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Quebec French
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Quebec French

Major French dialects
Acadian French
African French
Belgian French
Cajun French
France French
Quebec French
Swiss French

Quebec French or Quebecois French is a variety of French spoken by the people of Quebec. It is an array of dialects that developed out of 17th and 18th century French.

Although Quebec French is sometimes thought of as an exclusively non-standard variant, and certain aspects of it are sociolinguistically stigmatized, many (perhaps most) aspects of Quebec French that distinguish it from the French of France are found throughout the different registers of speech and writing, including standard and formal usage

Table of contents
1 History
2 Comparisons
3 Phonetics
4 Morphology
5 Lexicon
6 Grammar
7 Non-sexist usage
8 Lects
9 See also
10 Reference work


Main article: History of Quebec French

Quebec French is substantially different in pronunciation and vocabulary to the French of Europe and that of France's Second Empire colonies in Africa and Asia.

Similar divergences took place in the Portuguese, Spanish and English language of the Americas with respect to European dialects, but in the case of French the separation was increased by the reduction of cultural contacts with France after the Conquest by Great Britain in 1759. The French Revolution and its aftermath also substantially altered the French spoken in France, while Quebec conserved older forms: for example, the slang pronunciation of moi as moé in Quebec, often considered substandard joual, is actually the old royal pronunciation used by pre-Revolution kings of France.

Thus, whereas it was 18th century bourgeois Parisian French that eventually became the national, standardized language of France after the French Revolution, the French of the Ancien Régime kept evolving on its own in America. Indeed, the French spoken in Quebec is closer idiomatically and phonetically to the French spoken in Belgium despite their independent evolution and the relatively small number of Belgian immigrants to Quebec. Also, many early French immigrants to Canada were largely from areas outside Paris, and their regional vocabulary also had a strong influence. Quebec French was also influenced by the French spoken by the King's Daughters who were of the petit-bourgeois class from the Paris area (Ile-de-France) and Normandy.

There is also the inevitable fact that Quebec French speakers have lived alongside and among English speakers for two and a half centuries ever since beginning of British administration in 1763. Thus anglicisms in Quebec French tend to be longstanding and part of a gradual, natural process of borrowing, whereas the often entirely different anglicisms in European French are nearly all much more recent and sometimes driven by fads and fashions.

Some people (for instance, Léandre Bergeron, author of the Dictionnaire de la langue québécoise) have referred to Quebec French as la langue québécoise (the Québécois language); most speakers, however, would reject or even take offence to the idea that they do not speak French.


Many in France and Belgium do have some problems understanding Quebec French, especially when spoken informally. This is similar to the difference between, say, American English and British or Australian English (as in the original Mad Max movie), or British Received Pronunciation and certain regional dialects in Britain, or Standard German and Swiss German.

Quebec television shows and movies, when shown in France and other francophone countries, were sometimes subtitled into European French because of these differences, which sometimes offended Quebecers because they themselves were generally able to comprehend the accents of France and adapted to the heavy use of French argot. More recently, the exposure to Quebec culture has been more common on the old continent and the European ear is gradually adapting to this exotic element, as Quebec's culture is thriving in France. Indeed, many words from Quebec's slang are being integrated within the popular language in France, as "niaiseux" (idiot, stupid), "platte" (boring, dull), etc.

In general European French speakers have no problems understanding newscasts or other moderately formal speech. However, they will have great difficulty understanding for example a sitcom dialog. This is much more due to idioms, slang and vocabulary rather than accent or pronunciation. To the extent that sitcom dialog reflects everyday colloquial speech, European French users will have difficulty with everyday colloquial speech of Quebecers speaking to one another. However, when speaking to a European French speaker, a French speaker from Quebec is perfectly capable of shifting to a slightly more formal "international" type of speech.

Quebec's culture has only recently been discovered in Europe, especially since the Quiet Revolution (Révolution tranquille), and the difference in dialects and culture is large enough that Quebec French speakers overwhelmingly prefer their own home-grown television drama or sitcom shows to any shows from Europe. The number of such drama or sitcom TV shows from France shown on Quebec television is about the same as the number of British TV shows on American television outside of obscure cable channels: more or less none at all.


