quoi ! , quoi ? (en fin de phrase)

lovic

New Member
HK
Cantonese
Moderator note: this discussion about the meaning and translation of quoi at the end of a sentence was created by merging several originally separate threads.


Many times, I hear people saying 'quoi' at the end of a sentence.
E.g.
1. When someone describes a girl, he says 'elle est petite, blonde, gentile...normal quoi!'
2. When someone talks about the windy weather in Bretagne, he says 'c'est la Bretagne quoi!'

The 'quoi' there seems to be removable, but i'm interested to know the meaning and in which occasion we can use it.

Thanks a lot!!!
 
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  • GenJen54

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    Hi Lovic,

    Welcome to the Forums!

    I'm not certain that "quoi" has any one particular meaning. It is an interjection, and one, as you pointed out, that is used at the end of a sentence, or a thought. It is meant as way of emphasizing what is being expressed.

    In the examples you gave above, it would be like saying "you know?"

    She's petite, blonde, nice...you know, normal!

    The weather in Bretagne is windy. But, you know, it's Bretagne (of course, it's windy - everybody knows that!)
     

    dathrilla

    Senior Member
    American English, New York
    Francophones use quoi a lot at the end of their sentences. Can you give me an example of how we use this "quoi" in the English language?
     
    dathrilla said:
    Francophones use quoi a lot at the end of their sentences. Can you give me an example of how we use this "quoi" in the English language?
    Hello Dathrilla .
    Some people use this "quoi!" while speaking , it's a sort of punctuation mark of the sentences on the streets like some /you know- hear yunna or something new-yorker of that kind /or Huh ! or ...
    Hope it helps
    René
     

    Vassilissa

    Member
    French France
    I don't think you got the meaning of this quoi. when you say "eh?" or "innit", it sounds almost like asking for confirmation to the person you're talking to, but the "quoi" doesn't have this meaning.

    Actually, it has no goal at all in a sentence. It's the kind of little expression you just can't translate, and it's typical of modern french. You could as well have said : "non mais c'est bon, quoi, il faut qu'on parte, là, c'est trop tard" and it would have meant just the same!

    so if you see or hear "blablabla, quoi...", just ignore the quoi
     

    Aupick

    Senior Member
    UK, English
    Vassilissa said:
    I don't think you got the meaning of this quoi. when you say "eh?" or "innit", it sounds almost like asking for confirmation to the person you're talking to, but the "quoi" doesn't have this meaning. Actually, it has no goal at all in a sentence. It's the kind of little expression you just can't translate, and it's typical of modern french. You could as well have said : "non mais c'est bon, quoi, il faut qu'on parte, là, c'est trop tard" and it would have meant just the same!

    so if you see or hear "blablabla, quoi...", just ignore the quoi
    If you want to be a purist, then no, there is no possible translation of the the word "quoi" used in this way, which is a quirk unique to the French language whose (non)sense cannot be captured by any single word in English. But at that point why bother translating at all?

    Since you did ask for a translation or equivalent of this word (which you now say "you can't just translate") we're trying our best to find one. There's very little demand for confirmation in "huh", especially if the intonation is right. It's little more than a warning that the speaker is speaking.

    As for "innit", it's not equivalent to "isn't it" (which would not be possible in your sentence), and it has no real meaning. It's used at the end of nearly every sentence by certain people in the UK. "For greatest use" it should be used "in places where it would make no sense whatsoever if expanded". It also tends to be used "when a statement has been used, rather than a question". The problem is it's only used by certain groups in society, and isn't as general as "quoi". Innit.
     

    FRENFR

    Senior Member
    English
    Dathrialla, I have not completely misunderstood the meaning, I can assure you of that! As Aupick said, we are trying to answer your question. It's a very loose translation. Something the French only do - but all the examples I gave, and also by Aupick, are adequate. If you want a real answer instead of an attempted translation, then you'll get this:

    There isn't one really!!
     

    camero1s

    Member
    English - Canada
    What about hey as a possible translation in some cases?

    It simply establishes contact between a speaker and the interlocutor:

    So then I was gripped by this overwhelming and paralysing fear, hey, and I just stood there like an idiot.

    or am I still technically asking for some kind of agreement, here, unlike quoi ?
     

    Nunty

    Senior Member
    Hebrew-US English (bilingual)
    I don't think anyone has misunderstood your question, dathrilla. "Quoi" at the end of a sentence is a space-holder, perhaps at times an intensifier, just like all the examples given.

    A dated, but literal, translation is "what," for which see the delightful dialogue of PG Wodehouse's noblemen.
     

    sqlines

    Senior Member
    Dutch
    Hi,

    Could someone tell me how to translate "quoi" into English in the following sentences.

