Quebec French

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Quebec French or Québécois French is a dialect of French spoken natively by the great majority (82.8%, census 2001) of people in Quebec, Canada. It developed out of 17th and 18th century French and in many respects it resembles that more closely than the contemporary French now spoken in France, although it also includes elements of various provincial dialects and Oïl languages.

In Quebec, depending on one's perception of its status as a rightful dialect, the language may be called le français québécois, le franco-québécois or simply le québécois. The somewhat pejorative Joual strictly refers to a particular working-class dialect, but is sometimes used to refer to the entire Québécois dialect.

As of 2004, about 6,700,000 Canadians speak French as a first language, (most of them speaking le québécois or its sister Acadian French), and unlike with most dialects, these figures are not shrinking. For comparison, this is about 9% of the 77 million francophones in the world, and over 20% of the 32.5 million population of Canada.

Although Quebec French is sometimes thought of as an almost exclusively non-standard variant, and certain aspects of it are sociolinguistically stigmatized, 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.

Two similar but nonetheless distinct dialects spoken in the province tend to be confused with Quebec French. Those are Saguenay French, spoken in Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean, and Gaspésie French, in Gaspésie–Îles-de-la-Madeleine.



Main article: History of Quebec French

Quebec French is substantially different in pronunciation and vocabulary from the other varieties of French spoken throughout the world, just as the Portuguese, Spanish, and English languages of the Americas differ from the corresponding European dialects. However, in the case of Quebec French, the separation was increased by the reduction of cultural contacts with France after the conquest of New France by Great Britain in 1759. The French Revolution and its aftermath substantially altered the French spoken in France, while Quebec conserved older forms.


Although Quebec French constitutes a coherent and standard system, it has no objective norm since the very organization mandated to establish it, the Office québécois de la langue française, believes that objectively standardizing the dialect would lead to reduced interintelligibility with other French communities around the world, linguistically isolating Quebecers and possibly causing the extinction of the French language in the Americas.

This governmental institution has nonetheless published many dictionaries and terminological guidelines since the 1960s, effectively allowing many Québécismes (French words local to Quebec) that either describe specifically North American realities or have been in use before the Conquest. It also creates new, morphologically well-formed words to describe technological evolutions to which the Académie française, the equivalent body governing French language in France, is extremely slow to react. An example is the word courriel, the Quebec French term for e-mail, which is now widely used in France.

The resulting effect, other historical factors helping, is a negative perception of Quebec French traits by Quebecers themselves, coupled with a desire to improve their language by conforming it to the Parisian French norm. This explains why most of the differences between Quebec and France French documented in this article are marked as "informal" or "colloquial". Those differences that are unmarked are most likely so just because they go unnoticed by most speakers.

Interintelligibility with other dialects

Interintelligibility of formally and informally spoken Quebec French with France French is a matter of heated debates between linguists. If a comparison can be made, the differences between both dialects are probably larger than those between American, British, and Australian English, but not as large as those between standard German and Swiss German. This being said, it is important for monolingual English speakers especially, to understand that in many other European languages there exist veritable dialects. Francophone Canadians abroad have to modify their accent somewhat in order to be easily understood, but very few francophone Canadians are unable to communicate readily with European Francophones. European pronunciation is not at all difficult for Canadians to understand; only slang expressions present any problems.

Television programmes and films from Quebec often must be subtitled for international audiences, which some Quebecers perceive as offensive, although they themselves sometimes can hardly understand European French pronunciation and slang. Recent increases in reciprocal exposure are slowly improving interintelligibility though, and slang expressions have even been crossing the ocean in both directions.

In general, European French speakers have no problems understanding newscasts or other moderately formal speech. However, they may have great difficulty understanding for example a sitcom dialogue. This is due more to idioms, slang, and vocabulary than to accent or pronunciation. European French users will also have difficulty with colloquial speech of Quebecers, for sitcom dialogue reflects everyday speech. However, when speaking to a European French speaker, a French speaker from Quebec is 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 dramas or sitcoms to shows from Europe. The number of such 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, essentially none at all.

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

Phonology and phonetics

Quebec French has more phonemes than France French, as and , and , and and are still clearly opposed whereas the latter of each pair has disappeared at least in several parts of France.