One well-known distinction is a tendency to affricate dental stops before high front vowels and semivowels: in other words, tu, ti, du, di are pronounced tsu, tsi, dzu, dzi. Depending on the speaker, this tendency may be stronger or less strong, but never entirely absent. (Note IPA phonetic transcription: tu = /ty/ vs. /ʦy/). While it is less audible, "k" and "g" also present this phenomenon when preceding of back vowels.

Quebec French also contains a much wider range of vowel allophones than the French of France; for example, the masculine and feminine adjectives petit and petite, /pəti/ and /pətit/ in French, are /pəʦi/ and /pəʦɪt/ in Quebec. Similar pre-voiceless consonant allophony are to be found with the vowels /y/ -> /ʏ/, /o/ -> /ɔ/, and /u/ -> /ʊ/.

Long and nasalized vowels in the French of France are often diphthongized in Quebec père (father), /pɛːr/ in France, is /pɛjr/ in Quebec, and banque (bank), /bãk/ in France, is /bãw̴k/ in Quebec.

Some diphthongs are tripthongized, such as the suffix -oir: in France /-wax/, in Quebec often /-wɒj(x)/.

Older speakers often use a rolled r rather than the fricative used in France and in modern Quebec French.

The palatal nasal has disappeared in favor of the velar, probably due to English influences.

In many cases, an orthographic t that is not pronounced in France will be pronounced in Quebec: /lɪt/ lit (France /li/), /fɛt/ fait (participle) in some senses (France /fe/), /frɛt/ froid, sometimes rendered frette (France /frwa/). There is also /ɪsɪt/ ici (sometimes rendered icitte). These usages are mainly colloquial. On the other hand, the t in but and août are not pronounced in Quebec although they are in France. And although Quebec French often pronounces tout as "toutte" in many contexts, it paradoxically uses tout nue where standard French would use toute nue.

Some initial consonants are deleted or reduced: /jœl/ gueule (France /gœl/), especially in the construction ta gueule /tæjœl/ "shut up". "L"s and "r"s following stops in final position are also prone to falling: /rãd/ "rendre" instead of /rãdr/.


Some affixes are found in Quebec more widely than in France, in particular the adjectival suffix -eux, which has a somewhat pejorative meaning: téter -> téteux (stubborn), niaiser -> niaiseux (foolish, irritating); obstiner -> ostineux (stubborn); pot -> poteux (a user or dealer of marijuana). This is from the Normand dialect.


There are also various lexical differences between Quebec French and the French of France; these are distributed throughout the registers, from slang to formal usage.

Preservation of forms

Many differences that exist between Quebec French and European French arise from the preservation of certain forms that are today archaic in Europe.

For example, espérer for "to wait" (attendre in France).

Cour in Quebec is a backyard (jardin in French), whereas in France cour has dropped this meaning and primarily means a courtyard (as well as other meanings like court).

The word breuvage is used for "drink" in addition to boisson; this is an old French usage (bevrage) from which the English "beverage" originates. Breuvage may be used in European French, but generally indicates some nuance, possibly pejorative.

The word piastre or piasse, a slang term for a dollar (equivalent to "buck"), was in fact the term originally used in French for the American or Spanish dollar.

The word couple is used in standard French as a masculine noun (a couple, married or unmarried), but in Quebec it is also used as a feminine noun in phrases like une couple de semaines (a couple of weeks). This is often thought to be an anglicism, but is in fact a preservation of an archaic French usage. This confusion is not as wrong-headed as might be thought, though, given that English itself includes French or Norman archaicisms (e.g. the pronunciation of an initial "ch" as /tʃ/).

Nautical terms

A number of terms that in other French-speaking regions are exclusively nautical are used in wider contexts in Quebec. This is often attributed to the original arrival of French immigrants by ship. An example is the word débarquer, which in Quebec means to get off any conveyance (a car, a train); in Europe, this word means only to disembark from a ship or aircraft (on descend from other vehicles), plus some colloquial uses.

Quebec specialties

There are also words for Quebec specialties that do not exist in Europe, for example poutine, cégep;, tuque (a Canadianism in both official languages), and dépanneur (a corner store/small grocery; dépanneur in France is a mechanic who comes in to repair a car or a household appliance).

Blueberries, abundant in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, are called bleuets; in France, they are called myrtilles and bleuet means cornflower. (Bleuet is also slang for someone from the Saguenay.)