    Where are you ?
    Sur le bateau, quoi!

    Where have you been ?
    Chez les filles, quoi!

    What do you do then ?
    Je pars, quoi!

    Did you do it ?
    C'est pas moi, quoi!

    When does the train arrive ?
    Demande lui, quoi!

    And there are more of such sentences in spoken French and used rather frequently.
    Thanks in advance for your help.

    Sqlines
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    In Canada they would translate it as eh !

    I encountered it for the first time in the late 1970s when my family visited the farm which my paternal grandfather (who was an American) had farmed in Canada until the Great Depression ruined matters and he came back to the States.

    Eh! is one of the few examples of the pure sound é in English (although it has additional pronunciations as well).

    Am I correct in thinking that in some dialects of British English innit? would serve the same purpose, and could be used to translate all the examples of quoi given by the original poster?
     

    sqlines

    Senior Member
    Dutch
    So, can I translate "sur le bateau, quoi!" as "on the boat, where else"
    "Chez les filles, quoi" as "with the girls, of course"
    "Demade lui, quoi" as "why don't you ask him"
    "C'est pas moi, quoi" as "It wasn' t me, you see"
    "Je pars, quoi" as "I just left"
     

    doodlebugger

    Senior Member
    France
    Sqlines, where else seems specific to a location.
    In the examples you mention quoi is used no matter what the question asked.
    I believe Mplsray is right with innit.
    Does it come from ain't it?
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Sqlines, where else seems specific to a location.
    In the examples you mention quoi is used no matter what the question asked.
    I believe Mplsray is right with innit.
    Does it come from ain't it?


    I found two derivations, which look as if they may be compatible:


    According to

    BBC - Voices - Your Voice

    innit? comes from isn't it?

    A message in the Linguist List says:

    There is an enormous body of literature on the invariant tag innit in
    English English. The origin appears to be in London-based
    Caribbean-influenced varieties, where it seems to have served
    originally as a 'translation' of Caribbean English Creole 'no?".
     

    hibouette

    Senior Member
    France and French
    Sometimes "quoi" is also used to indicate you will not bear any discussion about what you say : In that case it's like an aggressive "drop it" or 'that's it' or "there's not point arguing
    "C'est pas moi, quoi"
    "Je pars, quoi"
     

    FRENFR

    Senior Member
    English
    Correct. It certainly depends on context.

    hibouette has explained its use quite well. Can be used to represent the England English noise "r" like the r is toasteR. "So are you going to tell me or what, r?"

    Perhaps if you are telling a story, a French speaker would add "quoi" to the end. In English, as I say, this can usually go translated, as it's English equivelant is usually "ya know?", or "see what I'm sayin?", or "get it?" (in a non-rude context).

    In self-defense, "quoi" could be used. As hibouette gave above, "c"est pas moi, quoi!". English would say, depending on the age, but let's say TV colloquial or the bog-standard (i.e, not the Queen or a news reader!) "It's not me ok? god!"

    Quite an amusing difference, quoi?

    ;)
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    in fact in French you can use "enfin! /mais enfin!" instead of "quoi!"

    you say "quoi" to indicate that you're a little anoyed that the person doesn't seem to know the info she's asking for.

    "where else" is good if it's about a place
    or else : "don't you know it ?" or "how come you don't know it?"(a bit aggressiv maybe)


    Among young Americans (I don't know about the situation in Britain), the sense that the question is a stupid one because the person asking should already know the answer can be expressed by duh! preceding or following the sentence:

    Where are you?
    Duh! On the boat. or On the boat, duh!

    Where have you been?
    Duh! At the girls' house. or At the girls' house, duh!
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I would say that most of the times, "quoi" is meaningless, or shouldn't be understood as a mark of annoyment or aggressiveness - it really is a conversational filler, a sort of oral punctuation mark, to signify that you're done talking... It appeared in the thread on Conversational fillers in Cultural Discussions (especially posts #40 and #42).
     

    Iznogoud

    Senior Member
    French - Canada
    In Canada, hey is used to seek assent from the person or people you are addressing, much like "don't you think?", as in "it's cold out, hey?". Quite the opposite from what "quoi" is intended to achieve in this context, so I don't think hey would be right in this case.

    "Duh!", which conveys contempt toward the question, is a much better word here... hey?
     

    Lourdingue

    New Member
    English; US
    Your explanation reflects my experience while living in France. "Quoi" is a filler added to the end of a sentence without much meaning. It is not agressive or sarcastic in itself.

    As a teacher in France I found that when you heard this interjection, the speaker was young, say collège or lycée level, and speaking very casually.

