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Posts Tagged ‘voice’

In the last entry (#717), there was an example of a yes-no question using the inverted form as-tu:

As-tu mal à la tête?
Do you have a headache?

Even though this question uses the inversion, it still works at the conversational level of French in Québec. You can read more about when the inversion is used and avoided in Québec in entry #717.

Another way that you may hear people ask as-tu questions is with the formulation t’as-tu. This formulation is an informal one that you may catch people use during everyday conversations.

Below are some examples. I’ve translated them into informal English to help convey the feel of the t’as-tu form:

T’as-tu vu ça?
Didja see that?

T’as-tu une cigarette?
Ya got a cigarette?

T’as-tu une blonde?
D’ya have a girlfriend?

T’as-tu peur?
You afraid?

All of those questions could have also simply been asked with as-tu rather than t’as-tu. So, where on earth does t’as-tu come from then?

The t’as part of t’as-tu is a contraction of tu as. This contraction occurs very frequently in French, and not just as part of the formulation t’as-tu but anywhere tu and as come together.

The -tu part of t’as-tu is the famous yes-no question marker so prevalent in the French of Québec.

All the questions above can be answered with yes or no. We can understand the -tu part of t’as-tu as meaning “yes or no?” like this:

T’as-tu une blonde?
= Tu as (oui ou non) une blonde?

How is t’as-tu pronounced?

The t’as part sounds like tâ, or like “taw” using an English approximation. The -tu part sounds like tsu. That’s because tu is a tsitsu word, and you remember all about those tsitsu words… right?? So, t’as-tu sounds like tâ-tsu.

Similarly, as-tu sounds like â-tsu.

It’s not necessary for you to adopt t’as-tu to make yourself understood by the Québécois. As-tu is always good. (It’s important to understand t’as-tu though because you’ll be hearing it.) And, of course, you can always use est-ce que, or just make your voice rise at the end of a statement to turn it into a yes-no question.

These questions all ask the same thing:

As-tu compris?
T’as-tu compris?
T’as compris?
Tu as compris?
Est-ce que t’as compris?
Est-ce que tu as compris?

How’s that for variety?

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I have a friend who used to have trouble with French in public places, like in restaurants and shops. People had trouble understanding him when he spoke.

He was frustrated and disappointed by this. He would often ask me afterwards if the way he had said things was correct.

And you know what?

He usually said things close enough to perfect that it shouldn’t have presented an obstacle to communication.

What was going on then? If his French was good, why would people have trouble understanding what he said?

The problem wasn’t his French.

When he started to learn French, he was understandably shy about using it in public at first.

He would speak too softly. It was hard to hear him in public places.

That was the only problem.

But it was a problem that stuck with him long after his beginnings in French. He had become convinced that speaking French in public would always be a struggle, so he continued to be shy about it.

In private with his francophone friends, he had no problem rambling away in French!

When he started using a louder voice, his problems went away. He became confident about speaking French in public.

If you’re struggling with using your French in public, ask yourself a simple question before you assume that your French is bad:

Am I speaking loudly enough?

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