French speakers of Quebec use the informal second-person pronoun tu more often and in more contexts than speakers in France do. In certain contexts it may be perfectly appropriate to address a stranger or even the customer of a store using tu, whereas the latter would be considered very impolite in France.

Although it is best to avoid generalizations, Parisian French speech (and public speakers such as politicians) often come across as stuffy or snobbish to the ears of Quebec Francophones. It is very similar to the perception North American English-speakers may have of British English' ("upper-class" and "fancy").


There is a huge variety of idioms in Quebec that do not exist in France, such as fait que ("so"); en masse ("a lot"); s'en venir (for arriver and venir ici); ben là! or voyons donc! ("oh, come on!"), de même (for comme ça).

Entire reference books have been written about idioms specific to Quebec. A handful of examples among many hundreds:

Dialog in sitcomss on Quebec television uses such idioms extensively, which can make some dialog rather incomprehensible to speakers of European French.

Slang terms

As with any two regional variants, there are an abundance of slang terms found in Quebec that are not found in France. Quebec French profanity uses references to Catholic liturgical equipment, rather than the references to prostitution that are more common in France.

The expression "you're welcome" is bienvenue in Quebec, de rien in France; and the expression bonjour can be used for "goodbye" in Quebec, which it cannot in France (although it is more common to say au revoir or bye).

One of the more hazardous differences is the fact that gosses ("kids" in France) means "testicles" in Quebec. (Gosser means "to annoy.") This brought many hilarious situations involving French tourists making remarks about kids to their Quebecer parents. And boules, which means testicles in Europe, means breasts in Quebec.

Some slang terms unique to Quebec:

Ben very Used informally for "Well...," on both sides. Ben, tu te souviens de cette encyclopédie sur Internet?. It is derived from the formal form Et bien.
Bibitte Small insect Derived from bébête for small creature.
Blonde Girlfriend NB, the girlfriend in question could have black hair (or skin!)
Bobette(s) Underwear
Brailler To weep, to whine In Europe, to scream, to speak very loudly (colloquial)
Char Car In Europe, a char is an army tank or a chariot.
Chum Boyfriend
Crosser To masturbate; to cheat Crosseur = wanker, swindler
Écœurant Wonderful Means dreadful in Europe, a sense also found in Qc.
Note, someone calling you mon écœurant is not a term of endearment.
Envoye (enweye) Let's go, hurry up, come on Often pronounced with a "w" sound, not with "v"
Fin / Fine Nice, sweet (of a person)
Flo A boy (perhaps 10 years old or so) Might possibly be an anglicism from "fellow"; European French = môme
Foufounes Buttocks Une foufoune (Eu) is an impolite sexual slang word for a vagina. Compare fanny.
In France "Foufounes" would be "fesses".
Le fun fun, amusing (adjective, not noun, despite the le) C'est très le fun
des jeux pas mal le fun
Garrocher To throw
Jaser To chat Slandering chat is Eu., unusual.
Magané Deteriorated, used Can also mean tired, sick or exhausted.
Pantoute Not at all Contraction of pas en tout (pas du tout)
Paqueté Drunk
Platte Boring, unfortunate plat with the t pronounced
Poche stupid, untalented
Pogner get, grab
Quétaine kitsch, tacky
Tanné Fed up
Taper, tomber sur les nerfs To irritate someone Only taper sur les nerfs in France.
Se tasser Move over Eu: S'entasser: to be jammed in together. Ça se tasse: situation where spirits settle down after a scandal or quarrel

Amerindian words

AchiganBlack bass
ManitouImportant individual
MaskinongéMuskellunge (a pike)
MicouèneLarge wooden spoon
OuananicheLand-locked variety of salmon

Use of anglicisms

Colloquial and slang registers

The use of anglicisms in colloquial and Quebec French slang is commonplace. Some examples of long-standing anglicisms include:

