If you listen to the French talking to each other, there will be times when you scratch your head and say, 'What the hell are you talking about? A guy put a rabbit on you?” The French love their idioms and use them a lot in everyday life. As a French learner, it is necessary (and fun) to learn them.
Some "French idioms" (that's what the French call idioms, which translates to "French idioms") have an easy to guess meaning. And some are so whimsical that there's no way to tell without learning them first or asking a Frenchman.French languages are so uniquethat they are listedthe best phrases in the worldin the book "Idiomancy".
Also, French people like to use random animals and foods in their languages. If you are a visual person and you start imagining the literal meaning of expressions in your head, you will laugh out loud.
So let's learn some great French phrases!In this article, I list some of the most common French phrases. From the most common ones to those using food and animals, use them whenever appropriate to sound like a native speaker!
common french idioms
What I mean by "general" is that these expressions do not mention any specific animal or food. Some may sound completely arbitrary, so I'll do my best to explain the connection and/or origins of the languages to you.
but sinceThe French language is old, and these languages have passed through generations, it can be difficult for us to track them down to fully understand the why and how.
Either way, they're still fun to learn!
1. It works
Literal translation: it works.
Figurative translation: "works", but also "understands" or "okay".
You'll hear this a lot when you're watching a French movie. It's extremely versatile because you can use it in so many ways.
I fixed the toaster and now it's working again.
Translation: I fixed the toaster and now it's working again.
X: I'll pick you up tomorrow morning at 8am, so be prepared.
J: It works.
Translation: X: I'll pick you up tomorrow morning at 8, so be ready.
However, 'Ça marche', in the second definition of the term, is slang. Sometimes, and this is more informal than "ça marche", you can also use:
to say 'understood' or 'okay'.
2. Being on the moon
Literal translation: to be on the moon
Figurative translation: daydreaming, not paying attention.
That's easy to guess, isn't it? Sometimes the French also use it for the same meaning:be in the clouds- which literally means "head in the air", but actually means "to be distracted".
X: Did you understand what I just told you?
Y: What? Sorry, I was just too happy.
X: Did you understand what I just told you?
Y: What? I'm sorry, I was dreaming.
My husband is so ignorant he lost his wallet five times.
My husband is so distracted that he has lost his wallet five times.
3. It costs an arm and a leg
Literal translation: It costs an arm.
Figurative translation: It's super expensive.
I know there is an identical phrase in English - it costs an arm and a leg. Who copied who? Although the French often claim to be the origin of the words so-and-so,this language is probably english.
One theory sayswhich is from WWI and WWII where the price to pay is too high - body parts or even life.
From the same category we have:
- it costs an arm and a leg(it costs the eyes in the head)
- ecosts the skin of the buttocks(it costs the skin of the ass).
This car cost me an arm/the eyes off my head/the skin off my ass.
This car was extremely expensive.
4. sleep late
Literal translation: make a fat morning.
Figurative translation: stay in bed late in the morning.
This is a useful phrase during your holiday in France so your doorman doesn't knock on your door at 9 am.
I like to sleep every Saturday.
Every Saturday I like to stay in bed late.
In the same category, but with a contradictory meaning, there is'spend a whole night'(do a white night/stay up all night).
I have to sleep through the night to finish this job.
I have to stay up all night to finish this job.
The Origin of the "Sleepless Night"it is quite interesting if you like history. It came from nobles praying all night in white robes long before they were knighted.
5. Love at first sight
Literal translation: lightning.
Figurative translation: falling in love at first sight.
Did you guess right? Use it when you feel like you've been struck by lightning when you see someone for the first time.
If it's just "moderate" love at first sight, use the following:fall for something.
It was love at first sight between him and me.
We fell madly in love at first sight, he and I.
I fell in love with this house. I think I'll buy.
I fell in love with this house at first sight. I think I'll buy.
6. Be wise as a picture
Literal translation: be they are like an image.
Figurative Translation: It is usually used to define children who are very quiet.
It's one of my favorite French phrases because I also wonder why it's not"Be wise as an angel"(stay calm like an angel). To me it makes a lot more sense and it rhymes perfectly too.
But still no one knows why the word “image” is chosen here.
The children I look after are wise as pictures. It's an easy job and I'm very happy.
The children I take care of are very quiet. It's an easy task and I'm very happy.
7. Drink like a hole
Literal translation: drinking like a hole.
Figurative translation: Well, you can guess, I guess (hint: Kermit's photo above).
You have to take him home, he's been drinking a lot.
