15

I live in Quebec, and I hear all the time people saying this:

  • Nous autres” instead of “nous” I guess
  • Vous autres” instead of “vous
  • Eux autres” instead of “eux

I have some questions:

  • Is it right to use “-autres” in this case?
  • Do the “-autres” words have the same meaning as the ones without it?
  • I live in Quebec, is it used just here? I've never been to another French-speaking place.
  • Side note : besides Quebec, nous autres and vous autres are also heard (if a bit old-fashioned and popular) in some parts of France (north-eastern sure, maybe others ?). I've never heard eux autres here, though. – RomainValeri Jun 20 '15 at 14:52
  • Nous autres and vous autres is neither old fashioned nor especially popular,it's just French whereas eux autres doesn't exist. Why? – Annie CHABOT Nov 27 '16 at 13:07
6

I've read a discussion on the grammar of this a while ago.

Basically nous-autres and vous-autres correspond to the emphatic forms "moi", "toi" and "lui", particularly in topic/comment construction (because "nous" and "vous" lack separate object forms): "nous-autres, on sait cuisiner", "vous autres, je peux pas vous sentir" etc. The extension to eux-autres is a natural analogy. (English does not have this construction, which is close to cleaving)

I do not know what the specific etymology is (and @Oct's seems like some awfully pop-whorfian approach to me), and the etymology of many grammatical constructions is not very well known anyway. There is a sociolinguistic element to it, since it's not a formal construction, so it tends to be marked as low-class.

I went and looked at my Grevisse (14th ed.), with the caveat that it is an analysis of mostly written, European French (though it does often discuss regional usage). The relevant sections are §358 a), discussing adjectives applied to pronouns, and 659 h), on reinforced pronouns (autres discussed in the same context as -même). In both instances there is a brief mention of opposition/separation, but he also notes that there is a marked correlation with topic/comment-life construction, which in the Quebec dialect/sociolects we are discussing, will actually require the -autres forms.

I think a sensible argument is that what was originally an emphatic form (remember that this topicalization is already an emphasis!) was generalised to topicalizations as a whole (and a few others: "chez" can also sometimes be used with -autres pronouns without cleaving): a proper cleft sentence "C'est à nous-autres qu'ils l'ont donné" is also valid.

  • Do you think there is any connection between vous autres and the Southern US y'all? – Gilles 'SO nous est hostile' Mar 7 '12 at 21:14
  • I'll admit I am not very au fait of the grammar of "y'all". My gut instinct says "no" for a very simple reason: the -autres is not possible as a subject or object of a verb in Quebec French (a construction like "Nous autres Français" (where to me "nous autres" acts as an apposition to "Français"), seem to call for a different analysis). So you can say "y'all are awesome" in English, but no Quebecer in their right mind would say or write "Vous-autres êtes super"... – Circeus Mar 7 '12 at 21:37
  • @Gilles I've heard of French going south (see "Cajun") but not vice versa. IMHO, "y'all" is used as a politesse and is analogous to using vous (i.e. vouvoyer) ... "y'all" is singular, e.g. "do y'all know what I'm talking about?" would be me addressing you. Its plural form is "all y'all" e.g. "do all y'all know what I'm talking about?" would be me addressing a group of people. – ChrisW May 22 '17 at 12:29
7

"autres" is meant to emphasize the difference between "nous" and the other people.

For my intuitive knowledge (and thus maybe wrong), this marks a clear difference between the subject group and the rest of the world.

"Nous autres, on sait faire la cuisine": suggests that the non-cited implicit group does not know how to cook, for example.

The meaning is not the same as "nous"

  • The "autres" form is rarely used in France French.
  • I've never ever heard the "Eux autres" form however.
  • "Eux autres" is quite frequent in Québec. – Drahakar Feb 29 '12 at 4:27
  • Is this a matter of clusivity (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clusivity), with "nous autres" used to mean an exclusive "we" (and maybe something like "nous tous" for the inclusive one)? – Michel Fioc Jan 28 '16 at 15:58
  • @MichelFioc I think there always might be some clusivity in Québécois. You could use "nous autres" for example to refer to the whole Francophone nation, not to be confused with all the other, anglophones. – ChrisW May 22 '17 at 12:59
5

If you have taken a Spanish course, you know that "nosotros" is the first person plural pronoun. In Spain, similarly, "vosotros" is the familiar second person pronoun. This parallels the "nous-autres" construction. The construction is not common in France due to the promotion of the Parisian dialect as the standard, but I'm guessing it was far more common, particularly in the south, in the 18th century. You should see from what parts of France the common settlers of Quebec came, and when. There you will find part of the answer to "autres." And before you ask, no, I don't know this myself; I'm just speculating.

1

In Catalan, we = nosaltres and you pl. familiar = vosaltres. In Gascon, we = nosautres and you pl. = vosautres. (Both reflect "we others" and "you others" as an additional distinction in person.) I'm surmising that this Canadian (and Cajun) form reflects an older French that did not "evolve" along with Parisian French because of the geographic and cultural rupture.

0

In the southern part of Italy we hear noi-altri and voi-altri. It is not grammatical correct in Florentine Italian but in the dialects it is what people say. Spanish seems to be the only one of the romance languages that kept the "other" vosotros is vos-otros/otras and nosotros is nos-otros/otras.

Someone told me that this usage came about because the Christians wanted you know they were the believers and the other, Jews, Muslims et ali, were outsiders. I have no idea if that is true or not. However, I have never seen that form used in written Latin. They used nos and vos.

Please know, everything I just wrote is based on my knowledge of Latin which I teach, of Italian, my native language, of Spanish my almost native language, of French which I can read well but speaking is rough, and English which I used because I live in the States.

Valete, Arrivederci, Adios, Aurevoir, Good-bye

  • 2
    As already stated by Richard, not the only ones: Occitan: nosautres, vosautres (Provençal: nàutri, vàutri), Catalan nosaltres, vosaltres – jlliagre May 21 '17 at 22:04

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