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French Expressions: 25 Idioms To Help You Sound More French

What are the most common French expressions?

Do you want to speak “le vrai français”? Here are 25 fun French expressions that will make you sound as if you were born in Paris! The French are known for having a beautiful and poetic language. This is because French has lots of fun idioms and sayings which are rich in feeling and meaning. Learning French expressions is crucial for learning to speak French. This page is your guide! Merci!

25 Essential French Expressions

1) Avoir le cafard

Meaning: To have the blues

Avoir le cafard translates literally to ‘to have the blues’. It means to be down in the dumps or depressed. You can use this expression when you’re giving somebody a reason for why you don’t want to leave the house. For example:

  • Je ne veux pas y aller parce que j’ai le cafard. I don’t want to go because I have the blues.
J'ai le cafard. I have the blues.

2) Coûter les yeux de la tête

Meaning: To be very expensive

This is a fun little expression that means to cost too much or be very expensive. The literal translation of ‘coûter les yeux de la tête’ is ‘to cost the eyes of the head’. For example:

  • Je ne peux pas acheter cette voiture parce que ça coûter les yeux de la tête! I can’t buy that car because it’s too expensive.

3) Se faire rouler dans la farine

Meaning: To get ripped off

Se faire rouler dans la farine is another idiom that has to do with costs. The expressions means ‘to get rolled in the flour’ and means to get ripped off. Actually, you can shorten it to ‘se faire rouler’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je ne veux plus aller dans ce magasin parce que je me suis fait roulé la dernière fois. I don’t want to go to that store any more because I got ripped off last time.

4) Casser les pieds à quelqu’un

Meaning: To be very annoying

This is a really fun idiom! ‘Casser les pieds à quelqu’un’ translates literally to ‘to break somebody’s feet’ and means to be very irritating or annoying. For example if you’re in the kitchen and somebody gets in your way, you could say:

  • Dégage! Tu me casses les pieds! Get out of here! You’re really bothering me!

5) Poser un lapin à quelqu’un

Meaning: To stand somebody up

Poser un lapin à quelqu’un has long been one of my all-time favorite French expressions. The idiom means ‘to stand somebody up’ but its literal translation is ‘to put a rabbit to somebody’. Here’s an example:

  • Je l’ai attendue pendant une heure devant le bar mais elle m’a posé un lapin. I waited for her for an hour in front of the bar but she stood me up.

You can make this idiom much strong by using the verb foutre rather than poser. Thus, you could also say, ‘Elle m’a foutu un lapin.’

6) Revenons à nos moutons

Meaning: To get back to the main topic

‘Revenons à nos moutons is a great expression for when you’re having a conversation and end up on a tangent. The meaning of the expression is ‘Let’s get back to what we were talking about’. A direct translation is ‘Let’s return to our sheep.’ Thus, after getting sidetracked you could say to your conversation partner:

  • On en était où? Revons à nos moutons. Where were we? Let’s get back to what we were talking about.

7) Un coup de foudre

Meaning: Love at first sight

This has long been one of my favorite French idoms. ‘Un coup de foudre’ translates literally to ‘a bolt of lightning’. The expression means love at first sight. For example:

  • Quand Romeo a connu Juliette c’était le coup de foudre. When Romeo met Juliette it was love at first sight

8) En avoir ras-le-bol

Meaning: to have had enough

En avoir ras-le-bol is in infomral French expression that translates literally to ‘to have a full bowl’. The expression means to be totally fed up or sick of something. Synonyms are ‘en avoir assez’ and ‘en avoir marre’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • La musique chez les voisins commence a m’énerver. J’en ai ras-le-bol! The neighbors’ music is starting to bother me. I’ve had it!

9) Avoir la flemme

Meaning: To have had enough

When you don’t want to do something and can’t be bothered you can use the expression, ‘avoir la flemme’, which translates literally to ‘to have laziness’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je n’ai vraiment pas envie de faire mes tâches domestiques ce week-end. J’ai la flemme. I can’t be bothered to do my household chores this weekend. I can’t be bothered.

10) Un de ces quatre matins

Meaning: One of these days

Un de ces quatre matins translates literally to ‘one of these four mornings’ but really means ‘one of these days’. You can use this informal expression when making tentative plans with people. For example:

  • Tu devrais passer par chez moi un de ces quatre matins. You should come by my place one of these days.

11) Se prendre la tête

Meaning: Annoyed, bothered

Se prendre la tête is an informal idiom that means to bother, annoy or get all worked up. The literal translation is ‘to take one’s head’. Here’s an example sentence”

  • Tu sais, cette situation m’enerve vraiment! Ça me prend la tête! You know, this is situation is really bothering me. It’s getting me all worked up!

