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avoir le couteau sous la gorge

The French expression “avoir le couteau sous la gorge” translates literally to “to have a knife under the throat”. The English meaning of the idiom is:

  • to be under the gun

A French meaning of the expression is “être en péril, dans une situation délicate“, or to be in peril or a delicate situation. Another French definition is “être sous pression” or to be under pressure.

Here’s an example sentence:

  • Pierre est certainement sous le couteau en ce moment. Il doit gagner assez d’argent pour subvenir aux besoins de sa famille et payer ses dettes. Pierre is definitely under pressure now. He must earn enough money to support his family and pay his debts.

As the person who’s applying the pressure, the expression is mettre le couteau sous la gorge à quelqu’un.

par example

L’entreprise met le couteau sous la gorge des employés. S’ils ne travaillent pas les heures supplementaire, ils ne gagneront pas la prime. The company is putting its employees under the gun. If they don’t work overtime, they won’t earn the bonus.

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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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