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avaler des couleuvres

The French expression “avaler des couleuvres” translates literally to “to swallow garter snakes.” Seemingly unpleasant, English meanings include:

  • to accept something against your will
  • to have something forced on you

Other definitions in French on include “to believe anything your told” and “to endure humiliation or insults”.

Here’s an example sentence:

  • Marie ne voulait pas se marier avec Pierre: elle a dû avaler les couleuvres. Marie didn’t want to marry Pierre. She had to accept the marriage against her will.

more French expressions

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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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