French conversation – Real-life Example 6 from Québec – Part 2

An overview of this example of Quebec Vernacular French

The speech of the central character here, Raoul, is a caricatural example of Quebec Vernacular French that is still very common today. If you are used only to school French or the French of France, much of this will be incomprehensible. Here are a few things to listen for:

  • Very common use of and sequences such as là là. Most of the time has no particular meaning and is just used for speaking rhythm. In other contexts it can mean ‘there’ or ‘at this time’.
  • The are many borrowings from English such as fuck le rack, téper, le top, you bet, straight pipe non stop, speaker, hot patch, t-shirt, etc.
  • Many non-standard grammatical items such as à soir for ce soir or pas pire for pas mal. A very striking feature is the use of m’a instead of je vais.
  • Pronunciation that is considered archaic or non-standard. For example, the –l in il, elle and quelque disappears completely. Toi and moi are pronounced toé and moé. Envoie becomes Aweille. Petit becomes ti.
  • Very frequent use of the vulgar swear word hostie for emphasis.
  • Technical commentary

1. A very common feature of Quebec Vernacular French is the use of the particle –tu to indicate a question, as in C’est-tu vrai ? ‘Is it true ?’. It is also often used for emphasis, as is the case here. This can be very confusing because this particle –tu looks and sounds exactly like the second person subject pronoun tu. They are not related.

Note as well how the adverb bien is pronounced ben.
As is very common is the spoken language, the pronoun on replaces the first person plural nous ‘we

2. Mets-en is an idiomatic expression indicating agreement with something just said. Literally translated ‘put some’, it is often accompanied by an entire phrase : Mets-en, c’est pas de l’onguent.

3. I can hardly hear the que here. Unlike English where ‘that’ is optional after may verbs like say, think, believe and see, in French que is mandatory. But I do see an emerging trend in spoken informal French to drop it.

4. It’s not very clear what was said here but my take is as follows. First, we should remember that in Québécois French many swear words derive from references to the catholic church. For example, le tabernacle (the tabernacle), le ciboire (the ciborium) l’hostie (the host) and la câlice (the chalice) have morphed into very vulgar swear words when pronounced in a distinct manner.

All these swear words have euphemistic variants that are used in more polite circumstances. My ear hears something like the combination of ta from tabernacle combined with Amherst, the name of a street in Montreal.

5. Notice how plus becomes pu by elimination of the the –l sound and the final –s. This is very common. See my post on the pronunciation of plus.

6.This host is a euphemistic variation of hostie referred to in note 4. Notice how hostie will be in constant use later.

7. I’ve used y to represent the common pronunciation of the third person male subject pronoun il ‘he’ without the –l. It is also common to use the third person form when speaking directly to the person.

Some people will even refer to themselves in the third person. For example, a woman might say Ben, là là, la madame est ben tannée. when she wants to say that she is really fed up.

8. The person’s name is Jean but his nickname is probably Johnny. This is quite a common practice in Quebec.

9. Here pire is used instead of the standard mal, as in pas mal.

10. The tuque is a soft winter hat often called a watch cap in English. Duct tape needs no translation but is often pronounced duck tape. Here the speaker is telling the listener to get ready and hold on.

11. A soir is an archaic equivalent of ce soir. One also hears à matin instead of ce matin.

12. This pronunciation toé and moé is a highly stigmatized old form of toi and moi. I strongly discourage you from using these forms.

13. The ti– derives from petit and is a term of endearment. Here the ti-pète is meant to rime with you bet.

14. Aweille is an attempt to capture the pronunciation of envoie from the verb envoyer ‘to send’ or ‘hurry up’. A common form is envoie donc or aweille don for OK or go ahead.

15. Combines derived from combinaisons means long underwear.

16. M’a is a form of je vais. This is one of the key markers of vernacular speech.

17. A BM is a BMW automobile. For some reason, in Québec they only use two letters whereas English uses three.

18. Téper derives from the English verb to tape, le char is the popular word for the motor car.
Fuck le rack is used in the sense of ‘to hell with the ski rack’. I should point out that fuck in Québécois French Vernacular does not have the same strong meaning it has in English. Consequently, it is used more often in French than in English.

