French Language Blog

Parlez-vous Français?: A Study of French Expressions (Part 5) Posted by on Sep 29, 2014 in Grammar, Vocabulary

Bored with your everyday use of the French language? Are you looking to add un peu de variété (a little variety) to your daily discourse?

Language is often limited by the extent of our vocabulaire (vocabulary), our grasp of proper grammaire (grammar) and, to a lesser extent, our knowledge and application of colloquialisms. People’s ears always perk up when an expression befitting the topic of conversation is carefully inserted. If you’re a native English-speaker learning French, judicious use of expressions can make quite an impact on a native French listener.

You may have a terribly thick accent or your grammar may be a little weak, but driving home a point with a serious or humorous saying can place you in the category of étrangers (foreigners) who have cultivated a deeper appreciation of French by studying its aphorisms.

Check out Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 for a bevy of witty little French idioms you might have missed.

**Phrase in parentheses is the literal translation, or as close to it as possible.**

Travailler pour le roi de Prusse (Working for the king of Prussia) – Working for nothing/Not receiving proper compensation for one’s work.

En voiture, Simone! (In the car, Simone!) – Let’s go/Let’s get started!

Tirer le diable par le queue (Pulling the devil by the tail) – Scraping by/having difficulty providing for oneself.

Mordre la poussière (Biting the dust) – Suffering defeat/being beaten (this is a common expression in the English language as well).

Mettre sa main au feu (Placing one’s hand in the fire) – Being certain of something beyond any doubt.

Avoir le bourdon (To have the bumblebee) – To feel sad.

Voir Naples et mourir (To see Naples and die) – This refers to having accomplished something so great that life becomes meaningless afterward.

Avoir des yeux de lynx (To have the eyes of a lynx) – To have very good vision or to be gifted with great insight into certain matters (in English, this expression might be translated “eagle eye”).

Un foudre de guerre (A lightning of war) – A capable/competent person or a high performance machine.

Mon petit doigt m’a dit (My little finger told me) – I learned something from someone who will remain nameless.

Un œil au beurre noir (A black butter eye) – A black eye.

Fumer comme un pompier (To smoke like a fireman) – To smoke excessively.

L’huile de coude (Elbow oil) – This expression is similar to the English one “elbow grease” referring to hard physical work.

Un soleil de plomb (A lead sun) – A very hot/draining sun.

Il y a de l’eau dans le gaz (There is water in the gas) – Trouble is brewing.

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