You have to take it home; he drinks a lot.
French expressions involving animals
Be prepared to die laughing.
I think some of the funniest French phrases are your animal idioms. Some of them are bizarre, borderline geniuses - and you're going to love them.
1. Put someone
Literal translation: put a rabbit in someone.
Figurative translation: lift someone up (often used in the dating/romance scene).
If you have been waiting for this from the beginning of the article, then here it is. It's worth the wait, isn't it?
He brought me a rabbit. I waited for him at the restaurant for two hours.
He dumped me. I waited for him at the restaurant for two hours.
But why rabbits? Apparently,People use the word "lapin" to avoid using a bad word that rhymes with it.🇧🇷 Obviously I can't repeat the curse word here guys. Pardon.
2. It's freezing
Literal translation: It's duck cold (I'm not even kidding)
Figurative translation: it's super cold
When I first heard that expression, I thought: what did the poor duck do to be associated with a very cold day?
The most accepted theoryexplains that this expression comes from the day when duck hunting usually started in November – it was the beginning of the cold winter.
Let's stay indoors today, it's too cold.
We'll stay home today; it's super cold outside.
If you are feeling bad because of the innocent ducks, you can use the following:It's freezing(it's very cold).
3. Pigs were not raised together
Literal translation: We don't raise pigs together.
Figurative translation: You should respect me more, I'm not your friend, or we don't have ancestors.
If you read reviews online, you'll see this language quite often. You use it to remind someone not to treat you like an idiot or to remind them to use "vous" not "tu" when talking to you.
Sir, I find you disrespectful. You have no right to call me familiar, we don't raise pigs together.
Sir, I find you very rude. You have no right to say 'do it' to me; Please be more respectful.
4. Call a spade a spade
Literal translation: call a cat a cat.
Figurative translation: say it like it is.
This is a relevant phrase in this age when "political correctness" gets so much attention. Basically it means not being afraid to call things/people what they are.
X: The number of refugees in France has multiplied in the last 10 years.
Y: Let's call a spade a spade. They are not refugees, but immigrants.
X: The number of refugees in France has multiplied in the last ten years.
Y: Let's call it what it is. They are not refugees; they are immigrants.
5. Let's get back to business
Literally translated: Let's go back to our sheep.
Figurative translation: let's get back to the matter at hand.
It also makes you scratch your head: why sheep? There are many animals that rhyme with "Revenons" like "lions". Sometimes you just have to accept it for what it is, right?
We have strayed too far from our topic. Back on topic.
We have strayed too far from our topic. Let's get back to the subject itself.
6. Be a coward
Literal translation: to be a wet chicken.
Figurative translation: to be a coward.
This is popular with children and young people to tease each other. If you're too scared to do something that all your friends are doing, you risk being called a wet chicken.
X: You have to tell her you like her.
Y: But I'm really afraid of being rejected.
X: Oh, you're just a coward.
X: You should tell her you like her.
Y: But I'm really afraid of being rejected.
X: Oh, you're just a coward.
French expressions involving food
It's obvious that the French love food, right? to hertake food seriously.
So it's to be expected that many French languages revolve around food. Here is a list of just a fraction of the many French culinary expressions.
1. Mustard gets into (someone's) nose
Literal translation: The mustard goes up the nose (ouch).
Figurative translation: get really angry.
It's one of those "aha" moments. You will immediately understand the relationship between literal and figurative translations. I mean, that's the feeling when you smoke through your nose, like you've put something hot in it.
He dared lie to me for the umpteenth time. At that moment, I felt mustard fill my nostrils.
He dared lie to me for the umpteenth time. At that moment, I could feel that he was losing his temper.
Literal translation: fall into the apples.
Figurative translation: fainting, losing consciousness.
Yes, falling for apples is unlikely, so why apples?According to a theory, the word "pommes" is a substitute for "pâmer" here. The latter means impotence and is an old word that is no longer used.
It was so hot that she fainted.
It was extremely hot that she fainted.
3. Sell like hot cakes
Literal translation: sold as small bread.
Figurative translation: to be in high demand/to be sold very easily.
There is a similar expression in English: to sell like hotcakes. Both relate to something that people love so much that you can sell it for pretty much any price you want.
Despite the rather high price, this product sells like hotcakes.
Despite being quite expensive, many people buy this product.
4. Get a salty note
Literal translation: getting a salty bill.
Figurative translation: received a huge surprise bill.
This is what you use when you have an unexpectedly large bill to pay. For example, if you grab a beer from your hotel room minibar, you could end up with a hefty bill.
