Hey there, language enthusiasts! Welcome to our vibrant corner of French idioms! Get ready to embark on a thrilling journey into the heart of French culture and language. In this blog post, we are diving headfirst into 25 delightful French idioms that will impress your friends and bring you closer to mastering the beautiful French language.

So, buckle up, and let’s explore the colourful world of French expressions together!  

1. Avoir le cafard

Literal Translation: To have a cockroach

Meaning: To have the blues or feel down.

Explanation: Originating from the sluggish movement of a cockroach, this expression describes a state of melancholy or sadness.

Usage/Example: “Je m’en vais, j’ai le cafard.” (I’m leaving, I got the blues.)

2. Les carottes sont cuites

Literal Translation: The carrots are cooked.

Meaning: It’s all over; there’s no turning back.

Explanation: This idiom suggests that a situation has reached its inevitable conclusion, similar to saying, “the die is cast” or “it’s a done deal.”

Usage/Example: “Nous avons essayé de négocier, mais les carottes sont cuites.” (We tried to negotiate, but it’s all over.) 

3. J’ai la pêche

Literal Translation: I have the peach.

Meaning: To be in high spirits, to feel energetic.

Explanation: This idiom expresses feeling lively or full of energy.

Usage/Example: “Malgré la longue journée, j’ai la pêche!” (Despite the long day, I feel energetic!) 

4. C’est la vie

Literal Translation: That’s life.

Meaning: That’s life.

Explanation: Used to express acceptance of life’s ups and downs, this idiom reflects a resigned or philosophical attitude towards events.

Usage/Example: “J’ai perdu mon emploi, mais c’est la Vie.” ( I lost my job, but that’s life.) 

5. Appeler un chat un chat

Literal Translation: To call a cat a cat.

Meaning: To call a spade a spade.

Explanation: This idiom encourages speaking plainly or calling things by their true names without sugarcoating or euphemisms.

Usage/Example: “Arrête de tourner autour du pot et appelle un chat un chat!” (Stop beating around the bush and call a spade a spade!) 

6. S’occuper de ses oignons

Literal Translation: To take care of one’s onions.

Meaning: To mind one’s own business.

Explanation: This idiom advises focusing on one’s affairs rather than meddling in others’.

Usage/Example: “Ne te même pas de ça, occupe-toi de tes oignons!” (Don’t meddle in that, mind your own business!) 

7. Après la pluie vient le beau temps

Literal Translation: After rain comes fair weather.

Meaning: Every cloud has a silver lining.

Explanation: This idiom conveys that better times will follow difficult ones.

Usage/Example: “Ça ira mieux bientôt, après la pluie vient le beau temps,” (It will get better soon, every cloud has a silver lining.) 

8. Peter plus haut que son cul

Literal Translation: To fart higher than one’s backside.

Meaning: To think too highly of oneself, to have a big head.

Explanation: This idiom humorously describes someone arrogant or conceited.

Usage/Example: “Il se prend pour le roi, il pète plus haut que son cul.” (He thinks he is the king, he’s got a big head.) 

9. En faire tout un fromage

Literal Translation: To make a whole cheese out of it.

Meaning: To make a big deal out of something.

Explanation: This idiom describes exaggerating or overreacting to a situation.

Usage/Example: “Ce n’est qu’une petite erreur, il ne faut pas en faire tout un fromage.” (It’s just a small mistake, there’s no need to make a big deal out of it.) 

10. L’habit ne fait pas le moine

Literal Translation: The habit does not make the monk.

Meaning: Clothes don’t make the man.

Explanation: This idiom suggests that appearances can be deceiving and emphasizes the importance of looking beyond outward appearances.

Usage/Example: “Il semble respectable, mais souviens-toi, l’habit ne fait pas le moine.” (He looks respectable, but remember, clothes don’t make the man.) 

11. Vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué

Literal Translation: To sell the bear’s skin before killing it. 

Meaning: Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

Explanation: This idiom advises against making assumptions or plans based on uncertain outcomes.

Usage/Example: “Il parle déjà de vacances, mais il ne devrait pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.” (He’s already talking about holiday, but he shouldn’t count his chickens before they hatch.) 

12. Avoir d’autres chats à fouetter

Literal Translation: To have other cats to whip.

Meaning: To have other fish to fry.

Explanation: This idiom suggests being too busy or preoccupied with other matters to deal with the current issue.

Usage/Example: “ Je n’ai pas le temps pour ça, j’ai d’autres chats à fouetter.” ( I don’t have time for that, I have other fish to fry.) 

13. Couper les cheveux en quatre

Literal Translation: To cut hairs into four.

Meaning: To split hairs.

Explanation: This idiom describes focusing on trivial or insignificant details.

Usage/Example: “Arrête de couper les cheveux en quatre et prends une décision!” (Stop splitting hairs and make a decision!) 

14. Avoir un poil dans la main

Literal Translation: To have a hair in the hand.

Meaning: To be lazy.

Explanation: Literally meaning “to have a hair in one’s hand,” this idiom describes someone who avoids work or physical effort.

Usage/Example: “Il ne fait jamais rien, il a un poil dans la main.” (He never does anything; he’s lazy.) 

15. Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue

Literal Translation: When we talk about the wolf, we see its tail.

Meaning: Speak of the devil.

Explanation: This idiom suggests that mentioning someone may cause them to appear unexpectedly.