19. Pogner means here ‘to grab’. Dunkin refers to a once-popular chain of fast-food restaurants known as Dunkin Donuts. Most of these stores have disappeared or have been replaced by a chain called Tim Hortons. This name is often abbreviated Timothon in the vernacular.

20. This Y, as mentioned earlier, represents the pronunciation of Il without the l. In standard French, this phrase would be Il n’en est pas question.

21. In Québécois Vernacular the verb filer has taken on the meaning of the English verb ‘to feel’.

22. The a here is the popular pronunciation of the female singular subject pronoun elle.

23. Note how the pronoun moi is tacked on at the end for emphasis.

24. This inquiète-toi pas is a non-standard variation of ne t’inquiète pas. Very common in Quebec, as in Casse-toi pas la tête avec ça ‘Don’t waste your time with that ‘.

25. Unlike previous examples (see notes 7 and 20), y does not represent il. In fact, it is a form of lui. Thus m’a y verser is another way of saying je vais lui verser.

26. Une chotte comes from ‘a shot’

27. Benylin is a popular over-the-counter remedy for colds.

28. Quik refers to the popular instant hot chocolate drink called Nesquik.

29. Pis is the popular pronunciation of puis ‘and’.

30. Un couple ‘a couple’

31. Hot patchs reflects the French pronunciation of the plural form. Hot patches under various brand names are used for pain relief.

32. Mon ti-poutte is a term of endearment used primarily for young children. Similar to ti-pète.

33. Myrtle Beach is a popular destination in South Carolina for Québécois.

34. Etre fatigant rare is to be a real pain in the ass.

35. To not offend Raoul, Johnny twists Cécile’s sentence into something else; so rare become s’endort.

36. T’sais or t’sé is widely just like the English ‘you know’.

37. Pantoute is the very common Québécois form of the standard pas du tout. A common phrase is C’est pas pire pantoute ‘It’s not bad at all’.

38. Garrocher is an archaic French term for ‘throw’. Someone who has no manners would be described as Il n’a pas été élevé ; il a été garroché.

39. la face becomes ‘a face when the l is dropped.

40. Here the y represents ils.

41. L’enfer or hell can be very negative or, as here, very positive.

42. de la poule refers to ‘chicks’ or pretty young women.

43. Notice how Qu’est-ce qu’il dit ? has beome Qu’est c’est qu’y dit ?

44. Notice the order of the pronouns. The standard order of Passe-le-moi has been inverted into Passe-moi-le.

45. Comment qu’a va… is or course Comment qu’elle va...or, more formally, Comment va-t-elle…

46. Moron comes straight from the English moron but note the French pronunciation and especially the nasal vowel.

47. The verb achaler means to bother.

48. In Y est pas si pire que ça, the pire replaces the more standard mal, as seen earlier in note 9. The humour in this section comes from the fact that Raoul does not get the fact that Cécile is calling him the moron. Instead, he thinks that Cécile is referring to Johnny.

49. Un ti-peu is un petit peu ‘a little bit’.

50. In Québec un jujube is a candy made with gelatin and comes in many shapes and colours. The speaker is referring to the fact that many girls attach little ornaments to the tips of their braids.

51. The spelling bouttes represents the pronunciation of bout with the final t sounded.

52. In que’que chose we see again that frequent phenomenon of the disappearing –l sound.

53. Je shoute derives from the English verb ‘to shoot’.

54. The afficheur, for those who don’t live in Québec, is a brand name for call display on the telephone.

55. Ça va faire is a common way of saying ‘I’ve had enough’ or ‘This is the last straw’.

56. Be careful here. The y here is the perfectly standard pronoun meaning ‘there’. There is no relation with the previous uses of y to represent the personal pronouns il or ils, as we can see two words further along.

Related Posts

1. How to use the real-life examples.

Stanley Aléong is a polyglot, author, musician, language coach in French, English and Spanish, language workshop facilitator and organizer of French-English conversation meetups in Montreal, Canada. He likes to share his passion for languages and believes that anybody can learn to speak a foreign language well with the right methods and tools. He has also invented a cool visual learning tool called the Essential French Wall Chart Calendar. Reach him at

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