He got a salty note from his wedding photographer.
He got a huge bill from his wedding photographer.
5. Not your onions
Literal translation: These are not your onions.
Figurative translation: none of your business.
Just a warning: this is a rude way to tell someone to mind their own business. For example, avoid telling your boss.
Stop asking me these questions. It's not your onions.
Stop asking me these questions. It doesn't affect you.
6. Not my thing
Literal translation: not my thing.
Figurative translation: Since it's the same as English, I think you can guess what it means.
Superhero movies are not my thing.
Superhero movies are not my thing.
7. Earn peanuts
Literal translation: make peanuts.
Figurative translations: received a very small salary.
I did not find any reference to the origin of this expression. But if I could hazard a guess, I'd say this one refers to how a circus monkey gets paid in peanuts after hard work.
Your sister would like to find another job because she is making peanuts at the moment.
Your sister would like to find another job as she has a very low salary at the moment.
How to use French idioms correctly
It takes some practice to use them in the right context at the right time. What I like to do when I'm learning to use idioms iswatch french moviesor TV programs or listen to French radio!
In movies/tv shows/radio shows they talk like in real life. So they are the perfect tool for learning about French idioms and evencolloquial words/phrases!
Books are also a great resource.to learn more about using idioms in context.
You can also participate in French language forums (e.g.This one) or comment on blog posts. If you feel it's appropriate, include a sentence or two.
If you use them wrong and someone calls you, no problem.🇧🇷 It happens to everyone.
It's actually a good thing because now you've learned NOT to use that particular language like that. Don't be discouraged!
One last thing...
If you want to practice pronouncing these phrases, contact our pronunciation trainersSpeakwill be happy to help! We have native French teachers who will help you correct any pronunciation errors before they are finally corrected.
Good luck friends!
What are French common phrases? ›
- Bonjour. = Good morning. ...
- Bonne après-midi. = Good afternoon. ...
- Je m'appelle Mondly. = My name is Mondly. ...
- Je suis ravi de vous rencontrer. = I'm pleased to meet you. ...
- Comment ça va ? = How are you? ...
- Bien, merci. Et vous-même ? ...
- J'aimerais une bière. ...
- Je suis désolé.
- le (det.) the; (pron.) him, her, it, them.
- de (det.) some, any; (prep.) of, from.
- un (det.) a, an; (adj., pron.) one.
- à (prep.) to, at, in.
- être (verb) to be; (noun [m. ]) being.
- et (conj.) and.
- en (prep.) in, by; (adv., pron.)
- avoir (verb) to have; (noun [m. ]) assets.
The political/economic lexicon include many words of French origin like money, treasury, exchequer, commerce, finance, tax, liberalism, capitalism, materialism, nationalism, plebiscite, coup d'état, regime, sovereignty, state, administration, federal, bureaucracy, constitution, jurisdiction, district.What is the most popular French phrase? ›
- #1 Bonjour ! – Hello! ( the standard greeting in French) ...
- #2 Bonsoir ! – Good evening! ( replaces bonjour in the evening) ...
- #3 Salut ! – Hi! ( a more informal greeting) ...
- #4 Enchanté(e) ! – Nice to meet you! ( a standard expression when meeting someone for the first time)
Exclamation ("Phrase Exclamative")
- Je veux y aller ! ("I want to go!")
- J'espère que oui ! ("I hope so!")
- Il est très beau ! ("He's very handsome!")
- C'est une bonne idée ! ("That's a great idea!")
- être, to be. To be or not to be Être ou ne pas être. ...
- avoir, to have. Don't forget that verbs in French are conjugated. ...
- faire, to do. ...
- dire, to say. ...
- pouvoir, can. ...
- aller, to go. ...
- Voir, to see. ...
- vouloir, to want.
- The slangy one: Coucou! Meaning: “Hi!” About: Coucou is a sweet, sincere way of saying hi, normally reserved for close friends and family. ...
- The casual one: Salut! Meaning: “Hey!” ...
- The formal one: Bonjour! Meaning: This failsafe greeting literally means “Good day”.
- Pronunciation Matters. First, you must understand that pronunciation matters. ...
- Spend Time with Native Speakers. ...
- Pay Attention with Your Ears. ...
- Look at the Mouth. ...
- Recognize Different Accents. ...
- Mimic Native Speakers. ...
- Watch Your Pace. ...
- Add Contractions.
