Lost in translation? “Don’t have a cockroach”. Here are 25 hilarious French expressions translated literally with their English counterparts.
French is such a beautiful language, but I think we often overlook the French sense of humour which is omnipresent in their colourful expressions. Picking up common French expressions are a great way to learn more about the personality of French people and their culture. I’ve come across a lot of vulgar and offensive expressions, but I’ve tried to keep this article clean.
A New Fun Way to Learn French
I’m always on the hunt for new enjoyable ways to learn a language. A few months back I stumbled across the Rocket Languages online course. If you’re interested in learning French then I recommend that you consider trying them out. They offer a pretty cool service with some really useful features to give you a well-rounded learning experience.
A couple of things I found especially useful is the ability to listen to audio clips to hear the correct pronunciation. Rocket Languages also let you record your voice and based on that, it will highlight where your pronunciation needs improvement. I don’t know how it works but it’s awesome! I tend to do a lot of language studying while I commute to work each day so using their mobile app is especially handy. Enough about that, Commençons!
Enough about that, Commençons!
Let’s take a look at some funny French idioms.
1. He’s running on my bean
Translation: Il me court sur le haricot
Meaning: He’s annoying me
English Equivalent: He’s getting on my nerves
2. To pedal in semolina
Translation: Pédaler dans la semoule
Meaning: Have trouble doing something
English Equivalent: To go around in circles
3. The habit doesn’t make the monk
Translation: L’habit ne fait pas le moine
Meaning: Appearances can be deceiving
English Equivalent: The suit doesn’t make the man
4. To have the ass surrounded by noodles
Translation: Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles
Meaning: To be very lucky
English Equivalent: To be a lucky so-and-so
5. To have the cockroach
Translation: Avoir le cafard
Meaning: To feel down
English Equivalent: To feel blue
6. To be in beautiful sheets
Translation: Être dans de beaux draps
Meaning: To be in a bad situation
English Equivalent: Be in a right mess, be up the creek without a paddle
7. To make cheese out of it
Translation: En faire tout un fromage
Meaning: To make a big deal out of something
English Equivalent: Kick up a huge fuss
8. It doesn’t break three legs of a duck
Translation: Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard
Meaning: It’s not that incredible
English Equivalent: Nothing to write home about
9. Pissing in a violin
Translation: Pisser dans un violon
Meaning: To waste time on something futile
English Equivalent: Waste your breath, talk to a wall
10. Mind your onions
Translation: Mêle-toi de tes oignons!
Meaning: Not to interfere or ask anything personal
English Equivalent: Mind your own business
11. It’s raining ropes
Translation: Il pleut des cordes
Meaning: It’s raining a lot
English Equivalent: It’s raining cats and dogs
12. Let’s come back to our sheep
Translation: Revenons à nos moutons
Meaning: To go back to the original topic of conversation
English Equivalent: Let’s get back to business, get back on track
13. To have one’s ass between two chairs
Translation: Avoir le cul entre deux chaises
Meaning: To be undecided
English Equivalent: Sitting on the fence
14. Fingers in the nose
Translation: Les doigts dans le nez
Meaning: Easy to do
English Equivalent: With one hand tied behind your back, a piece of cake
15. To put a rabbit
Translation: Poser un lapin
Meaning: Not to show up to your date
English Equivalent: Stand somebody up
16. It gives me a beautiful leg
Translation: Ça me fait une belle jambe
Meaning: Not to care, couldn’t care less
English Equivalent: A fat lot of good that will do me
17. To be round as a shovel handle
Translation: être rond comme une queue de pelle
Meaning: That someone is very very drunk
English Equivalent: Drunk as a skunk
18. Sing like a saucepan
Translation: Chanter comme une casserole
Meaning: For someone who really can’t sing
English Equivalent: Sing flat
19. Eat the dandelions by the root
Translation: Manger les pissenlits par la racine
Meaning: To be dead
English Equivalent: Push up daisies
20. Drown the fish
Translation: Noyer le poisson
Meaning: Avoid a subject by talking about everything and anything else.
English Equivalent: Confuse the issue
21. Don’t push Granny into the nettles!
Translation: Faut pas pousser mamie dans les orties
Meaning: Don’t go too far don’t exaggerate
English Equivalent: Don’t push it!
22. To get or receive a rake
Translation: Se prendre un râteau
Meaning: To fail in an attempt
English Equivalent: Get knocked back, be shot down in flames
23. To swallow snakes
Translation: Avaler des couleuvres
Meaning: To be gullible
English Equivalent: A dumb bunny
24. Make a fish tail
Translation: Faire une queue de poisson
Meaning: Over take someone closely
English Equivalent: Cut someone off
25. It’s the end of the beans
Translation: C’est la fin des haricots
Meaning: Nothing more can be done
English Equivalent: Game over!
Ready to improve your French? Visit my handy language resource guide.
Plus, if you want to know how the experts learn languages, I asked 11 top polyglots to share their language learning secrets. Find out how they start learning a new language, overcome plateaus, and maintain multiple languages.
Over to you!
Which of these French expressions is your favourite? Do you know any other funny French expressions?
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