French Language Blog

Early Mornings And Tired Eyes – Sleepy French Expression Posted by on Jun 20, 2018 in Vocabulary

The last couple of weeks have been exhausting for me. The long days stretching into even longer nights have left me looking pretty groggy when I arrive au bureau (at the office) in the morning.

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

After a stressful week of work, travel, and being on the verge of catching a cold, the bags under my eyes and tired gaze led to mon collègue (my coworker) saying something I didn’t understand:

Ça va John ? Tu as de petits yeux.
You doing okay John? You have small eyes.

I had never heard l’expression, avoir de petits yeux, but in the context of an early Monday morning and me struggling to keep my eyes open, it could only mean one thing:

Tu as l’air fatigué.
You look tired.

Puisque (since) I was too fatigué to ask about the curious expression, I gave a typical response to get on with my day and to try to avoid making any mistakes:

Oui, je suis fatigué, mais ça va.
Yeah, I’m tired, but I’m fine.

Mon collègue was satisfied with ma réponse (my response) and I took that to mean I was correct in thinking avoir de petits yeux means avoir l’air fatigué.

Le lendemain (the next day), after catching up on some much needed sleep I came into the office and for the first time in a few days I wasn’t fighting to keep my eyes open. Mon collègue was quick to comment:

Tu as l’air moins fatigué aujourd’hui ! Tu as dû bien dormi !
You look less tired today! You must have slept well!

Sa réponse solidly reinforced my guess of what la signification (the meaning) of l’expression was and gave me a fun story to think back on whenever I need to remember it.

Avoir de petits yeux.
To look tired (literally, to have small eyes).

Maintenant (now), I just need to make sure I have the time for a few more fat mornings if I want to avoid having de petits yeux!

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.