French is a Category I language, so it's relatively easy to learn for native English speakers. It will take approximately 580 hours or 23 weeks of study to reach complete French fluency.
How do you get a native French accent? ›
- Be conscious of how your lips and tongue move when speaking French. ...
- Practice French in groups of sounds. ...
- Read aloud in French. ...
- Listen to spoken French. ...
- Speak with a French native. ...
- Practice tongue twisters.
As a result, Paris is now typically pronounced as “Paree.” Why is the final “s” in Paris silent? The final “s” in Paris is typically silent because it's part of a group of words called ” liaison words.” Liaison words are French words that end in a consonant but are followed by a word that begins with a vowel.What is the most used French swear word? ›
- Putain. 'Putain' is definitely the most commonly used French swear word. ...
- Merde. 'Merde' is another popular curse word- perhaps not as popular as 'putain' but it is still used a lot. ...
- Va te faire foutre. ...
- Je m'en fous. ...
- Ta gueule. ...
- Salope/ Salaud. ...
- Bâtard/ Bâtarde. ...
- Good morning. Sometimes, all you need to start the day right is a good coffee and someone greeting you smiling. ...
- Good afternoon. ...
- My name is Mondly. ...
- I'm pleased to meet you. ...
- How are you? ...
- Fine, thanks. ...
- I'd like a beer. ...
- I'm sorry.
The most common greeting in French is the very useful “bonjour”, and “bonsoir”. The first can be used throughout the day, and the second in the evening. “Salut” is also widely used in a more informal setting. These are the most basic greetings that will commonly be learned in lessons for French for kids.What are the 7 types of phrase? ›
- Noun phrase.
- Adjective phrase.
- Adverb phrase.
- Verb phrase.
- Prepositional phrase.
- NOUN PHRASE.
- PREPOSITIONAL PHRASE.
- ADJECTIVE PHRASE.
- ADVERB PHRASE.
- VERB PHRASE.
- INFINITIVE PHRASE.
- GERUND PHRASE.
- PARTICIPLE PHRASE.
allé, arrivé, venu, revenu, entré, rentré, descendu, devenu, sorti, parti, resté, retourné, monté, tombé, né et mort.What is a pretty girl called in French? ›
a pretty girl [example]
une jolie môme [slg.]
10 French Love Nicknames
Note that these terms are also used to lovingly call a child, boy or girl. Mon amour – my love. Mon ange – my angel. Mon trésor – my treasure. Mon coeur – my heart.
What is a weird French word? ›
La pomme de terre. This may be the most common and strange compound word of the French language. Literally, it translates as “apple from Earth” or “apple of the Earth”, it actually means a mere potato.What is the best reply to bonjour? ›
What is the proper response to bonjour? It's more than sufficient to simply say bonjour back in response to those who greet you, but if you want to go a step beyond, you can respond with comment allez-vous, which is the French equivalent of asking how it's going.How do French greet themselves? ›
In France, Belgium and Switzerland, people shake hands to greet those they don't know. Among young people or students, people introduce themselves simply by saying their surnames, along with a small wave of the hand, or a kiss on the cheek.How long does it take to speak like a native? ›
If you're already at the level of having good clear English then you should expect to put in around 6 months of practice to sound like a native English speaker. It will help if you get your speech assessed as well.Can you ever speak like a native? ›
To sound more like a native, extensive practice of phonemes and pronunciation can be done. However, the chances of sounding like a native speaker are lower, but not impossible.How much French do you need to know to be fluent? ›
It is estimated that you have to learn 5000 words to be fluent in French. Be selective and learn the 5000 most used words in French!How can I become fluent in French fast? ›
- Watch films. Watching films in French with French subtitles is one of the best ways to learn. ...
- Learn with songs. ...
- Read. ...
- Find a partner. ...
- Don't be scared to try and make mistakes. ...
- Listen! ...
- Practice. ...
- Sign up for an intensive course.
