canadian french

Québécois French vs. French in France: 17 Key Differences

You step off the plane in Montréal and hop on a bus to your hotel, only to notice that the French sounds a little different from the French you know.

Québécois French has its own quirks and characteristics, and this post will explain what some of those are.

And, to understand why québécois French is the way it is, we’ll also delve into the dialect in general and its brief history.

Aweille ! (Let’s go!)



What Is Québécois French?

Québec French, also commonly referred to as québécois French, is based on the French that was spoken in Paris during the 17th and 18th centuries. It’s the most well-known of the several dialects of Canadian French, along with the likes of Acadian French and Métis French.

A Brief History of Québécois French

During the 17th and 18th centuries, when France was expanding its colonial reach throughout the globe, Québec became the center of the Francophone world as new settlers grew the local population.

Notably, many of the settlers in Québec (then known as “New France”) used the standard French spoken by France’s royal and aristocratic classes. After the British took over the Canadian colonies according to the stipulations of the Articles of Capitulation of Montreal in 1760, the French speakers in Québec became isolated from their European counterparts.

However, in 1867, Québec began to industrialize and open up to outside trade. Because business transactions were often conducted in English, Québec French had to incorporate vocabulary from Canadian and American English to make up for any linguistic gaps.

During the 20th century onward, Québec French continued to evolve with the political and economic climate of the province. Laws were passed to govern the use of French in the province, with the  Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec Board of the French Language) created for this purpose.

Today, French is the native tongue for 85.5% of Québec’s population as of 2021. English and French even have equal legal status in the government, though be forewarned: Discussions about the lingua franca in Québec can be highly charged, to put it mildly.

What Makes Québécois French Different from the French in France?

While both Québec and France use the same grammar rules, verb conjugations and sentence structures, there are big differences in the accent, pronunciation and vocabulary.

1. There are some special nouns and verbs

Here are some of the most prominent vocabulary terms used in Canadian French but not the French from France:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
un char une voiture car
un breuvage une boisson a drink/beverage
une blonde une petite-amie
un chum un petit ami
boyfriend; buddy (between guys)
la fête l'anniversaire birthday
la job le boulot job
une sacoche un sac à main a purse
un cellulaire un portable cell phone
un chandail un pull
un t-shirt
la gomme le chewing-gum bubblegum
barrer fermer à clé to lock the door
jaser bavarder to natter; to gossip
magasiner faire du shopping to go shopping
faire le party sortir en soirée to go out and party
clavarder chatter sur internet to chat online

Check out this video to see a comparison of words used by a French speaker from France vs. Québec:

It’s worth mentioning that Canadian French also has its own unique set of religion-related swear words that may be confusing to French speakers from France. For example, tabarnak normally means “tabernacle” (an ornate box where the Communion host is kept), but in Québec, it’s a very profane swear word. 

2. The eating time vocabulary is different

Eating time vocabulary in Québec is quite different from that used in France:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglishEating Time
le déjeuner le petit-déjeuner breakfastbefore midday
le dîner le déjeuner lunchbetween midday and 5 p.m.
une collation un goûter snackbetween 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.
le souper le dîner dinner/evening mealfrom 7 p.m. onwards

3. The accent is different, too

People say that the québécois accent is chantant (sing-songy) compared to other Francophone accents. 

Like any language, there’s no standard Canadian French accent, as every city and town has its own particular way of talking and unique slang. 

4. There are different pronunciations 


One characteristic of québécois French is the replacement of il (him or it) with the sound/letter y. It’s common to hear Y’est malade (he is sick) or maybe Y fait bon  (it’s nice out).


You may hear  elle  (she or it) replaced with the letter a and an extended a sound: a mal au ventre (her stomach hurts).

Je suis

The chu sound to replace je suis (I am) is quite charming. You’ll hear Québécois saying chu fatigué (I am tired) or chu en retard (I am late).

and D

A really distinctive feature of québécois is that, before the letters i and e, the consonants t and d are pronounced differently. 

T becomes ts, and d becomes dz.

So, dîner (lunch) might sound like “dzîner” and canadien (Canadian) might sound like “canadzien.”


Québécois retains many of classical French’s original pronunciations, which no longer exist in France.

Here are some examples. Listen carefully to the differences in pronunciation:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
moé moi me
toé toi you
ouais oui yes

You can learn about some of the different variations in pronunciation, as well as some other differences between the French spoken in France and québécois French in this video:

5. Questions are asked a bit differently

When asking questions in formal settings, Québec French uses vous (formal “you”) and says it exactly as you would in any other French-speaking area.

When kicking back or talking with one another in casual settings, there’s a little spin on sentence structure when asking questions.

See if you can spot the pattern:

Québécois FrenchEnglish
T'en veux-tu ? Would you like some?
Tu m'écoutes-tu ? Do you hear me? / Are you listening?
Tu t'en vas-tu ? Are you going?