Special realizations


Quebec French replaces close vowels with their near-close equivalents when the vowels are both short (e.g. not before "r", , and ) and in a closed syllable. This means that the masculine and feminine adjectives petit and petite, and in France, are and in Quebec. The same goes with  →  and  → . In some areas, notably Beauce, Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean and, to a lesser extent, Quebec City and the surrounding region, even long close vowels may be laxed.

The nasal vowels are slightly different, although native speakers are not generally able to tell between a French and a Quebecer vowel. and are closed into (or even ) and , whereas is advanced into . Also, nasal vowels under stress in a final closed syllable are long and may be diphthongized in colloquial speech.

One letter whose distinct pronunciation is very noticeable in Quebec French is the letter . The normal realization in final open syllable is , which is nowadays strongly marked as colloquial, with being seen as more elevated. Parisian is very formal, and often perceived as pretentious. Inside words, and often change into and although this too is increasingly considered to be colloquial. These variations are found in several European pronunciations and are usually also considered colloquial.

The letters oi, pronounced in France French, and , , and in formal Quebec French, can be realized in six additional different ways in less formal context, including the very famous found (exclusively) in droit, froid, flexions of noyer and croire, and soit, remnants from one of the founding French dialects.

Another informal archaistic trait from 17th century Parisian popular French is the tendency to open into in a final open syllable. On the other hand, in grammatical word endings, as well as in the indicative forms of verb être, the is closed into . This is also usual in France, but failure to close the in Quebec is usually negatively perceived as pedantic.


Long and nasalized vowels are normally diphthongized when stressed. For instance père (father), , is in France but in Quebec. Other cases include:

  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 
  •  → 

Diphthongization is considered as marking less educated speech and avoided in more formal contexts. Diphthongization of and are unaffected by this stigma, however, and usually go unnoticed of most speakers.


Around twelve different R's are used in Quebec, depending on region, age and education among other things. The uvular trill has lately been emerging as a nation-wide standard, whereas the alveolar trill was used before in and around Montreal. The voiced fricative can also be heard among younger people. As a matter of comparison, the voiceless fricative is more generally used in France, whereas the uvular trill is considered typical of Parisian French. There is a tendency to vocalize final into or drop them altogether, likely under the influence of English.

The velar nasal is often found as an allophone of the palatal nasal , probably due to English influences again.

Dental stops are always affricated before high front vowels and semivowels: in other words, , , , are pronounced , , , . Depending on the speaker, the fricative may be more or less strong, or can sometimes even assimilate the stop in informal speech:  →  → .

In very informal speech, some final mute t's will sometimes be pronounced:  →  (lit). There is also the special case of , ici (sometimes actually written icitte). On the other hand, the t in but and août are not pronounced in Quebec but they are in France (albeit decreasingly for but).


Linking (liaison) is a phenomenon found in spoken French where an otherwise mute final consonant is moved to the beginning of a following word beginning with a vowel, avoiding vowel clashes. Voiced consonants are systematically devoiced when linking: 'un grand bâtiment' ("a tall building") , but un grand ami ("a great friend") , not

The rules for linking are complex in both standard and Quebec French. The general consensus among linguists is that Quebecers link less frequently than their European counterparts (this is a feature also common in regional varieties of French in France). Linking is only mandatory if the first word is monosyllabic, or is petit (normally monosyllabic anyway) or méchant, and is usually avoided in all other cases.

Harmonization and assimilation

The high front vowels in Quebec French show a net tendency to be unvoiced, as in municipalité,  →  (sometimes even noted ). Interestingly, the unvoiced vowels are not immediately audible to native French speakers of other dialects, causing incomprehension.

Much more generalized (but only in Quebec) is the nasalization of vowels placed after (or occasionally before) a nasal consonant:  → ,  → .

Similarly, consonants in clusters are often assimilated, usually with the consonant closer to the stress (that is, to the end of the word) transmitting its phonation (or its nasalization):  → . Progressive assimilation, although rare, also exists in very "strong" consonants such as ,  → .

The drop of the , which is as usual in Quebec as it is in France although it does not happen in the same places, creates consonant clusters, hence making a ground for assimilation to happen. For instance, the 1st person singular pronoun "je" may be devoiced before a verb with a voiceless consonant initial. This is most notable in verbs normally beginning with an , as the well-known example "je suis" ("I am") that is often realized as "chu" (), or "je sais" ("I know"), realized as "ché" (). Since the drop of is not exclusive to Quebec, this phenomenon is also seen in other dialects.

