… pas generally gets dropped, so we can start with that:

Puis là, je lui dis que j’aime pas ça.

And maybe you also know that puis is almost always pronounced spontaneously as pis (pi) during everyday conversations, so we can change that too:

Pis là, je lui dis que j’aime pas ça.

There’s another thing we can change here to make it sound like something you might hear someone say spontaneously in a conversation. The title of this post gives it away — it has to do with the pronunciation of lui:

Pis là, j’y dis que j’aime pas ça.

Here, lui got pronounced as y (i). You don’t necessarily have to start pronouncing it like this yourself too, but do learn to recognise it.

je lui dis que…, j’y dis que…
je lui donne…, j’y donne…
on lui a dit que…, on y a dit que…

We saw an example of lui pronounced as y in #868: j’ai juste à y flasher ça dans’ face! If we spell everything in full, we get: j’ai juste à lui flasher ça dans la face!

You’d only ever catch lui pronounced as y when it’s put before a verb (either conjugated or in the infinitive form) like in the examples above, as an indirect object pronoun.

Lui wouldn’t be pronounced as y in these examples:

Sans lui, je pense que ça aurait été différent.
Je me suis beaucoup occupée de lui.
Avec lui, je pense que notre équipe ira loin.
Il s’appelle Martin, lui.

Let’s go back to the first example:

Pis là, j’y dis que j’aime pas ça.

Don’t forget that the Québécois pronounce the letter d as dz when it comes before the i sound. So dis sounds like dzi.

If you’ve been listening to lots of spoken French from Québec, then you know just what the vowel sounds like in the words là, pas and ça. If you’re not sure what it sounds like, please go turn your radio on!

Here’s the unmodified sentence from the beginning of this post:

Puis là, je lui dis que je n’aime pas ça.

Can you say it now the way you might happen to hear it said spontaneously during a conversation?

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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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