Usage/Example: “Tiens, parlons du loup! Voilà Pierre.” ( Speak of the devil! Here comes Pierre.) 

16. Faire la grasse matinée

Literal Translation: To do the fat morning.

Meaning: To sleep in.

Explanation: This idiom refers to sleeping late into the morning and enjoying a long and luxurious rest. 

Usage/Example: “Demain, je vais faire la Grasse matinée.” ( Tomorrow, I’m going to sleep in.) 

17. Un coup de foudre

Literal Translation: A strike of lightning.

Meaning: Love at first sight.

Explanation: This idiom describes experiencing instant and intense romantic attraction towards someone upon first meeting them.

Usage/Example: “Pour moi, ce fut un vrai coup de foudre quand je l’ai vue pour la première fois.” (For me, it was a true love at first sight when I saw her for the first time.) 

18. Être dans la lune

Literal Translation: To be in the moon.

Meaning: To be daydreaming or absent-minded.

Explanation: This idiom suggests someone is lost in their thoughts or not paying attention to their surroundings.

Usage/Example: “Excuse-moi, je suis dans la lune en ce moment.” (Sorry, I’m daydreaming right now.) 

19. Ça coûte un bras

Literal Translation: It costs an arm.

Meaning: It’s very expensive.

Explanation: This idiom is used to emphasize that something is costly.

Usage/Example: “Ce sac à main coûte un bras, je ne peux pas me le permettre.” (This handbag costs an arm, I can’t afford it.) 

20. Cracher dans la soupe

Literal Translation: To spit in the soup.

Meaning: To bite the hand that feeds you.

Explanation: This idiom describes showing ingratitude or disrespect towards someone who has helped or supported you.

Usage/Example: “Tu ne devrais pas cracher dans la soupe après tout ce qu’il a fait pour toi.” (You shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you after all he’s done for you.) 

21. Quand les poules auront des dents

Literal Translation: When hens have teeth.

Meaning: When pigs fly.

Explanation: This idiom is used to express scepticism or doubt about the possibility of something ever happening.

Usage/Example: “Il arrêtera de se plaindre quand les poules auront des dents.” (He’ll stop complaining when pigs fly.) 

22. Prendre le melon

Literal Translation: To take the melon.

Meaning: To become conceited or full of oneself.

Explanation: This idiom describes someone who becomes arrogant or egotistical, often due to success or praise.

Usage/Example: “Depuis qu’il a gagné ce concours, il a pris le melon.” (Since he won that contest, he’s gotten a big head.) 

23. Ne pas avoir un radis

Literal Translation: To not have a radish.

Meaning: To be broke or penniless.

Explanation: This idiom describes being without money or financial resources.

Usage/Example: “Je ne peux pas sortir ce soir, je n’ai un radis.” (I cannot go out tonight, I don’t have a cent.) 

24. Avoir un pois chiche dans la tête

Literal Translation: To have a chickpea in the head.

Meaning: To be scatterbrained or eccentric.

Explanation: This idiom refers to someone who behaves strangely or illogically.

Usage/Example: “Il a un pois chiche dans la tête, il dit toujours des choses bizarres.” (He’s got a screw loose, he always says strange things.) 

25. Ne pas mettre tous ses œufs dans le même panier

Literal Translation: Not to put all your eggs in the same basket.

Meaning: Not to put all your eggs in one basket.

Explanation: This idiom advises against relying on a single option or plan, suggesting that diversification is safer.

Usage/Example: “Il est risqué de ne mettre tous ses œufs dans le même panier en matière d’investissement.” (It’s risky to put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to investment.) 


Mastering French idioms enhances language skills and deepens cultural understanding and connection with native speakers. Idioms are invaluable tools for expressing yourself authentically and building meaningful conversations. Keep practising and incorporating these expressions into your daily French interactions to immerse yourself in the language. For more resources and support in your French learning journey, explore La Foret French Class, where you can find additional materials and join French-speaking classes. Start impressing everyone with your newfound linguistic flair today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use French idioms in formal settings, such as business meetings or academic presentations?  

Yes, you can use French idioms in formal settings, but it’s essential to use them judiciously and ensure that your audience understands them. Consider the context and your audience’s familiarity with French idioms in business meetings or academic presentations. Use them sparingly to add flair to your speech, but avoid overusing or using obscure idioms that may confuse your listeners.

Absolutely! There are several online resources and books dedicated to teaching French idioms. Some recommended resources include websites like Journey to France, Story Learning, Rosetta Stone’s blog, Preply, FluentU, and All About French. Additionally, many books are available, such as “French Idioms” by J.D. Thomas and “101 French Idioms” by Jean-Marie Cassagne. These resources provide comprehensive lists of idioms, explanations, and examples to help you master French expressions effectively.

How do I incorporate French idioms into my speech naturally?

To incorporate French idioms into your speech naturally, it’s essential to practice using them in context and familiarize yourself with their meanings and usage. Start by learning common idioms and how native speakers use them in conversations. Practice gradually incorporating them into your speech, using them when appropriate, and adjusting your tone and delivery to suit the situation. Additionally, joining a French-speaking class like La Foret can provide valuable opportunities to practice speaking and receive feedback from experienced instructors. La Foret offers immersive French learning experiences, helping you become more comfortable and confident in using idiomatic expressions in your speech. Visit La Foret French Class to explore their courses and take your French language skills to the next level.