12) Être bête comme ses pieds

Meaning: To be very stupid

This is the French language’s quintessential idiom used to describe a stupid person. Être bête comme ses pieds translation directly to ‘to be stupid as your feet’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Oui, il faut l’avouer. Le président est bête comme ses pieds. Yes, you have to admit it. The president is really stupid.
Etre bête comme ses pieds (to be very stupid)

13) Être dans la dèche

Meaning: To be broke

The French idiom être dans la dèche translates literally ‘to be in hardship or poverty’. In English it means to be broke or skint. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je suis désolé. Je ne peux pas payer cette facture parce que je suis dans la dèche. Sorry, I can’t pay the bill because I’m broke.

14) Faire la grasse matinée

Meaning: To sleep in

The French expression faire la grasse matinée translates directy to ‘to make the fatty morning’ and simply means to sleep in. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je fais la grasse matinée tous les jours pendant les vacances et je ne me lève pas avant onze heures. I sleep in every day during vacation and I don’t wake up before 11.00am.

15) Passer une nuit blanche

Meaning: To not sleep all night

The French expression passer une nuit blanche translates literally to ‘to pass a white night’ and means to have a sleepless night or spend the whole night awake. You can use the verb faire (to make) with this expression: ‘faire une nuit blanche’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je n’ai pas bien dormi avant la compétition. J’ai passé la nuit blanche. I didn’t sleep well before the competition. I was up all night.

16) Faire un froid de canard

Meaning: To be very cold out

The literal translation of ‘faire un froid de canard’ is ‘to make a cold of duck’ and means to be bitterly or icy cold. Use this expression to express that it’s very cold out. Here’s an example sentence:

  • Je ne sors pas de la maison aujourd’hui parce qu’il fait un froid de canard. I’m not leaving the house today because it’s extremely cold out.

17) En evoir marre

Meaning: To be fed up

The expression ‘en avoir marre’ is one of the most commonly used expressions in France. It means to be totally fed up or annoyed. You can use this expression to express disgust in a difficult situation. For example:

  • Je suis désolé. Je n’en peux plus. J’en ai marre! Sorry I can’t do it any more. I’ve had enough!

18) Parler comme une vache espagnole

Meaning: To speak a language horribly

This is one of the most amusing sayings in the French language. Parler comme une vache espagnole translates to ‘to speak like a Spanish cow’. The meaning of the expression is to speak (a language) very poorly. He’s an example sentence:

  • Daniel pense qu’il parle bien français mais la verite c’est qu’il parle comme une vache espagnole! Daniel thinks he speaks French well but the reality is that he speaks very poorly.
Parler comme une vache espagnole (to speak a language very poorly)

19) Laisse tomber

Meaning: Forget about it, never mind

Laisse tomber is quick little French expression that translates to ‘never mind’ or ‘forget about it’. The literal translation of laisse tomber is ‘let fall’. Here’s an example sentence:

  • De toute facon ce n’est pas imporant. Lasise tomber. In any case it’s not important. Forget about it.

20) Ça Marche

Meaning: That works

Ça marche is a French expression that’s based on the verb ‘marcher’, which means to walk or funciton. Ça march translates to that works, great or sure. For example:

  • On se donne rendez-vous à 17h00. Ça marche? – Oui, ça marche. Let’s meet at 5 o’clock? Does that that work? – Yeah, that works.

21) Ce n’est pas grave

Meaning: It’s no big deal!

Ce n’est pas grave translates literally to ‘it’s not grave or serious’. In English the expression means ‘it’s no big deal’. For example:

  • Ah zut! J’ai oublié mes clés! – Ne t’inquiete pas. Ce n’est pas grave. Oh shoot! I forgot my keys. Don’t worry. It’s no big deal.

22) Elle est canon!

Meaning: She’s hot!

Elle est canon is a French informal and slang expression which means ‘she’s hot or she’s a knockout. Canon is an invariable adjective and doesn’t change in the masculine or feminine forms. For example:

  • Tu as vu cette femme? Elle est canon! Did you see that woman? She’s hot!

23) Avoir la dalle

Meaning: To be very hungry

The French idiom avoir la dalle translates directly to ‘to have the gullet’. In English it means to be starved or very hungry. For example:

  • Je n’ai pas mangé depuis 8 heures du matin. J’ai la dalle! I haven’t eaten since 8.00am. I’m starved!

24) Être riche comme crésus

Meaning: To be very rich

Être riche comme Crésus means to be filthy rich. Crésus, or Croesus, was an historical figure in Ancient Greece known for his wealth. Here’s an example sentence:

  • C’est vrai qu’il est riche comme Crésus mais au fond c’est un abruti! It’s true that he’s filthy rich but deep down inside he’s a jerk!

25) Faire gaffe

Meaning: Watch out!

The expression faire gaffe translates literally to make a mistake. Fais gaffe! or faites gaffe! translate to watch out! or pay attention! For example:

  • Tu conduis trop vite. Fais gaffe! You’re driving too fast. Watch out!

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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