Notice the additional tu (you) at the end of the question.

6. Québécois French uses tu a lot more

Unlike in France, québécois French is far more likely to use the informal form in non-business transactions. These include ordering drinks at a bar or speaking to a supermarket cashier.

However, if in doubt, use vous (formal “you”) and follow the other person’s lead.

7. Québécois French has tried to erase English

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the issue of language is quite political in Québec as the Québécois tend to be very protective of French.

Québec really focuses on preserving French, sometimes resulting in the adoption of new words to offset the influence of the heavily Anglo environment.

For example:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
faire du magasinage
magasiner (from the word magasin, which means store)
faire du shopping to go shopping
un courriel un mail
mail / e-mail
la fin de semaine le week-end weekend

8. Québécois French does use some English verbs, however

But, despite the state’s protection of French, English couldn’t be completely eradicated from the dialect.

It’s common to hear Québécois conjugate English verbs into French sentences. For example, in Québec you might hear:

Québécois FrenchEnglish
J'ai plugé mon cellulaire.I plugged in my cell phone.
J'ai uploadé le document. I uploaded the document.
Je suis dans le rush et je suis hyper speed. I'm in a rush and I'm going super fast.
J'ai un hangover. I have a hangover.
On a crossé la street. We crossed the street.

9. Québécois French also uses words influenced by English

The pressure to avoid importing English words leads to American phrases being translated directly into French. These are called calques , or loan translations.

Here are a few:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
Coca diète Coca light Diet Coke
être dans le trouble avoir des problèmes
avoir des ennuis
to be in trouble

10. French Canadians use on, not nous

The impersonal pronoun on (one) replaces nous  (we) in pretty much all informal Canadian French conversations. 

On (one) is followed by the third person singular of the verb:

On est à la plage. ( Nous sommes à la plage. ) — We are at the beach.

11. is used liberally as an informal marker

literally means “there,” but in québécois it appears at the end of many sentences as a marker of emphasis or an exclamation. It’s like adding “eh” or “yeah” to an English sentence.

Québécois FrenchEnglish
Là, là, écoute-moé, ? Listen to me, yeah?
Comprenez-vous, ? Do you understand?
Moi , je pense que… Personally, I think that…

12. Ben is very common

Ben (really) is a great word in Canadian French, and you’ll hear it all the time in informal speech.

It comes from the word bien (well), and here are some examples of how you might hear it:

Québécois FrenchEnglish
C’est ben loin, là. It's really far.
C’est pas ben beau. It’s not very nice.

13. Fin has many more meanings in québécois

In France, the word fin (which means “end” as a noun and “fine” or “thin” as an adjective) is used literally. However, in French-speaking Canada, it takes on another meaning.

It describes someone’s personality as kind, similar to the French word sympa (nice).

So, if you hear someone talking about you and they say, “Elle est ben fine”  (“She is really nice”), that’s a true compliment!

14. Bienvenue is way more common than you’d think

In Canada, after you’ve said merci (thank you) to someone, the person will reply with bienvenue (welcome, as a greeting).

Bienvenue is the normal way to say “you’re welcome” in Canada!

15. Being sociable sounds a bit different

These are some good terms to know if you want to meet up with friends:

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
une date un rendez-vous a date (romantic or platonic)
sortir en gang sortir avec mes amis to go out with friends
Aweille ! Allez ! Yeah! (used to inject passion and energy into a situation)
C’est beau. C’est bon. It’s all good.
de même comme ça like that—as in "Ça marche tout de même ?" (Does it work like that?)
Voyons N/ALet's see—used to express surprise and sometimes frustration, as in Voyons, y marche pas ce téléphone ! (Agh, this phone isn’t working!)
C’est de valeur. C’est dommage. It’s a shame.

16. There are different money words 

As with most languages, French has a ton of slang words for all things cash.

Québécois FrenchFrench in FranceEnglish
le bacon l’argent money (That’s right, this false friend is another loanword!)
le débit la carte bleue
carte bancaire
bank card

17. Canadian French has its own unique idioms

Just like France has its particular expressions and phrases, so does Québec!

Here are a couple:

Québécois FrenchEnglish
C'est plate ! Boring!
Avoir mal au cœur. To feel uneasy

As you’ve seen above, there are many differences between québécois French and the French spoken in France. One of the best ways to learn these differences is to immerse yourself in authentic French content so you can see how the language is used. For example, you could watch French Canadian TV shows on the language learning platform FluentU.

FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.

You can try FluentU for free for 2 weeks. Check out the website or download the iOS app or Android app.

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Learning the differences between québécois French and the French spoken in France is not only important for travel and communication, but it’s also fun!

Now that you know the differences between québécois French and French from France, you’ll be able to sound like a true Québécois! 

Check out this post next for a closer look at some other types of French:

And one more thing...

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