Twelve Common French Idioms



As in any language, there are expressions in French which do not necessarily make sense when translated literally. Yet, they are embedded in the culture because they seem to express certain situations or feelings so appropriately. Here are some of the common ones which you are likely to come across – or can use if the opportunity presents itself!

– Faire un tabac/carton – to have a huge success (lit. to make a tobacco/cardboard)

– Ça me dit quelque chose – that rings a bell (lit. that tells me something)

– Être mort de rire – laughing out loud (lit. to be dead of laughter)

– Pour qui il/elle se prend ? – who does he/she thinks she is? (lit. for whom does he/she takes him/herself?)

– Avoir le cafard – to have the blues (lit. to have the cockroach)

– Faire la grasse matinée – to have a lie-in/lazy morning (lit. to make a fat morning)

– (La) bête noire – nemesis/pet peeve (lit. (the) black beast)

– Ce ne sont pas tes/vos oignonsit is none of your business (lit. those are not your onions)

– Ça me prend la tête – that drives me crazy (lit. that takes my head)

– En un clin d’œil – in a flash (lit. in a wink of an eye)

– C’est simple comme bonjour – to be as easy as pie (lit. it’s as simple as hello)

– Tomber dans les pommes – to faint (lit. to fall in the apples)