9 Funny French Idioms We Love to Use

Like every language, French has what we call idioms.

Today I’ll introduce to you 9 common French idioms, what the literal translation is, and what it really means.

An idiom is a phrase or an expression that has a figurative, or sometimes literal, meaning. Very common in the everyday language, French people use them frequently without even thinking about it.


image French idioms - avoir un chat dans la gorgeAvoir un chat dans la gorge.

Having a cat in the throat… Well, this one is quite easy to understand as English speakers do not have a cat but a frog, in the expression  ‘to have a frog in one’s throat’. So yes, when you have a cold, you cannot talk clearly, and your voice is a bit hoarse, French people will tell you that they have a cat in their throat instead.
In your opinion what’s the worst? The cat or the frog?


image French idioms - tomber dans les pommesTomber dans les pommes.

If you fall in the apples, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you actually fell into a pile of fruit. To fall in the apples is actually the French way to say that you are fainting. No one really knows where it comes from but one thing is clear, the person who used it first had a real problem with fruit.



image French idioms - se prendre un rateauSe prendre un rateau.

To get hurt by a rake. It surprisingly doesn’t mean that you are a bad gardener. No, it actually means that you get turned down, or blown off. Some say it comes from the verb “rater” which means to miss, others say that it comes from a famous situation of the gardener walking on his rake, feeling ridiculous and in pain. Anyway, it is not something we like to experience.



image French idioms - avoir la patateAvoir la patate.

To have the potato. If you have the potato in French, it doesn’t mean that you are just back from the grocers! It just means that you are all fired up & excited. Please note that if you like french fries, it also works with “avoir la frite”.



image French idioms - en faire tout un fromageEn faire tout un fromage.

Yes, sometimes we make a whole cheese about something. But why? Because making it is a complex process so making a whole cheese about something is making it much more complex than it should. An idiom about cheese? Isn’t that very French?



image French idioms - avoir la tête dans le culAvoir la tête dans le cul.

Let’s get a little more vulgar for this one… To have the head in the ass, is something common for French people. And like you might expect, the real meaning has nothing to do with this weird situation. This idiom simply means that you’re tired and have trouble feeling awake.



image French idioms - avoir un poil dans la mainAvoir un poil dans la main.

To have a hair in the hand doesn’t mean that you have a strange hair system. We don’t really know where it comes from, but if you have a hair in your hand, you are lazy. And if you are very lazy, you could even have the tail of a cow in your hand (avoir une queue de vache dans la main). Charming.



image French idioms - faire l'andouilleFaire l’andouille.

First, we need to clarify something. What is an andouille? It is a traditional sausage made of pork tripes. Did you skip to the next idioms yet? No? so let’s continue. So, to act like / to make the pork intestine sausage means being silly. Elementary my dear Watson.



image French idioms - Avoir les chevilles qui enflentAvoir les chevilles qui enflent.

To have the ankles swelling. Nothing to do with sport or injuries. No, it actually means to be pretentious. We don’t really know where it comes from, but I think the person who comes up with this idioms had a very clear idea! But what?



That was just 9 useful and common French idioms. There are many others, but we’ll talk about it later. In the meantime, maybe you know some that you would like to share with us?

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