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Impressive French Idioms – Add Spark To Your Conversations

Just like our conversations in English are made aesthetically audible by adding idioms, your French can sound classier too! We’ve carefully curated a few idioms for you to impress the next francophone you encounter.

Have you ever ‘hit the hay’ and breathed out a sigh of relief? Maybe your friend complained to your mom and that was a ‘stab in the back’. Ever since you learnt the rules of imparfait in French, it’s become a ‘piece of cake’ to write sentences in the past. And did you get confused why before any performance someone asked you to ‘break a leg’? 

By now, you must be catching a drift of what we’ll be talking about. Just like our conversations in English are made aesthetically audible by adding idioms, your French can sound classier too! We’ve carefully curated a few idioms for you to impress the next francophone you encounter.

Idiom 1: Arriver comme un cheveu sur la soupe

By the sound of it you can gauge that it sounds like arriving like a hair in the soup. Imagine having to call the waiter and explain the situation. Wouldn’t that be awkward? The literal meaning, therefore, is coming into a situation at the tersest moment.

Mes meilleurs amis criaient quand je suis arrivé comme un cheveu sur la soupe
(My best friends were yelling when I arrived – at the most awkward moment)

Idiom 2: Faire la grasse matinée

You’ve worked hard the past month and decide to take a day off from office and sleep in. That shouldn’t stop there for self-care is the real happiness. Make yourself a breakfast in bed. All of this will narrow down to you having a ‘fat morning!’

Ma semaine de mariage a été mouvementée, alors aujourd’hui, j’ai fait la grasse matinée
(My wedding week was hectic, so today, I slept in)

Idiom 3: Coup de foudre

Are you watching a romantic tv-series and see how the characters fall in love at the first sight? You can use this idiom to describe the reaction of looking at someone you adore, as if lightning struck you.

Elle l’a vu à l’aéroport, et elle a eu le coup de foudre
(She saw him at the airport, and she fell in love)

Idiom 4: Je dis ça, je dis rien

You may be in the mood to be passive-aggressive and state an opinion to your friend who just doesn’t want to listen. The diplomatic way of going about it would be to use this idiom which if literally translated means – I say that, I say nothing.’

Si elle n’arrête pas de parler, elle aura des ennuis. Enfin, je dis ça, je dis rien
(If she doesn’t stop talking, she’ll be in trouble, Just saying…)

Idiom 5: Ça marche!

Is your group chat pinging with the latest plan to go for vacation? There are so many activities that appeal to you and some which don’t. So, for those that do, use this expression and they’ll know ‘it works’ for you.

“On va plonger dans l’océan?”
“Oui, ça marche!”

(“Let’s go diving in the ocean?”
“Yes, that works!”)

Idiom 6: La moutarde me/lui monte au nez

‘The mustard is getting to my nose’. Doesn’t that make you laugh? But this idiom actually implies that the speaker is feeling angry.

De la façon dont ma mère marchait vers moi, je savais que la moutarde lui montait au nez
(From the way my mother walked towards me, I knew that she was angry)

Idiom 7: Sauter du coq à l’âne

Here’s another funny translation – ‘jumping from the rooster to the donkey’. Use this for when someone doesn’t stick to one topic or you want to change the subject of the conversation.

Pourquoi est-ce qu’elle saute toujours du coq à l’âne?
(Why does she always jump from topic to topic?)

Idiom 8: Appeler un chat un chat

Don’t you love it when someone gives you the answer straightforward instead of beating around the bush? When they call ‘the cat a cat’ rather than narrate an array of descriptions that suit only a novel?

C’est ma nature d’appeler un chat un chat
(It is my nature to say things as they are)


Idiom 9: Coûter les yeux de la tête

That black couture dress has your heart but also ‘costs the eyes in your head’. Wouldn’t that put you in a dilemma?

Leur maison leur coûte les yeux de la tête
(Their house cost an arm and a leg)

Idiom 10: Ne rien savoir faire de ses dix doigts

No matter what kind of work you give to your assistant, he/she fails to do it, even the bare minimum. They literally don’t ‘know how to do anything with their ten fingers’.

Depuis qu’elle est amoureuse, elle ne sait plus rien faire de ses dix doigts
(Since she’s been in love, she has been completely useless)

Idiom 11: Mettre son grain de sel

You are talking to your sister about a film when a random third person comes and gives their ‘unnecessary opinion’ about it, wouldn’t that be annoying? This idiom implies – ‘to put in one’s grain of salt.’

Il met toujours son grain de sel!

Idiom 12: Poser un lapin à quelqu’un

Did you go out on a date and no one ever showed up? Well, ‘put a rabbit on them’ because you deserve the world.

C’est la troisième fois que mon père m’a posé un lapin!
(This is the third time that my father has stood me up!)

Idiom 13: Être à l’ouest

Maybe your brother just came and tapped you on the head for no reason and for the millionth time you thought ‘he’s crazy’, then use this idiom. It’s also employed when you feel ‘out of’ something. This literally means – ‘being in the West.’

Depuis ma nuit d’anniversaire, je suis à l’ouest
(Since my birthday night, I feel out of doing anything)

Idiom 14: C’est dommage

Now that we are almost nearing the article, you must feel like ‘it’s such a shame’ you won’t get to learn more. You can also use the idiom ‘that’s too bad’.

C’est dommage que tu aies dormi, le film était super
(It’s too bad you slept, the film was super)

Idiom 15: Boire comme un trou

You see someone order drink after drink at the bar and think well ‘he drinks like a hole’ then try and keep it in your thoughts as it could be rude to say out loud.

Chaque week-end il boit comme un trou
(Every weekend he drinks like a fish)

Now when you talk about the amazing friend you made, do appeler un chat un chat and avoid any situation where you arrive comme un cheveu sur la soupe. Still, if you have any confusion you can take the help of French tutors. See you next chapter!

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