Regardless of your definition of fluency, you'll need to practice the language if you want to master it. If you want a short answer, yes, you can become fluent in French in one year (or even less), especially if you follow the 10 steps included in the next section.What is the easiest French accent? ›
Compared with Parisians, Southern French people speak French at a slower rate, which can make it seem easy to understand.What are the 5 French accents? ›
- l'accent aigu (acute accent) – é
- l'accent grave (grave accent) – à, è, ù
- la cédille (cedilla) – ç
- l'accent circonflexe (circumflex) – â, ê, î, ô, û
- l'accent tréma (trema) – ë, ï, ü
How do you say hello accent in French? ›
If you'd like to say, “Hello, how are you?” in French, you have some options. The conventional approach is to either say “Bonjour, comment vas-tu?” (informal singular) or “Bonjour, comment allez-vous?” (plural or formal singular). More often, you might simply hear “Bonjour, ça va?”Does What 3 words work in France? ›
French: What3words ignores accents as not everyone types them. This means it can't use words that are only differentiated by accents, such as côte and côté.Do the French say cul de sac? ›
Of course, literally translated, cul de sac means the bottom of the bag. And to add insult to injury this isn't even a phrase the French use – they call a dead end a voie sans issue.How many French words exist? ›
Many French dictionaries estimate somewhere in the region of 60,000 words, but Le Grand Robert de la langue Française currently contains around 100,000 words and 350,000 definitions, covering the different uses of those words.What is the easiest French word to learn? ›
Bonjour is the most common and basic greeting. It means “Hello” and “Good morning” and can be used with any person you meet.What French words should I learn first? ›
- Bonjour: Good morning/ Hello. ...
- Salut: Hello (casual way of saying hello)
- Bonsoir: Good evening.
- Monsieur/ Madame/ mademoiselle: Mister/ Madam/ Miss.
- S'il vous plaît: Please.
- Merci/ Merci beaucoup: Thank you/ Thank you very much.
- Excusez-moi/ Pardon: Excuse me. ...
- Au revoir: Goodbye.
Meet the CaReFuL rule
If a French word ends in C, R, F or L (the letters in CaReFuL), the final letter is pronounced. This doesn't work if the final letter is a “e”, “b”, “k” or “q” though. But since “b”, “k” and “q” are almost never used as final letters in French, the CaReFuL works in most cases.
There are no heat and cooling ducts anywhere in French buildings, even in brand new ones. What is this? Today's French Building code includes requirements for fiber optic internet cables (invented in 1952 and popularized in the 1990s) but still no air-conditioning ducts (invented in 1902).What are some beautiful French phrases? ›
- 1. “ Qui vivra verra”
- 2. “ L'habit ne fait pas le moine”
- 3. “ Chacun voit midi à sa porte”
- 4. “ Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir”
- 5. “ Petit a petit, l'oiseau fait son nid”
- 6. “ Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n'en prend aucun”
- 7. “ Qui n'avance pas, recule”
- 8. “
Sacrebleu! Sacrebleu is a very old fashioned French curse, which is rarely used by the French these days. An English equivalent would be “My Goodness!” or “Golly Gosh!” It was once considered very offensive.
What is a common greeting in France? ›
The most common greeting in French is the very useful “bonjour”, and “bonsoir”. The first can be used throughout the day, and the second in the evening. “Salut” is also widely used in a more informal setting. These are the most basic greetings that will commonly be learned in lessons for French for kids.How can I speak French easily? ›
- Turn your smartphone into a French speaker. Switch the language settings on your phone to French. ...
- Look for French speakers in your city. ...
- Watch French TV and movies. ...
- Read articles and books in French. ...
- Listen to French radio and podcasts (my favourite is FrenchPod101).
1. “Hi” in French – Salut! Just as commonly used, but a bit more informal, Salut is what we could call Bonjour's cool kid. Meaning “hi”, “hello” or sometimes even “bye”, Salut is the informal French greeting you can use with family and friends but not with your boss or teacher.What is the short French motto? ›
A legacy of the Age of Enlightenment, the motto "Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité" first appeared during the French Revolution.What is Mon Cheri? ›
Mon chéri means “my dear” or “sweetheart” in French. It's an adorable term of endearment for a male person someone is fond of, romantically or platonically.Is Zut alors rude? ›
As for “zut alors,” it's not exactly a curse word. As interjections go, it's more similar to “shoot” than “sh*t.” If these two are your go-to attempts at profanity, read on to update your repertoire of exclamations and insults!What does Sock Le Bleu mean? ›
Zut alors! Mon Dieu! The term sacré bleu is a dated, stereotypical French expression meant to express astonishment, shock, or amazement.Is it rude to say bonjour twice? ›
when you meet a person for the second time during the day you just say , “hi” or “hello”. But in France, saying bonjour several times is super rude.What are 2 ways the French greet each other? ›
- Greetings are important in France. ...
- Handshakes are the norm in a business setting or with acquaintances. ...
- Among friends and relatives, the most common greeting is the 'la bise' (kiss on both cheeks). ...
- People generally kiss twice during a la bise; however, this varies depending on the region in France.