    I also have the impression that its use is not elegant and that it would never appear in formal language.

    Lourdingue
     

    geve

    Senior Member
    France, French
    I also have the impression that its use is not elegant and that it would never appear in formal language.
    You are right about that. However, I must admit that I sometimes find myself saying "quoi" in colloquial situations... even though it's been some ten years since I last saw the playground of a lycée. The way I use it, it could be replaced by en somme, en fin de compte, en fait...
     

    Lady of Shallott

    Member
    France/Français
    Hi Nath,
    Some people (often young people) add this word "quoi" at the end of their sentence, although they don't really need to. This is just colloquial. I don't really know how to explain this. This "quoi" means "actually", "in fact", "in the end", "just". She means "it's just great". The word "chouette" sum up all she thinks, that's why she add "quoi".
     

    nath1

    Senior Member
    english
    Thanks for that i understand what you mean. Is it the same with words such as"Ben" "Bon" "Hien" and "Bref" i see these words alot? cheers nath
     

    FRENFR

    Senior Member
    English
    When the French are speaking in a non-formal context, they add quoi only at the end of sentences, or perhaps (to be precise!!), in the middle, if followed by a comma, which is almost like the end of a sentence quoi? More of a clause, I suppose.

    Anyway, somebody might say something like; " Oui c'est très dangereux d'aller dans les rues dans la nuit..si je veux voir mes amis, je les invite chez moi quoi. C'est plus sûr." Notice the lack of "?". It's not always required to put it in. Firstly, because one doesn't really write this, unless it's a childrens book with people speaking as children or something of other non-formal context.

    So my example could be translated as "Yes it's dangerous to go out in the streets at night time...if I wanna (children context, remember?) see my friends, I invite them over to my house you know?. It's safer"

    Another word that could be used here is "hein". But that's more strictly used when they want to imply that the other person has understood or agrees with would they just said.

    "Oui t'as (tu as) raison. Il est fou hein". Yes you're right. He's crazy isn't he. In English, here, in non-formal context, one would probably say "innie" for isnt he..So I'd most likely say "He really IS crazy innie" to get the same idea across.

    Hope that babbling helps...
     

    quentin75

    Senior Member
    france
    quoi est en effet tres utilisé par beaucoup de gens , on essaye de ne pas l'utiliser dans une conversation soutenue. Mais cela ne veut rien dire, cela permet juste de donner un ton plus insistant parfois
    " c'est vraiment important, quoi" je n'ai aucune explication sur l'origine de cet emploi en revanche.
     

    watergirl

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.A.
    When I've had to translate "quoi"-studded speech before, I've found that our (AE, at least) use (ad nauseam!) of "like" is a fair equivalent -- and this, even though "like" wouldn't normally come at the end of a sentence.
    Your sentence "...c'est chouette, quoi " could be translated as
    "It's, like, great." Which could be, like, annoying if it's used too much. :)
     

    jann

    co-mod'
    English - USA
    In American English, the equivalent filler word is "like." I don't know about Australian English.
    "You know, like, you just like put the word in like anywhere you need it, and it sounds fine, like." :D

    But as you have observed, unlike "like," quoi usually only gets tacked onto the ends of sentences.
     
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    unvieuxréflexe_

    New Member
    English-Australia
    Oh, wow, thanks everyone! How very helpful! I think it's becoming a little clearer to me now. It has just been one of those things that has stumped me... and I teach myself French, at home, so I hardly ever have help except from my French friends and it's sort of embarassing asking silly things like this, lol.

    Yeah, we use "like" in modern Australian English in just the same way, hahaha. I'm a teenager and I use it WAY too much. *Rolls eyes*

    Thank you everyone, once again! Totally helpful.
     

    exentric

    Member
    Canada - English
    Oh yeah! Il y a itou deux autre choses que je voulais vous demander depuis longtemps! Premièrement, les parisiens et les francais, pourquoi qu'ils disent-tu copieusement le "quoi" au bout d'une phrase? Ça veut dire quoi, au juste? Icitte au Canada, on écoute jamais cette bizarrerie!

    Pis... euhh... merci d'avance!
     

    DearPrudence

    Dépêche Mod (AL mod)
    IdF
    French (lower Normandy)
    I would tend to say like Geve, interpretating it as a mere gap filler with no particular meaning attached to it.
     
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    Franglais1969

    Senior Member
    English English, français rouillé
    An ex-girlfriend of mine used to end virtually every setence with quoi, and it would drive me crazy. I don't think there is a direct translation for it, but it simlilar to when people often say "you know" or "know what I mean" at the end of a setence.

    I think it is just a personal way of speaking
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    The Canadian eh is definitely a similar filler to the French quoi at the end of almost any sentence. Americans often will jokingly imitate it to "sound Canadian."

