50 French Idioms That Wow Native Audio system

Think about you need to order meals supply, but it surely prices an arm and a leg, and also you’re broke. If solely you had gotten your geese in a row earlier, you’d have the precise substances in the home!

Now, think about you’re studying the earlier paragraph with solely a fundamental understanding of English. Would it not make any sense? Idioms are expressions which have which means past their literal definitions—therefore why they are often so complicated to new language learners. And that paragraph is filled with them!

To know idioms, you want context. In French, you’ll discover that native audio system use idioms to convey something from humor to ridicule. They’re an superior approach so as to add depth and character to conversations. Begin including that Je ne sais quoi (“I don’t know what”; one thing that may’t be simply described) to your exchanges with these enjoyable French idioms!  

What’s an idiom? 

An idiom, or idiomatic expression, is a set phrase or expression that may’t be understood actually, or word-for-word. Not solely is the English language filled with them, however all languages use idioms as a shorthand solution to categorical a extra complicated concept—even French.  

Idioms typically translate pretty carefully between languages, but it surely’s much more frequent that there will probably be a special solution to categorical that concept. Studying idioms may be a whole lot of enjoyable, and can even enable you: 

  • keep away from confusion
  • keep away from embarrassing conditions
  • catch on to humor and the tone of a dialog
  • be taught some folklore
  • deeply perceive cultural beliefs
  • slot in with a bunch of native audio system 

After getting an excellent understanding of what a French idiom means and when it’s applicable to make use of it, you possibly can impress native audio system. They could even let you know the story of how this idiom advanced of their language, though it is perhaps information to them, too!   

French idioms with animals 


Whether or not they’re fierce or lovable, animals make nice topics for humorous idioms.

À bon chat, bon rat (you’ve met your match)

The literal translation of à bon chat, bon rat is “to an excellent cat, an excellent rat.” It’s a technique you would possibly say that somebody “has met their match.” This expression has been round for hundreds of years, with references in work, performs, and literature, to specific a state of affairs the place a intelligent adversary matches wits or power with an opponent.    

  • J’ai essayé de gagner le jeu, mais enfin, à bon chat, bon rat. J’ai perdu. = I attempted to win the sport, however in the long run, I met my match. I misplaced. 

Poser un lapin à quelqu’un (to face as much as somebody) 

A word-by-word translation could be “to place a rabbit to somebody.” The idiom means to face somebody up. It could possibly be a date or an appointment. This expression comes from Nineteenth-century French slang the place the phrase lapin (rabbit) meant a “refusal of cost.” 

  • J’avais rendez-vous avec Marie, mais elle m’a posé un lapin.  = I had a date with Marie, however she stood me up. 

Different French animal idioms

Persevering with with the animal theme, listed below are just a few extra animal-related idioms to complete off our record!

FrenchLiteral TranslationEnglish Idiom / Idea
Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queueWhile you discuss concerning the wolf, you see its tail. “Converse of the satan.”
That is used if you end up speaking about somebody after which they seem. 
comme un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelainelike an elephant in a china store“like a bull in a china store”
somebody who could be very clumsy or awkward and makes a large number with out which means to
C’est le serpent qui se mord la queue.It’s the snake that bites its personal tail.“It’s a vicious cycle.”
a sequence of issues that causes its personal continuation 
Quelle mouche t’a piqué? What fly bit you? What’s gotten into you? What’s flawed with 
appeler un chat un chatto name a cat a cat“to name a spade a spade”
to say precisely what one means
avoir un chat dans la gorge to have a cat within the throat“to have a frog in your throat”
to have throat congestion or cough
Quand le chat n’est pas là, les souris dansent.When the cat isn’t right here, the mice dance.“When the cat’s away, the mice will play.”
Missing supervision, some will benefit from the state of affairs.
donner sa langue au chatto provide one’s tongue to the cat“to be out of concepts”
to cease guessing when you haven’t any concepts left 
avoir d’autres chats à fouetterto produce other cats to whip“to have greater fish to fry”
to have extra vital issues to do 

French idioms with water


Many expressions come from the ocean—evidently those that lived their lives on the ocean had been notably influential to modern-day language. Observe that not all ocean-related idioms are what they appear although! 

Il pleut des cordes (It’s raining intensely)

You may not guess that this expression, actually which means “it’s raining ropes,” could be just like “it’s raining cats and canine,” which implies “it’s raining intensely.”  These vivid expressions probably come from the visible of rain falling so shortly that it seems there are ropes falling from the sky. The Québecois expression il tombe des clous (“nails are falling”), paints an identical picture. 

  • Je reste ici! Il pleut des cordes!  = I’m staying right here! It’s raining cats and canine!

