It’s one thing learning French in a textbook and another learning from a native speaker, on a casual night out. It’s only after months of studying that you realize your French looks nothing like the real thing.
The truth is, French people often tend to shorten the words, use slang and expressions you’ve never heard before. That’s why today, we’ll show you bizarre expressions French use almost every day.
You’ll have plenty of chances to use these phrases in real life, whether you’re trying to impress the locals or simply want to spice up your conversation.
Bizzare Things French People Say
1. Faire la grasse matinée
- Literal meaning: To have a fat morning
- Actual meaning: To sleep in
2. Passer une nuit blanche
- Literal meaning: To have a white night
- Actual meaning: To stay awake all night on purpose
3. C’est simple comme bonjour!
- Literal meaning: It’s simple as saying hello!
- Actual meaning: A piece of cake.
4. Être dans la galère
- Literally: To be in the gallery
- Actual meaning: To get yourself into a mess
5. Vouloir, c’est pouvoir.
- Literal translation: To want to is to have the ability to.
- Actual meaning: “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Use it to encourage someone who is doubting himself.
6. Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard.
- Literal translation: Nothing should be left to chance.
- Actual meaning: Plan ahead.
7. Mieux vaut tard que jamais.
- Literal translation: Late is worth more than never.
- Actual meaning: “Better late than never.” An English equivalent of this French expression is also very common. It means that it is better to do something late than to neglect it altogether.
8. Les murs ont des oreilles.
- Literal translation: The walls have ears.
- Actual meaning: Pay attention to your words cause someone can hear you.
9. Tout est bien qui finit bien.
- Literal translation: All’s well that ends well.
- Actual meaning: Suitable to say to somebody after a period in which one experiences hardship and struggle.
10. S’occuper de ses oignons.
- Literal translation: To take care of your own onions.
- Actual meaning: A humorous way to say “mind your own business”.
11. Raconter des salades.
- Literal translation: To tell salads.
- Actual meaning: “To tell lies”.
12. À bon chat, bon rat.
- Literal translation: To a good cat, a good rat.
- Actual meaning: Equally matched.
13. Poser un lapin.
- Literal translation: To place a rabbit.
- Actual meaning: To stand someone up. You can say il m’a posé un lapin (“he stood me up”) if the person you were supposed to meet doesn’t show up.
14. L’Appel du vide
- Literally: Call of the void
- Actual meaning: Impulse to act in a reckless or wild manner
15. Passer un mauvais quart d’heure
- Literal meaning: To spend a bad quarter of an hour.
- What it means: One’s life during a short period of difficulty
16. Après la pluie, le beau temps.
- Literal translation: After the rain, good weather.
- Actual meaning: This is a way of encouraging someone to “hang in there”. Even if things are bad now, everything will eventually get better.
17. Courir sur le haricot.
- Literal translation: To run on the bean.
- Actual meaning: To get on someone’s nerves. Another saying you gotta love that is connected to the story “Jack and the Beanstalk”.
18. Avoir un chat dans la gorge
- Literal translation: To have a frog in one’s throat.
- Actual meaning: To have a cat in the throat / When talking about an obstructed throat, English and French terms are completely different: the French phrase is avoir un chat dans la gorge, while English means to have a frog in one’s throat.
19. Dormir à la belle étoile
- Literal meaning: To sleep in the pretty star.
- What it really means: To sleep outside
20. Pisser dans un violon
- Literally: To piss in a violin
- Meaning: Spending your time in vain
Learn French Expressions to Impress
If you’d like to learn more about French idioms and expressions, follow French teacher Tanya, that will teach you 18 additional common french idioms, expressions, and saying.
It’s time to impress native French speakers!