One extreme instance of assimilation in Quebec French is vocalic fusion, associated with informal speech, rapid elocution, and consonant drops. Vocalic fusion can be total – as in prepositional determiners sur la,  →  →  or dans la,  →  →  – or it can be partial, as in il lui a dit,  →  → . Partial fusion can happen also in slow elocution.

Consonant reduction

It has been postulated the frequency of this phenomenon in Quebec French is due to a tendency to pronounce vowels with more strength than consonants, a pattern reversing that of European French.

Consonant clusters finishing a word are reduced, often losing altogether the last or two last consonants, in both formal and informal Quebec French. It seems that the liquids and are specially likely to get dropped, as in table,  → , or astre,  → .

Phone in article determiners and even more in personal pronouns is also very likely to be dropped. As a matter of fact, pronouncing il and elle as and is seen as extremely formal, quite possibly pedantic. Elle is further modified into in informal speech.

Some initial consonants are also reduced: gueule (France, ), especially in the construction ta gueule , "shut up".


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 (thick, dumb), niaiser -> niaiseux (foolish, irritating); obstiner -> ostineux (stubborn); pot -> poteux (a user or dealer of marijuana). This originates in the Norman language.

Morphologic gender

Because the vowel in un and une (the indefinite article) tends to be weakened, both words will be pronounced the same in front of a vowel ( → and → ). This creates the effect that nouns beginning with a vowel are perceived as feminine, and often used so. Hence: une hôpital, une grosse autobus, l'avion est belle.

Metonymies provide interesting evidence of this. For instance, although most adults would probably say that autobus is masculine if they were given reflection time, specific bus routes defined by their number are always feminine. Bus No. 10 is known as l'autobus 10, or more often la 10. Using le 10 in this context, although normal in France, would be strikingly odd in Quebec (especially Montréal), except in some regions, particularly the Outaouais, where it is the standard. However, in Montréal, bus routes are called "lines", therefore "la 10" is short for "la ligne 10", and not "l'autobus 10", since it is the route being referred to, and not an individual bus.

Semantic number

On the other hand, many Quebecers in informal context will decide on the agreement with collective nouns based on semantics rather than morphology. That is to say, for instance, that a verb whose grammatical subject is le monde (people, folks) may appear in the 3rd person plural because le monde designates multiple people although it is singular: le monde là-dedans sont en train de chiâler (the people in there are complaining).

Non-sexist usage

Formal Quebec French also has a very different approach to non-sexist language than France French. 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 the Office québécois de la langue française and adopted by society at large. 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.

As an isolated anecdote, a Quebec labour union once decided to promulgate an epicene neologism on the model of fidèle, calling itself the Fédération des professionèles (, rather than use either professionnels (masculine only) or professionnels et professionnelles (masculine and feminine). This sparked a fair amount of debate and is rather on the outer edge of techniques for nonsexist writing in Quebec French.


Main article: Quebec French lexicon

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

Many differences that exist between Quebec French and European French arise from the preservation of certain forms that are today archaic in Europe. Obviously new words were also created for Quebec specialties that do not exist in Europe.

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 terminology, rather than the references to prostitution that are more common in France. Many English words and calques have also been integrated in Quebec French, although less than in France. Borrowing from English is politically sensitive in Quebec and tends to be socially discouraged.

Grammar and syntax

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 (masc.) and chienne (fem.) is the presence or absence of a final consonant, likewise ambiguous words ending in a consonant (such as job ()) 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 avion; bel = belle fem.), the word is patterned as feminine (une belle avion).

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 oi is much more common in Quebec than ie or ey; je m'assois instead of je m'assieds, assoyez-vous instead of asseyez-vous. In the French of France, people favour oi in the three persons of the singular as well as in the 3rd person of the plural ("je m'assois", "ils s'assoient"), but ey is favoured in the 1st and 2nd persons of the plural ("nous nous asseyons" "vous vous asseyez"). In France, "nous nous assoyons" carries a feeling of "countryside" talking. Also, the verb haïr usually is conjugated as j'haïs (the verb has two syllables) in Quebec rather than je hais (the verb has one syllable) in France.