AnglicismMeaningEnglish word (cognate)
all-dressedWith all the toppings [pizza, etc]
bécosseOuthouse, washroombackhouse
binesPork and beansbeans
bonhomme sept heuresBoogeymanbone-setter
chumMale friend; boyfriend
checkerTo checkcheck
chiffe/chiffreA shift [work period at factory, etc]shift
cruiserMake a pass atcruise
cuteCute (good-looking)
fakerTo simulate, pretend (eg, orgasm)fake
fanA fan (of a band, a sports team), a ceiling fan
filerTo feel [bad, guilty, etc]feel
flocherTo flush (toilet); get rid of; dump [boyfriend/girlfriend]flush
flyéExtravagant, far out, over the topfly
frencherTo French kissfrench
fuckéBroken, crazyfucked up
gameGame, sports match
goodGood! [expressing approval; not as an adjective]
hotHot (excellent, attractive)
hotchickenHot chicken sandwichhot chicken
looseLoose, untied, released
matchMatch (sports)
pâte à dentsToothpastecalque of "toothpaste"
partyParty, social gathering
scrammeScram! Get lost!
scraperScrap, ruin, break, destroy, nullifyscrap
slackerslacken, loosen; slack off, take it easy; fire [employee]slack
smatteSmart; wise-guy; likeable [person]; coolsmart
smoke meatMontreal smoked meat (like pastrami)smoked meat
steaméHot dogsteamed
tofDifficult, roughtough
tofferWithstand, enduretough it out
triperTo be high, to be aroused, to enjoytrip
whatever(Indicating dismissal)whatever

It is also very commonplace for an English word to be used as a nonce word, for example when the speaker temporarily cannot remember the French word. This is particularly common with technical words; indeed, years ago before technical documentation began to be printed in French in Quebec, an English word might be the most common way for a French-speaking mechanic or other technical worker to refer to the mechanisms he or she had to deal with.

It is often difficult or impossible to distinguish between such a nonce anglicism and an English word quoted as such for effect.

There are some anglicisms that have no obvious connection to any currently existing modern Canadian English idiom. For example, partir sur un nowhere ("leave on a 'nowhere'", to go on an adventurous trip without necessarily knowing your destination or perhaps even your travel companions); etre su'l party ("be on the 'party,'" to be partying or to be in the mood for a party).

Standard register

A number of Quebecisms used in the standard register are also derived from English forms, especially as calques, such as prendre une marche (from "take a walk," in France, se promener, also used in Quebec) and banc de neige (from English "snowbank;" in France, congère, a form unknown in Quebec.) However, in standard and formal registers, there is a much stronger tendency to avoid English borrowings in Quebec than in France.

As a result, especially with regard to in modern items, Quebec French often contains forms designed to be more "French" than an English borrowing that may be used anyway in European French, like fin de semaine which is week-end in France, or courriel (from courrier électronique) for France's e-mail or mel. Some are calques into French of English phrases that Continental French borrowed directly, such as un chien chaud for European French hot dog. Likewise, the word "gay" in the sense of "homosexual" is used in the English form in France, but in Quebec, the spelling gai is standard (gai has kept the original meaning of gay in France: "happy", "cheerful").

Although many (not all) of these forms were promulgated by the Office de la Langue Française; (OLF) of Quebec, they have been accepted into everyday use. Indeed, the French government has since adopted the word courriel (although it remains to be seen whether it will come into widespread use among the French public as it has in Quebec).


The perceived overuse of anglicisms in the colloquial register is a cause of the stigmatization of Quebec French. Both the Quebercers and the French accuse each other (and themselves) of using too many anglicisms. A joke runs that the difference between European French and Quebec French is that in Europe, on se gare dans un parking (one parks in a carpark) and in Quebec, on se parque dans un stationnement (you park in a parking lot).

Quebec and France tend to have entirely different anglicisms because in Quebec they are the gradual result of two and a half centuries of living among English speakers, whereas in Europe they are much more recent and result from the increasing international dominance of American English.

See also Franglais.