Une goutte d’eau dans la mer (a really small quantity)

The direct which means of une goutte d’eau dans la mer is “a drop of water within the ocean.” English makes use of “a drop within the bucket” to specific a small, negligible quantity. Nonetheless, you possibly can’t have a bucket or an ocean filled with water until you begin with a drop. 

  • J’économise un peu chaque semaine, mais ce n’est qu’une goutte d’eau dans la mer!  = I save a little bit every week, but it surely’s solely a drop of water within the ocean! 

Lancer une bouteille à la mer (name for assist)

Phrase-for-word, lancer une bouteille à la mer means “to throw a bottle to the ocean.” Take into consideration the thought of a shipwrecked passenger writing a message in a bottle and throwing it out into the ocean to ask for assist. With that in thoughts, it’s straightforward to recollect its figurative expression: to name for assist. In case you can’t ship out an SOS, a bottle is the following neatest thing! 

  • Je ne sais plus quoi faire … je lancerai une bouteille à la mer. = I don’t know what to do anymore … I’ll ship out an SOS!   

Ce n’est pas la mer à boire (it’s not that a lot to ask)

The direct translation of ce n’est pas la mer à boire is “it’s not the ocean to drink.” You would possibly use this to specific that one thing will not be that a lot to ask. It is perhaps used to encourage somebody {that a} activity actually isn’t an enormous deal. 

  • Braveness! C’est seulement un devoir de quatre pages. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire.= Chin up! It’s solely a 4 web page paper. It’s not asking the unimaginable.  

Avoir du vent dans les voiles (being drunk)

The precise concept expressed by the phrase avoir du vent dans les voiles is “to have wind within the sails.” This seems like somebody has a whole lot of power or is making progress, but it surely really conveys the thought of being drunk. It’s just like the English expression “to be three sheets to the wind.”  You might not need to inform your boss that you’ve got wind in your sails this morning, otherwise you’ll give the flawed impression!  

  • Marc avait du vent dans les voiles hier soir. = Marc was three sheets to the wind final night time.

French idioms about how you’re feeling

From feeling sick to feeling nice, there’s a French idiom to explain your present state.

Être en pleine forme (filled with power and feeling nice)

A verbatim translation of être en pleine forme could be “to be in full form.” This might be an ideal expression for a day once you merely really feel nice and are filled with power. It’s been a well-liked solution to speak about your good temper because the twentieth century. 

  • J’étais très fatiguée hier, mais ce matin je suis en pleine forme. = I used to be actually drained final night time, however this morning I really feel nice! 

Filer à l’anglaise (go away a celebration with out saying goodbye)

Taking every phrase’s which means on this phrase, it means “to depart within the English type.” English audio system use quite a lot of related expressions with totally different nationalities, similar to “French exit” or “Irish exit,” which imply “to slide out of a social gathering with out saying goodbye.” 

  • La jeune fille a filé à l’anglaise avant dix heures. = The younger lady slipped out earlier than ten o’clock.  

Some linguists level to a non-literal origin of the phrase, with the time period anglaiser being an outdated synonym for “to steal.” A thief would clearly need to go away with out being seen. Maybe there may be some reference to the English expression “to steal away.”   

Se faire des cheveux blancs (worrying excessively)

The literal phrase, se faire des cheveux blancs means “to make white hair on oneself.” It’s not removed from what you would possibly suppose—if somebody claims to be getting grey hairs, it’s as a result of they’re worrying excessively. 

  • Il est si malade… Je me fais des cheveux blancs pour lui. = He’s so unwell. I’m frightened sick about him. 

This expression could also be based mostly considerably on actuality, as stress from fear or concern could also be linked to hair turning grey. Nonetheless, there are additionally a number of legends of a sudden change to white hair.

Listed below are some extra head and hair-related idioms: 

FrenchLiteral TranslationEnglish Idiom / Idea
couper les cheveux en quatreto chop the hair into 4“to separate hairs”
to overcomplicate one thing
avoir un poil dans la predominantto have a hair within the handto be extraordinarily lazy
se payer la tête to pay oneself the topto make enjoyable of somebody; to play a prank on them 
avoir la tête dans les nuagesto have the top within the clouds“to have your head within the clouds”
to be a dreamer; to be unrealistic
s’arracher les cheveuxto tear out one’s hair“to tear your hair out”
to be annoyed attempting to determine what to do; not discovering an answer
perdre la bouleto lose the ball (slang time period for head)“to lose your marbles”; “to lose your thoughts”; “to lose your head” to turn out to be irrational 
avoir la tête sur les épaulesto have one’s head on their shoulders“to have an excellent head in your shoulders”
to be balanced and sensible; to have frequent sense 

Se mettre sur son trente-et-un (all dressed up)

Have you ever ever been “dressed to the nines”? The which means is analogous in French, and se mettre sur son trente-et-un interprets as “to place oneself on one’s thirty-one.” Whichever quantity it’s, in both case, we use these idioms to say that somebody is dressed up, dolled up, or dressed to impress. 