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, the first person singular of aller is often vas instead of vais. This is also found in the countryside in France, especially in the northwest, where one could hear old people saying "J'vas traire les vaches" ("I'm on my way to milk the cows"), with the r pronounced as in Spanish. Furthermore, in Quebec je vais + verb (future) is often modified to m'as, as in M'as t'tuer. The usual hypothesis refers to a contraction of j'm'en vas . The construction "M'a" for a near future has however been confirmed in dialects of the Parisian region as old as the 17th century and was more than likely imported with the colonists.

One remarkable phenomenon in Quebec French is the potential use of an infinitive phrase in some contexts to replace the si + imperfect hypothetical construct: si j'avais su, for example, becomes avoir su. Although no other dialect or chronolect of French seems to allow the use of non-embeddable hypothetic infinitives, other languages such as Italian have similar structures.

Particle tu

The particle tu is used in colloquially to ask a question whose answer can be either yes or no, or in the equivalent exclamative construction. It has exactly the same usage as France French est-ce que.

  • C'est-tu loin, ça ? "Is it far?"
  • J'ai-tu l'air fatigué ? "Do I look tired?"
  • Y'en a-tu d'autres ? "Are there any others?"
  • Ça vous tente-tu vraiment d'y aller ? "Do you [formal or plural] really want to go?"
  • Faut-tu être cave pas à peu près ! "How very stupid [that other person] is [to do such a thing]"

Although this construction strikingly resembles a formal question asked in the 2nd person singular, there is no evidence that the particle tu came from the pronoun tu in the first place. It is actually more likely to come from the 3rd person pronoun il with an euphonic -t- as using a particle ti in exactly the same way is a feature found in the Oïl languages (other than French) in France and Belgium.

Other uses of tu include

  • in a declarative sentence in which the speaker assumes accord from the addressee: On a tu bien mangé! "We ate well! (Didn't we?)"
  • as an alternative to pas, sometimes in exasperation: J'sais tu, moi!, which literally means "I don't know" but has the same tone as "How should I know?"


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. This is also found in the informal French of France, such as "Hier j'ai vu la copine à Bruno" ("Yesterday I saw Bruno's girlfriend")..

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") and désormais ("henceforth"), 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 the informal French of France, sur + le also becomes su'l, such as "L'dimanche, il est su'l pont dès 8 heures du mat'" ("On Sundays, he's hard at work since 8am".). Other contractions are not known.

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.

Regional variations

Several regions within Quebec display accents and vocabulary that are typical. Among them, the Quebec Beauce is known to have a peculiar accent, with an especially important, distinctive Joual pronunciation.

The French heard in the Gaspé peninsula might be the most distinct of all Quebec French subdialects, where it is said that there is a different accent for each village. It holds some resemblance to the French of the Acadian people, the southern neighbour of the Gaspé. Notable bearers of Gaspésie accents are Kevin Parent and René Lévesque.

Somewhat significant regional differences exist when comparing the French of the metropolis to that of Quebec's capital. For example, Montreal French diphthongizes in more contexts than Quebec City French (in words like baleine, poteau or photo). This difference has become a humorous symbol of the traditional Quebec City–Montreal rivalry (it can also be an offensive one, if presented in the wrong context). It is, for example, prominently mocked in the opening number/manifesto of the Montreal-based political and activist humour group Les Zapartistes.

Trois-Rivières and Mauricie French is, as it is geographically, in between of Montreal and Quebec City French, although it is closer to the Quebec City language on many aspects. A notable expression typical of the region is cossin, the equivalent of the American English gizmo.

The Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, known as the most regionalist and nationalist of Quebec regions, speaks the French language that is the most different from Montreal French, after that of the Gaspésie. One notable expression of the region is T'es triste (You're sad), actually meaning You're unlucky or You're pathetic.

See also


  • Template:Book reference: a comprehensive reference dictionary defining Québécois French usage for speakers of European French
  • Template:Book reference: a detailed analysis of some grammatical differences between France and Quebec French.
  • Template:Book reference
  • Template:Book reference: Analysis of some particularities of pronunciations in regard to the Quebec and European norms and language registers.
  • Léandre Bergeron, The Québécois Dictionary (Toronto, James Lorimer & Co, 1982)
Dialects of the French language

France French (français méridional, Orléanais, Bourbonnais-Berrichon) – Canadian French (Acadian, Quebec) – African French (Maghreb)

Belgian FrenchCajun FrenchCambodian French

français d'AosteSwiss French

eo:Kebekia Franca Dialekto

fr:Français québécois


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