    In standard AE we don't have such a passe-partout word, but regionally or ethnically, you will hear huh? in parts of the Midwest (it's not as charming-sounding as eh IMO), or in Black English you will often hear nowumsayin? ([you] know what I'm saying?).

    And yes, the under-40 generation often throws in the filler word like in a very similar way except, that quoi always ends up at the end of a phrase or sentence in French.

    (I'm not a fan of the like filler word, as you might guess! It has gone way too far, unlike quoi, which seems used by most in more moderation.)
     

    lord chancellor

    Member
    America - English
    Oui, c'est un sujet assez stupide, mais quand-même...

    J'entends les français qui disent « quoi », mais non pas comme interrogation...

    It's almost used like filler, I suppose, but I've not quite picked up how it is used. I've unfortunately found myself using it anyway, as I've picked it up from a professor, but I'm not sure if I'm using it properly (if there is really a 'proper' way to use filler words).

    Any help on this?
     

    Jeanbar

    Senior Member
    France
    Ce quoi n'a aucune fonction grammaticale. C'est une expression du langage parlé qui équivaut à un point d'exclamation ou d'interrogation. (Mais c'est difficile de rendre cet effet de ponctuation dans la conversation)

    Dans un livre de grammaire, on dirait:
    - se prélasser sur la plage, c'est la vie de pacha !
    - se prélasser sur la plage, c'est la vie de pacha, non ?
     

    icecreamsoldier

    Senior Member
    New Zealand English
    In English we might say something like "man" or just leave it out:
    It's hard, man...
    She's already seen it (man)

    It depends on the context but sometimes it could be translated as "huh," "eh," "you know" etc.
     

    HijaDeChango

    Senior Member
    england. English
    I would say it's almost the equivalent of "like" in current English. We putit everywhere but it doesn't really mean much at all.


    I agree, i tried replacing 'quoi' with 'like' and 'innit' (the latter generally used in london, very colloquial) in the examples given by aldonse and it seemed to work in the same way,so i think those -'like' and 'innit' - will form the basis on which I understand 'quoi'

    Thanks to evryone, great responses
    :)
    HdC
     

    halfbeing

    Senior Member
    English - English
    I have also heard that this is a regional thing particular to Belgium and northern France. Is this correct? Coming to think of it, is "tu vois?", as one person has told me, a regional thing particular to Paris and its surrounding regions? Would I sound weird saying "tu vois?" and "nonante" in the same sentence? I feel a bit uncomfortable with "quoi?" because the equivalent idiom in English "..., what?" is strongly associated with upper class twits of the 1920s.
     

    wildan1

    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    English - USA
    ..., quoi? is not regional in French, nor is it associated with upper-class twits of the 1920s! It's a pretty common conversational tic, used especially in very informal language to stress a point.

    Il est sympa, quoi.
    On est pressés, quoi.

    A bit similar to the way like... has become a tic in English in recent years:

    He's like really nice.
    We're like really in a hurry.
     

    halfbeing

    Senior Member
    English - English
    Is it equivalent to "..., eh?" ? In Canada "eh" is often emphatic. For instance "That's pretty good, eh?" means something is very good, whereas "That's pretty good." means that it's probably not very good. But it can also be a meaningless filler: "I went to the store, eh? and got some Doritos." Any comparison to be drawn here?

    As for "like", in many variants of English in England and Ireland it is used at the end of sentences, as in "I was fed up with it, like." I'm not really sure whether it actually emphasises or de-emphasises what has been said; it's another one that is very hard to pin down. Does this usage overlap with "quoi"?
     

    LART01

    Senior Member
    French-France
    it is very often a speech mannerism
    […]
    which boils down very often to mean nothing in particular
     
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    Full Stop

    Member
    French (France)
    We are not even always conscious that we say this "quoi" at the end of sentences, it's more a rythm thing, purely oral, not very meaningful.
    And when foreigners point it out and imitate it, it souds funny, because we become aware of how much we say it.
    Don't stress it too much if you use it. Its not as stressed as when we say "Bon alors, tu y vas ou quoi?"
    As for "No way, that can't be true, can it?", I would say "Pas possible, c'est pas vrai!?" and just raise the tone at the end of the sentence. No need for quoi.
     

    misterk

    Moderator
    English-American
    My sense is that if you can think of a "normal" phrase that you are considering replacing with quoi, it is almost always better to use that phrase and not use the quoi. Quoi doesn't carry much meaning in and of itself. It's a real toss-away, and the sense is often: "...., don't you know?" or "..., don't you think?" You shouldn't be expecting an answer to quoi.
     
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