  • Elle s’est mise sur son trente-et-un pour assister au live performance. = She obtained dressed to the nines to go to the live performance.  

Theories abound as to why the idiom makes use of the French quantity 31. Like many idioms, we could by no means know the complete historical past of the expression, because the which means advanced all through time and communities. 

Bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet (two related decisions)

The which means of bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet, is a somewhat ungrammatical and repetitive “white hat and hat white.” Isn’t that the identical factor? Identical to “six of 1, half dozen of the opposite,” this expression refers to 2 decisions which can be primarily the identical. It gained’t matter which you select, so it’s nearly like having no option to make in any respect. 

  • Avant la classe ou après, c’est bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet. = Earlier than class or after, it’s six of 1, half a dozen of the opposite.  

Faire la grasse matinée (sleeping in)

The literal which means of faire la grasse matinée could be “to do or make the fats morning.” It actually expresses the pleasant remainder of sleeping late or having a lie-in. That is achieved deliberately, not as within the expression avoir une panne d’oreiller (to have a pillow breakdown), which might be “to by accident oversleep.” 

  • Je n’ai rien à faire demain. Je vais faire la grasse matinée. = I’ve nothing to do tomorrow. I’m going to sleep in. 

Ne pas être dans son assiette (not feeling properly)

Taking every phrase of ne pas être dans son assiette,to not be in a single’s plate,” it’s fairly a complicated idiom. The expression refers to feeling beneath the climate or being out of kinds.  Whereas even native audio system would possibly affiliate the phrase assiette with the literal which means, “plate,” this expression really comes from the best way you’d trip a horse, being steady within the saddle.  In case you’re not balanced, you’re not feeling such as you usually would. One thing feels off.  

  • Luc ne vient pas. Il m’a dit qu’il n’est pas dans son assiette aujourd’hui.  = Luc isn’t coming. He instructed me that he’s a little bit out of kinds at this time. 

French meals idioms


The literal translations of French meals idioms typically have little or nothing to do with the meals they spotlight.

Avoir la pêche (in excessive spirits) 

Phrase-for-word, avoir la pêche interprets to “to have the peach.” This can be a informal and playful solution to say you’re in excessive spirits. The expression will not be vulgar, but it surely’s not one for a proper state of affairs. It’s been round a very long time, however students aren’t positive whether or not it got here from the expression for a literal pêche (peach), which is a juicy and candy fruit that might provide you with a whole lot of power, or whether or not the phrase advanced from one other phrase altogether over time.  

  • Elle dansait sur cette photograph … elle avait la pêche! = She was dancing on this photograph … she was all fired up! 

Être haut comme trois pommes (brief stature)

A detailed translation of être haut comme trois pommes is “to be tall like three apples.” This can be a figurative solution to name somebody brief. Think about three apples stacked up on prime of one another.  Nonetheless, even brief folks in French have to be pretty tall, in comparison with the idiom in English, “knee-high to a grasshopper.”   

  • Il est haut comme trois pommes mais il joue très bien déjà au foot! = He’s so tiny, however he already performs soccer so properly!

Ramener sa fraise (be in somebody’s enterprise)

A direct translation of ramener sa fraise is “to deliver one’s strawberry.” This expression, probably over a century outdated, means about the identical factor as “to stay your nostril in.” Using fraise (strawberry) as a alternative for tête (head), brings it nearer to the English which means of “to stay your head into somebody’s affairs the place it’s not needed.”  

If this one is used as an order, similar to Ramène ta fraise!, the speaker needs you to rush up! 

S’occuper de ses oignons (thoughts your individual enterprise)

Immediately translated, s’occuper de ses oignons means “to busy oneself along with his or her onions.”  You would possibly inform somebody to “take note of their very own onions” if you would like them to thoughts their very own enterprise. 

  • Occupe-toi de tes oignons! Je n’ai pas besoin de ton aide. = Thoughts your enterprise! I don’t want your assist. 

Mettre son grain de sel (give your opinion)

The which means of mettre son grain de sel means “to place one’s grain of salt.” That is just like “give your two cents” and implies a state of affairs the place somebody shares their opinion, even whether it is unsolicited. Somebody would possibly provide their two cents, or a grain of salt, which suggests that it isn’t of great worth, however the recipient is welcome to it.  

  • Je ne t’ai pas invité à mettre ton grain de sel. = I didn’t invite you to place your two cents in.  

