Posts Tagged ‘sur les’

Have a look at this billboard in French advertising used cars (autos usagées or voitures d’occasion) in Montréal:

On « trippe » sur les vieilles

We’ve seen how tripper sur (quelque chose) means to really go for (something), to be totally into (something), to dig (something).

J’trippe sur sa nouvelle toune.
I really love his latest song.

Tripper can also mean to have a blast.

C’est certain que tu vas tripper.
You’re gonna have such a blast.

Tripper is an informal verb deriving from English (trip); it isn’t unusual to see words of this sort set off by guillemets, like here.

This billboard has two meanings — a literal one, and one the result of wordplay meant to catch the attention of passers-by.

The literal one is they’re saying they love old cars (vieilles voitures). On trippe sur les vieilles; we love old ones.

As for the one resulting from wordplay, can you guess this one on your own?

(If you’re studying contractions, then you know how the words sur les on this billboard can be pronounced spontaneously. See chapter 5 of Contracted French. You also know how j’trippe sounds, if that’s what this sign had said instead. See chapter 1.)

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An elderly woman talked about how she’d slipped on an icy patch of the street, landing on her bum. Can you guess how she said I fell on my bum in French?

To say it, she used the verb tomber and the noun fesses.

Make your guess, and we’ll look at the answer after the image…

Dans le Vieux-Montréal (mars 2016)

Here’s what the woman said:

J’ai tombé s’es fesses.

This is a colloquial equivalent of je suis tombée sur les fesses.

Let’s look in detail at j’ai tombé s’es fesses.

S’es is a contraction of sur les often heard in spoken language. First, sur contracts to su’, and les contracts to ‘es. S’es is a result of the contracted forms su’ and ‘es coming together.

What about j’ai tombé?

In prescribed or codified French (the French you learn in school), the past tense must be said as je suis tombé. However, the form j’ai tombé also exists in French. It’s not accepted in prescribed French today, but it can still be heard in colloquial French.

The form j’ai tombé makes more sense than je suis tombé in our example above. J’ai tombé places the accent on the action (I fell), whereas je suis tombé insists on the state (I am fallen).

Considering that the woman wasn’t sitting on her bum in the street when she said it, it makes more sense to insist on the action — j’ai tombé. If instead she were sitting on her bum when she said it, then je suis tombée (or chu tombée) would make sense.

Alas, prescribed French doesn’t care unfortunately about this useful distinction. Only je suis tombé is allowed in prescribed French, whether it’s the action or state that’s being insisted upon.


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We’ve seen in past entries how sur le and sur la have a tendency of contracting during everyday conversations in French.

sur le can become

sur la can become

This means you might hear, for example, sur le bord pronounced as su’l bord. Do you remember the expression c’est s’a coche? This is an informal way of saying that something is amazing, the best. The s’a in this expression is a contraction of sur la.

One contraction that we haven’t looked at much and also using sur is the contraction formed when sur and les come together:

sur les can become

I’ll put you to the challenge of learning to hear the contracted form s’es in Lisa LeBlanc’s song J’pas un cowboy.

Listen to this part of the song (video below), which begins at 1:14:

J’ai pas de belt avec un fusil
But j’ai un beau coat de cuir

Avec des franges s’es manches pour que ça seye crédible

I don’t have a belt with a gun
But I’ve got a nice leather coat
With tassels on the sleeves to make it authentic

s’es manches
= sur les manches

pour que ça seye crédible
= pour que ça soit crédible

Lisa LeBlanc may be from New Brunswick, but the contracted form s’es can also be heard in Québec when people speak French informally.

You don’t need to start using these informal contractions yourself, but you do need to be able to recognise them.

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