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You’ll often hear the verb barrer used in Québec in the sense of “to lock,” as in locking a door, a bike, a car, or anything really that can be locked up to prevent people’s access to it. For example, you can say barrer une porte (lock a door).

In Québec, barrer is pronounced bârrer. The vowel â sounds a little like “aww.”

This use of barrer comes from a different meaning of the same verb, which is to close up a door with a bar or plank. Using barrer to mean closing up with a lock is just an extension of this idea.

The Usito dictionary gives us examples of this québécois use of barrer in the sense of locking up, which, in fact, is not exclusively québécois. The authors of the dictionary point out that this use is also known in parts of France and other French-speaking areas.

Francophones elsewhere in the world who do not use barrer like this prefer to use fermer à clé or verrouiller instead. These two ways are of course also understood in Québec.

Three good examples of barrer provided by Usito are:

barrer la porte en sortant
to lock the door on the way out

barrer son vélo avec un cadenas*
to lock up one’s bike (with a lock)

barrer son auto
to lock one’s car

The opposite of barrer is débarrer, “to unlock.”

débarrer les portières d’une auto
to unlock the doors of a car

Here are more examples that you can learn (not from the dictionary):

La porte est barrée.
The door is locked.

La porte est débarrée.
The door is unlocked.

As-tu barré la porte?
Did you lock the door?

Trottoir barré J’ai barré mon vélo en bas de la côte.
I locked my bike at the bottom of the hill.

J’ai mis mon passeport* dans ma valise barrée.
I put my passport in my locked-up suitcase.

You’ll frequently see signs reading rue barrée and trottoir barré in the streets of Montréal. In this sense, it just means that the street or sidewalk is closed.

*Both cadenas and passeport use the â sound: cadnâ, pâspor.

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