Other differences

Here are some other differences between standard Quebec French and European French:

Quebec termTranslationMeaning of term in EuropeEuropean termNote
Auto Car car (childish or archaic) Voiture
Abreuvoir Water fountain Watering place for animals Fontaine Used only for animals in Europe (or for comical effect)
Achalandage Traffic (of a store, street, public transit) Stock, merchandise, clientele (archaic) Trafic
Aubaine Sale Opportunity Promotion An item is une aubaine but en promotion
Barrer To lock To block or to strike through Fermer à clef, verrouiller Quebec usage archaic in Europe
Bête Disagreeable (person) Stupid Désagréable, impoli European usage also used in Quebec
Brosse Drinking binge Brush Cuite
Cartable Binder School bag, Satchel Classeur See also classeur
Cédule Schedule Tax bracket (archaic) Emploi du temps
Chandail T-shirt, sweater, sweatshirt Knit sweater T-shirt, pull
Choquer To anger To shock Fâcher
Classeur Filing cabinet Binder Armoire à dossier See also cartable
Correct Good, sufficient, kind, O.K. corrected bon, beau, etc.
Croche Crooked; strange, dishonest Eighth note crochu; bizarre
Débarbouillette Dishrag Serviette, torchon
Débarquer Get out of (a car, etc.) Disembark (from a boat) Descendre
Déjeuner Breakfast Lunch Petit déjeuner See also dîner, souper. Qc. usage same as in Belgium.
Dîner Lunch Dinner Déjeuner Qc. usage same as in Belgium.
Efface Eraser Gomme Gomme is used for chewing-gum
Épais Dumb, slow-witted Thick Con
Espadrilles Running shoes Rope-soled sandal Baskets
Être plein To be full (from eating) pleine: to be pregnant; also to be drunk (in Belgium at least) Avoir trop mangé
Fesser To hit To spank Frapper
(ma) fête (my) birthday (my) saint's day anniversaire
Innocent Stupid [person] Innocent, naive Imbécile
Insignifiant Stupid [person] Insignificant, unremarkable Imbécile
Linge Clothes Linen Vêtements
Liqueur Carbonated beverage Liquor, liqueur Soda
Magasiner To go shopping Faire des courses, de la lèche-vitrine
Maringouin Mosquito Moustique
Mouiller To rain To wet Pleuvoir
Niaiser Annoy, tease, kid, act up (doesn't exist as a verb; niais="stupid") Se moquer or (hum) dire des niaiseries Déniaiser (Eu) is to make a man lose his virginity. J'avais juste vingt ans et je me déniaisais/ Au bordel ambulant d'une armée en campagne (Brel)
Patate Potato Potato (informal term) Pomme de terre
Peser Press (a button) Weigh Appuyer
Poudrerie Blizzard, blowing snow Gunpowder factory Blizzard, tempête de neige
Rentrer Enter Re-enter Entrer In Quebec, "re-enter" is rerentrer
Sans-cœur Lazy Heartless Paresseux
Souper Dinner Late-night dinner Dîner Qc. usage same as in Belgium. See also déjeuner, dîner
Suçon Lollipop Hickey Sucette and vice-versa: a sucette is a hickey in Quebec
Téléroman Soap opera A soap opera or a continuing series Feuilleton
Valise Trunk of a car Suitcase (also in QC) Coffre
Viaduc Overpass Long highway bridge, for instance over a valley
Vidanges Garbage Act of emptying Ordures

Many, but not all, of the European equivalents for the words listed above are also used or at least understood in Quebec.


In general, standard spoken and written Quebec French uses the same grammar as the French of France, though there are isolated exceptions.

There are many differences in informal grammar: for instance, some words have a different gender than in standard French (une job rather than un job). This is partially systematic. For example, just as the difference in pronunciation between chien /Sje~/ (masc.) and chienne /Sjen/ (fem.) is the presence or absence of a final consonant, likewise ambiguous words ending in a consonant (such as job (/dZVb/) are often assigned to the feminine. Also, vowel-initial words that in standard grammar are masculine, are sometimes patterned as feminine; since preceding masculine adjectives are homophonous to feminine adjectives (un bel oiseau; bel /bEl/ = belle fem.), the word is patterned as feminine (une belle oiseau).

Also, some expressions that take the subjunctive in standard French take the indicative in Quebec French, or vice versa (bien qu'il est trop tard rather than bien qu'il soit trop tard). This is mostly colloquial spoken usage, since written usage tends to follow the usage of France more closely.


There are a few differences in verb structure. For the verb s'asseoir (to sit), the conjugation with eoi is much more common in Quebec than ie or ey; je m'asseois instead of je m'assieds, assoyez-vous instead of asseyez-vous. Also, the verb haïr usually is conjugated as j'haïs /Zai/ (the verb has two syllables) rather than je hais /Zœ e/ (the verb has one syllable).

