tenir la dragée haute à quelqu’un

The French expression “tenir la dragée haute à quelqu’un” translates literally to “to hold the sugared almond high to somebody”. This is an expression which has a meaning that’s impossible to guess in English. Its meanings seem to vary:

  • to hold out on somebody
  • to stand up for somebody

Expressio.fr offers the following two meanings in French: 1) To make somebody else feel the power that you have; and 2) To make somebody wait for a long time and only give them a small amount of what they expected. Wordreference.com offers two more meanings: 1) To make somebody work for something; and 2) To keep raising the bar for somebody.

Here’s an example sentence:

  • Tous les membres de notre équipe sont étonnés: le nouvel employé tient la dragee haute au grand chef! Everybody on our team is surprised. The new employee is standing up to the big boss!

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