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When a friend of mine was speaking on the phone, he asked if the person on the other end could hear him:

Allô? M’entends-tu? Allô?
Hello? Can you hear me? Hello?

Remember, this question sounds conversational in Québec despite using the inversion (m’entends-tu). You can review in #717 when the inversion sounds natural in spoken French and when it doesn’t.

We’ve already come across two other ways this same question was asked in the same context of telephone conversations, which were: est-ce que tu m’entends? and tu m’entends-tu?

So, all three of these questions that we’ve come across work during a conversation in Québec:

1. M’entends-tu?
2. Est-ce que tu m’entends?
3. Tu m’entends-tu?

… which the Québécois pronounce as:

M’entends-tsu?
Est-ce que tsu m’entends?
Tsu m’entends-tsu?

They’re pronounced that way because t before the French sound u is pronounced ts in Québec. It’s the “tsu” part of what’s called the “tsitsu” on OffQc.

The most informal sounding question of the three is tu m’entends-tu?, which uses the colloquial yes-no question marker -tu. I suggest you wait until you’ve heard it used in real conversations before using it yourself.

Homework!

Can you ask the 5 questions below in French using the 3 ways described above?

Remember, during informal conversations, the second person singular tu almost always becomes t’ when the next word begins with a vowel (e.g., tu es becomes t’es), so use this contraction when possible.

The answers follow the questions… no peeking!

1. Do you understand?
2. Do you want some?
3. Did you lock the door?
4. Does your back hurt?
5. Are you sure it works?

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Answers:

1. Comprends-tu? Est-ce que tu comprends? Tu comprends-tu?
2. En veux-tu? Est-ce que t’en veux? T’en veux-tu?
3. As-tu barré la porte? Est-ce que t’as barré la porte? T’as-tu barré la porte?
4. As-tu mal au dos? Est-ce que t’as mal au dos? T’as-tu mal au dos?
5. Es-tu sûr que ça marche? Est-ce que t’es sûr que ça marche? T’es-tu sûr que ça marche?

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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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You’ll hear yes-no questions asked frequently with -tu, so it’s a good idea to devote time to understanding how they work.

You don’t ever have to ask yes-no questions with -tu yourself. You can always use the est-ce que form that you’ve already learned and you’ll be covered for any situation where you need to ask a yes-no question. That said, it’s still important to understand how yes-no questions are formed using -tu because you’ll definitely hear this formulation when people speak.

To begin, take three examples of yes-no questions using est-ce que:

Est-ce que c’est possible? (oui/non)
Est-ce que tu m’aimes? (oui/non)
Est-ce que je peux savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

These questions could also be asked without est-ce que by making the voice rise at the end:

C’est possible? (oui/non)
Tu m’aimes? (oui/non)
Je peux savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

In Québec, you can also hear these same questions asked with -tu inserted after the conjugated verb.

C’est-tu possible? (oui/non)
Tu m’aimes-tu? (oui/non)
Je peux-tu savoir de quoi tu parles? (oui/non)

Asking yes-no questions with -tu is an informal usage. It does not occur in formal speech or writing. Its use is limited to informal spoken language situations.

This -tu can appear in any verb tense. For example, in the past tense (j’ai dit, j’ai fait, etc.), it gets placed after the auxiliary verb. The auxiliary verb in j’ai dit and j’ai fait is ai.

Did I say that?
Est-ce que j’ai dit ça?
J’ai dit ça?
J’ai-tu dit ça?

Did I do that?
Est-ce que j’ai fait ça?
J’ai fait ça?
J’ai-tu fait ça?

J’ai-tu vraiment dit ça, moi?
Did I really say that?

J’ai-tu vraiment fait ça, moi?
Did I honestly do that?

Remember, this -tu is used to ask yes-no questions. It’s never used with question words like quand, comment, pourquoi, etc. Those aren’t yes-no questions! You cannot ask: Quand j’ai-tu dit ça?

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This afternoon, I ordered a coffee — a strong one, un café corsé. As I ordered, I heard a woman talking on her mobile. The person she was speaking to couldn’t hear her.

Maybe you’ll remember this question from entry #682, asked by a girl in her 20s speaking on the phone:

Tu m’entends-tu?
Can you hear me?

This is also how the woman today asked if she could be heard. In fact, she asked the question a few times. One of the other ways she asked the questions was:

Est-ce que tu m’entends?
Can you hear me?

The first question (tu m’entends-tu?) uses the informal yes-no question marker tu to ask the question. You can read more about asking yes-no questions with tu in this guide.

The woman speaking on the phone used tu m’entends-tu? and est-ce que tu m’entends? interchangeably. Because she used the form tu m’entends-tu?, we know that she was speaking to someone she’s on familiar terms with.

A call centre representative is very unlikely to ask a customer on the phone who has trouble hearing: tu m’entends-tu? It’s too informal sounding. It’s okay to use tu m’entends-tu? with a friend, though.

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