In Quebec, it is common to say Fais-toi-z-en pas rather than (ne) t'en fais pas (don't worry, don't get upset).

In colloquial speech the verb être is often omitted between je and un(e), with a t inserted: J't'un gars patient. A t is also often inserted after the second-person-singular: T'es-t-un gars patient.

In colloquial speech, first-person-singular of aller is often vas instead of vais. Furthermore je vais + verb (future) is often modified to m'as, as in M'as t'tuer.

Particle tu

The particle tu is often in colloquial usage when asking a question of someone. There is no translation, the particle merely serves to "engage" the listener colloquially:


The preposition à is often used in possessive contexts, where the French of France uses de; le char à Pierre ("Pierre's car") instead of la voiture de Pierre.

In a number of cases, Quebec speakers prefer to use the preposition à instead of using a non-prepositional phrase with ce ("this"); for example à matin or à soir instead of ce matin and ce soir ("this morning" and "this evening"). Note also à cette heure, pronounced and sometimes spelt asteure or astheure (literally "at this time") for maintenant ("now"), which is also found in Queneau.

These usages of à are considered colloquial (non-written).

In colloquial speech, the combination of the preposition sur + definite article is often abbreviated: sur + le = su'l; sur + la = su'a or ; sur + les = sès. Sometimes dans + un or dans + les is abbreviated to just dins.


In colloquial speech, a is used instead of elle: A m'énerve = Elle m'énerve. Also y or i is used instead of il, ils, or elles: Y sont fous. This particularity can also be found in French author Raymond Queneau.

It is common to say chez nous, chez vous and chez eux instead of chez moi, chez toi or chez lui/elle, even if the person in question lives alone.

Non-sexist usage

Formal Quebec French also has a very different approach to non-sexist language than the French of France. There is a much greater tendency to generalize feminine markers among nouns referring to professions. This is done in order to avoid having to refer to a woman with a masculine noun, and thereby seeming to suggest that a particular profession is primarily masculine. Forms that would be seen as highly unusual or stridently feminist in France are commonplace in Quebec, such as la docteure, l'avocate, la professeure, la présidente, la première ministre, la gouverneure générale, and so forth. Many of these have been formally recommended by various regulatory agencies. The French government has lately moved in the same direction for official usage (madame la ministre).

Also, rather than following the rule that the masculine includes the feminine, it is relatively common to create doublets, especially in polemical speech: Québécoises et Québécois, tous et toutes, citoyens et citoyennes.

In fact, a union in Quebec, rather than use either professionnels (masculine only) or professionnels et professionnelles (masculine and feminine), decided to promulgate an epicene neologism on the model of fidèle, calling itself the Fédération des professionèles [1]. However, this sparked a fair amount of debate and is rather on the outer edge of techniques for nonsexist writing in Quebec French.

On the other hand, in informal speech, some feminine markers are lost; for example, the pronunciation y (derived from ils) is often used for both ils and elles (the third person plural masculine and feminine pronouns).


Quebec French has a variety of registers, ranging from formal French, strongly influenced by modern European French and with phonological features softened, though still vigorously preserving many Quebec traits, to joual.

Significant regional differences exist when comparing, for example, the French of Montreal, Quebec City, and the Saguenay. For example, Montreal French diphthongizes in more contexts than Quebec City French.

Quebec French is the most prominent variety of Canadian French, and most French-Canadians have similar dialects. However, the Acadians have a separate dialect, Acadian French. See also Michif.

Quebec French was once stigmatized, among the Quebec people themselves as well as among the Continental French and anglophones, as a low-class dialect, sometimes due to its use of anglicisms, sometimes simply due to its differences from European French, seen as a standard. Until 1968 it was unheard of for Quebec French vocabulary to be used in plays in the theater for instance; however, in that year the huge success of Michel Tremblay's play Les Belles-Sœurs proved to be a turning point. Today however francophones in Quebec have much more freedom to choose a "register" in speaking, and characters in TV shows invariably speak "real" everyday language rather than "normative" French. In Europe, Quebec French is seen as a very charming language that is sometimes difficult to understand : vous entendre parler, c'est comme une chanson (hearing you speak is like hearing a song).

See also

Reference work