Common French Expressions and Idioms You Need to Know

May 9th, 2023 - Vera

If you’re learning French, it’s important to not only learn the vocabulary and grammar rules, but also the common expressions and idioms that native speakers use in everyday conversation. Understanding these expressions and idioms can help you communicate more effectively with native speakers and also give you a deeper understanding of French culture. In this article, we’ll explore some of the most common French expressions and idioms you need to know.

1. Avoir la pêche

This expression means “to have energy” or “to feel great”. It’s similar to the English expression “to be full of beans”. For example, “Je suis content aujourd’hui, j’ai la pêche!” (I’m happy today, I feel great!)

2. C’est la vie

This expression means “that’s life” or “such is life”. It’s used to express resignation or acceptance of a situation. For example, “Je n’ai pas obtenu le poste que je voulais. C’est la vie.” (I didn’t get the job I wanted. Such is life.)

3. Coup de foudre

This expression literally means “a bolt of lightning” and is used to describe love at first sight. For example, “Je l’ai vu et j’ai eu un coup de foudre.” (I saw her and it was love at first sight.)

4. Ça marche

This expression means “that works” or “OK”. It’s a common way to confirm plans or agreements. For example, “On se voit demain à 14h? - Ça marche!” (Shall we meet tomorrow at 2pm? - OK!)

5. Être dans la lune

This expression means “to be in the clouds” or “to be daydreaming”. It’s used to describe someone who is absent-minded or not paying attention. For example, “Arrête de regarder par la fenêtre et écoute le professeur! Tu es dans la lune!” (Stop looking out the window and listen to the teacher! You’re daydreaming!)

6. Mettre les pieds dans le plat

This expression literally means “to put your feet in the dish” and is used to describe someone who says something inappropriate or tactless. For example, “Il a mis les pieds dans le plat en disant que sa robe était moche.” (He put his foot in it by saying that her dress was ugly.)

7. Faire la grasse matinée

This expression means “to have a lie-in” or “to sleep in”. It’s used to describe someone who stays in bed later than usual. For example, “Je vais faire la grasse matinée demain car je suis fatigué.” (I’m going to have a lie-in tomorrow because I’m tired.)

8. Avoir le coup de foudre en soldes

This expression is similar to “coup de foudre” but is specifically used when describing love at first sight while shopping in a sale. It’s a humorous expression that’s often used jokingly. For example, “Je suis allé aux soldes et j’ai eu le coup de foudre pour une paire de chaussures!” (I went to the sales and fell in love with a pair of shoes!)

9. Appeler un chat un chat

This expression means “to call a spade a spade” or “to tell it like it is”. It’s used to describe someone who is direct and honest. For example, “J’aime bien parler avec lui car il appelle un chat un chat.” (I like talking to him because he tells it like it is.)

10. C’est pas la mer à boire

This expression means “it’s not rocket science” or “it’s not a big deal”. It’s used to reassure someone that something is easy or not as difficult as they might think. For example, “Ne t’inquiète pas, c’est pas la mer à boire de passer cet examen.” (Don’t worry, passing this exam is not rocket science.)

11. Coûter les yeux de la tête

This expression means “to cost an arm and a leg” or “to be very expensive”. It’s used to describe something that is prohibitively expensive. For example, “Je ne peux pas me permettre d’acheter cette voiture, elle coûte les yeux de la tête.” (I can’t afford to buy this car, it’s too expensive.)

12. Faire la tête

This expression means “to sulk” or “to give someone the silent treatment”. It’s used to describe someone who is upset or angry and refuses to speak to others. For example, “Il fait la tête depuis hier soir, je ne sais pas ce qui se passe.” (He’s been sulking since last night, I don’t know what’s going on.)

13. Avoir un chat dans la gorge

This expression means “to have a frog in your throat” or “to have a hoarse voice”. It’s used to describe someone who has difficulty speaking clearly due to a sore throat or other ailment. For example, “Désolé, j’ai un chat dans la gorge, je ne peux pas parler très fort.” (Sorry, I have a frog in my throat, I can’t speak very loudly.)

14. Faire la bise

This expression means “to give a kiss on the cheek” and is a common French greeting. It’s a way to show affection and respect to friends and family members. For example, “Je vais faire la bise à mes grands-parents en arrivant chez eux.” (I’m going to give a kiss on the cheek to my grandparents when I arrive at their house.)

15. Tomber dans les pommes

This expression means “to faint” or “to pass out”. It’s used to describe someone who loses consciousness due to a medical issue or other cause. For example, “Elle est tombée dans les pommes en voyant le sang.” (She passed out when she saw the blood.)

16. Faire la moue

This expression means “to pout” or “to make a face”. It’s used to describe someone who expresses dissatisfaction or disapproval. For example, “Il a fait la moue quand il a vu que sa pizza avait des olives.” (He made a face when he saw that his pizza had olives.)

17. Avoir un poil dans la main

This expression means “to be lazy” or “to avoid work”. It’s used to describe someone who doesn’t like to do physical work or chores. For example, “Il a un poil dans la main, il ne veut pas aider à ranger la maison.” (He’s lazy, he doesn’t want to help clean the house.)

18. Manger sur le pouce

This expression means “to eat on the go” or “to eat quickly”. It’s used to describe someone who doesn’t have time to sit down and enjoy a meal. For example, “Je mange souvent sur le pouce pendant ma pause déjeuner.” (I often eat on the go during my lunch break.)

Learning and using these common French expressions and idioms will not only make you sound more like a native speaker but will also help you better understand French culture and language. Practice incorporating them into your daily conversations and soon enough they’ll become second nature to you.

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