Avoir du ache sur la planche (have a whole lot of work to do)

The literal which means of avoir du ache sur la planche is “to have some bread on the board.” In case you’re consuming, it’d seem to be a pleasing state of affairs, however in case you’re the baker, you may need a whole lot of work to do.  

  • Je veux bien sortir, mais j’ai du ache sur la planche ce soir. = I need to exit, however I’ve so much on my plate tonight. 

Earlier than the twentieth century, this expression may have meant merely that one had the right assets and was not missing, since bread was a predominant type of sustenance. As business bakeries developed, a baker having a number of loaves of bread on the board nonetheless had work to do to complete them. 

Gagner son ache à la sueur de son entrance (to work arduous)

This bread idiom, gagner son ache à la sueur de son entrance, meansto earn your bread by the sweat of your forehead.” Variations of this expression have been used since Biblical instances, which means “to work arduous and bodily labor for a dwelling.”  

  • Mon grand-père a toujours gagné son ache à la sueur de son entrance, comme agriculteur. = My grandfather has at all times earned his dwelling by the sweat of his forehead, as a farmer. 

Extra French meals idioms

Listed below are just a few different food-related French idioms! 

FrenchLiteral TranslationEnglish Idiom / Idea
couper la poire en deuxto chop the pear in two“to separate the distinction”
to satisfy midway, to compromise
tomber dans les pommesto fall within the applesto faint, to cross out
avoir la banane  (informal)to have the bananato be in an excellent temper, to have an enormous smile
être bonne poire (informal, pejorative)to be an excellent pear to be gullible or simply swayed by others; to be a pushover
C’est la cerise sur le gâteau.It’s the cherry on the cake.“It’s the cherry on prime.”; “It’s the icing on the cake.”
It’s the ultimate element to complete one thing satisfactorily. 
compter pour des prunesto depend for plumsto be nugatory; to not be vital.  
être mi-figue mi-raisinto be half fig, half grape “to have its execs and cons”
to be each good and dangerous;  to be contradictory not directly 
mettre du beurre dans les épinardsto place some butter within the spinachto earn a little bit more money
to enhance one’s monetary state of affairs
C’est du ache bénit.It’s some blessed bread.“It’s a godsend.”
It’s fortunate and taking place on the opportune second. 
lengthy comme un jour sans achelengthy as a day with out bread“so long as a month of Sundays”
seemingly endless
en faire tout un fromageto make an entire cheese of it“to make a mountain out of a molehill”
to create a bigger downside out of a small one; to magnify
avoir la moutarde qui monte au nezto have mustard that goes up the nostrilto lose your mood
Les carottes sont cuitesthe carrots are cooked“the goose is cooked”
It’s over; nothing you are able to do about it now

Tips on how to increase your information of French idioms 

Idioms are like at this time’s memes. They’re little bits of cultural information handed down from speaker to speaker till they evolve and are utilized in a approach that conveys which means with out utilizing the literal definition. Not all idioms are to be present in formal studying conditions, although.  

To learn to use idioms appropriately, have interaction with native audio system. Discover and experiment with idioms by: 

  • becoming a member of on-line boards of language learners  
  • discovering a language alternate accomplice
  • watching TV reveals in French
  • watching lyric movies of common French songs
  • studying French youngsters’s’ books and graphic novels
  • trying up French phrases that you just don’t acknowledge
  • evaluating frequent English idioms to related French idioms

Even with the very best diploma of focus, you’ll by no means be completed studying idioms. Utilization varies amongst French dialects and areas, throughout generations, and in several social contexts. The excellent news is that studying idioms may be actually enjoyable. In case you discover a language accomplice you possibly can belief, strive some out and get suggestions! Even in case you discover that you just used an idiom in a approach that didn’t fairly match, you’ll be capable of alter for the following time it’s applicable.  

Study French idioms with Rosetta Stone

Think about trying somebody lifeless within the eye, the air heavy with emotion, and saying les carottes sont cuites (the carrots are cooked) with a straight face. That’s the great thing about idioms! 

A saying may be downright foolish in its literal sense, however its figurative which means can ship chills down your backbone. With the record above, you possibly can confidently encounter the wildest of idioms—from flies that chew to butter in spinach—and even sprinkle them in your individual conversations. 

And because the French say, c’est du ache bénit. It’s some blessed bread (a godsend) that Rosetta Stone is right here that will help you grasp French—with out the tedious memorization. With bite-sized classes and studying instruments, you’ll have the distinctive likelihood to be taught French immersively, which implies you’ll be taught quicker and extra successfully than forging the trail by yourself. Did we point out TruAccent may also help you good your pronunciation from the very first lesson? 

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *