When English Explains the 101 French “Funny” Idioms

For those who wanted to learn a foreign language or are studying French, you surely can’t wait for that time to get to speak like a local. Mastering the language is part of the learning process – of course. And learning the French idioms is another essential factor.

Learning the French Idioms

Idioms have been part of the French language culture, and it will help you a lot in understanding them even more. It is also to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding just in case a friend of yours who speaks French crack some funny idioms on you. It’s better to keep a fun and chill exchange of conversation, right?

Understanding them Better

Say, a French-speaking friend told you to “aller te faire cuire un œuf!” In English, this is telling you to “go and cook yourself an egg.” Literally, this means a bit differently to a French person, which you must know too. You see, every foreign language has its respective funny and hilarious phrases or expressions. These sayings actually mean something else from their real Meaning. Idioms have a lot to say about culture and its people. Some French idioms can be understood easily because of its straight-to-the-point Meaning. At the same time, others can put you in an awkward or shameful situation because their intention is entirely far from its context.

Because the French language is not all about romantic and complex nature, knowing the most common French idioms can make you adapt to the culture and communicate with the locals better. There is a corresponding English explanation and/or translation to every stated French expression. So, if you wanted to add this to your French “DIY” dictionary, it’s for your disposal. Although it is highly and extremely recommended that you secure a French-English dictionary handy or a translation app on your mobile device. Being prepared can save you from unexpected situations, especially if you are outside with the locals.


aller se faire cuire un œuf (to go jump in the lake)
English Meaning: to go and cook yourself an egg

appeler un chat un chat (to call a spade a spade)
English Meaning: to get a cat a cat

apporter de l’eau au moulin de quelqu’un (to add grist to somebody’s mill)
English Meaning: to bring water to somebody’s mill

apprendre à un vieux singe à faire des grimaces (to teach an old dog new tricks (US), to teach granny to suck eggs (UK))
English Meaning: to teach an old monkey to make funny faces

arriver comme un cheveu sur la soupe (to arrive at the worst possible moment)
English Meaning: to come like a hair on the soup

avoid d’autres chats à fouetter (to have bigger fish to fry)
English Meaning: to have further cats to whip

avoir le cafard (to be in the doldrums)
English Meaning: to have the cockroach

avoir des casseroles au cul (to be plagued by scandals)
English Meaning: to have pans attached to one’s ass (this idiom is usually used to describe a dishonest politician in France)

avoir la chair de poule (to have goosebumps)
English Meaning: to have chicken flesh

avoir un chat dans la gorge (to have a frog in your throat)
English Meaning: to have a cat in your throat

avoir le cœur sur la main (to be big-hearted)
English Meaning: to have the heart on the hand

avoir un coup de foudre (to feel love at first sight)
English Meaning: to be hit by lightning

avoir Deux mains gauche (to be all thumbs)
English Meaning: to have two left hands

avoir la gueule de bois (to have a hangover)
English Meaning: to have a wooden mug

avoir la moutarde qui monte au nez (to lose your temper (US), to lose your rag (UK))
English Meaning: to have the mustard climbing up to the nose (imagine a robust stinging feeling in your nose, this English idiom explanation relates that feeling to getting furious following that feeling)

avoir du pain sur la planche (to have a lot on your plate)
English Meaning: to have bread on the board

avoir la pêche / la patate / la frite  (to feel great (US), to be full of beans (UK))
English Meaning: to have the peach/potato / french fry (it is recommended that if you’re extra energized, you can use this idiom and say J’ai la pêche!

avoir un poil dans la main (to be bone-lazy)
English Meaning: to have a hair in the hand

avoir la tête dans le pâté/le cul (to feel groggy)
English Meaning: to have one’s head/arse in the pâté

avoir les yeux plus gros que le ventre (to bite off more than you can chew)
English Meaning: to have eyes bigger than your stomach

battre le fer tant qu’il est chaud (to strike while the iron is hot)
English Meaning: to strike the iron while it is hot

boire comme un trou (to drink like a fish)
English Meaning: to drink like a hole

casser les pieds à quelqu’un (to drive somebody nuts)
English Meaning: to break somebody’s feet

casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un (to badmouth somebody behind their back)
English Meaning: to break sugar on somebody’s back

changer de crèmerie (to take one’s custom elsewhere)
English Meaning: to go to another dairy shop

chat échaudé craint l’eau froide (once bitten, twice shy)
English Meaning: a burned cat is afraid of cold water

chercher midi à quartorze heures (to make things over-complicated)
English Meaning: to look for midday at fourteen hours (like around 2 p.m.)

chercher la petite bête (to split hairs)
English Meaning: to look for the bug

courir sur le haricot de quelqu’un (to get on somebody’s nerves)
English Meaning: to run on somebody’s bean

coûter les yeux de la tête (to cost an arm and a leg)
English Meaning: to cost the eyes of your head

les doigts dans le nez (to accomplish something easily)
English Meaning: fingers in the nose (literally, in English, you cannot achieve anything with a finger in your nose. Whereas in French, it means that you have nailed an exam flawlessly)

donner de la confiture aux cochons (to cast pearls before swine)
English Meaning: to give marmalade to the pigs

donner sa langue au chat (to give up on guessing)
English Meaning: to give one’s tongue to the cat (it relates to playing a trivia game)


It’s a wrap! However, there are still loads of French idioms that you have yet to discover or use. If you are used to applying English idioms in your daily conversation like it is part of your everyday conversation with whoever, the French phrases work the same way. Nonetheless, these expressions are funny because they can have a different meaning from how they should decipher. Yet again, they are crucial for you to know because as you keep learning the French language, idioms are something that must not be left behind.

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