“Être dans la lune” and 9 Other Fun French Idioms

Blog
April 21, 2022
By Sarah Angela Almaden
Mathieu Chassara

Unsplash: Mathieu Chassara

French is one of the United Nations' six official languages, and it has a rich cultural heritage. Like other languages, French is full of fun idiomatic expressions, aka expressions françaises. These expressions are quirky, amusing, and just plain bizarre but they are often used in daily life.

As a French learner, it is important to learn these unique expressions so that you can gain a deeper understanding of French culture. At the same time, learning what they mean and knowing how to use them can make you sound more natural and authentic, as if you’ve been living in France your whole life.

So if you’re trying to figure out how to zhuzh up your French dialogues, here’s a selection of wonderful French idiomatic expressions to help you get started!

1. Mettre les points sur les i

Literal translation – to put the dot(s) on the i

Actual meaning – when someone is clarifying something by giving more details; to be accurate so that no one is confused

English equivalent – to make things clear

French sentence – J’ai essayé de mettre les points sur les i avec Amélie, mais elle est toujours confuse.

English translation – I tried making things clear with Amélie but she is still confused.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Maudit


2. Avoir le rire jaune

Literal translation – having the yellow laugh

Actual meaning – to laugh forcefully even when disappointed or angry

English equivalent – to fake laugh

French sentence – Shrek a ri jaune quand il a entendu la mauvaise blague.

English translation – Shrek fake laughed when he heard the bad joke.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy


3. Ne pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué

Literal translation – don’t sell the bear’s skin before killing it

Actual meaning – to not get ahead of yourself

English equivalent – don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched

French sentence – Tandis que vous n’avez pas gagné le prix, il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.

English translation – As long as you haven't won the prize, don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy


4. Il fait un froid de canard

Literal translation – it’s cold as a duck

Actual meaning – extremely cold weather

English equivalent – it’s freezing cold

French sentence – Portez deux manteaux car il fait un froid de canard dehors.

English translation – Wear two coats because it’s freezing cold outside.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy


5. Avoir la moutarde qui monte au nez

Literal translation – to have mustard climbing up the nose

Actual meaning – to get angry

English equivalent – to get flared up

French sentence – Ne me parles pas, j'ai la moutarde qui monte au nez.

English translation – Don't talk to me, I am getting flared up.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Searchlight Pictures


6. Avoir les chevilles qui enflent

Literal translation – to have ankles that swell

Actual meaning – to be self-centered or conceited

English equivalent – to be full of oneself

French sentence – Camille a les chevilles qui enflent si elle pense qu'elle va gagner le concours.

English translation – Camille is very full of herself if she thinks she’s going to win the contest.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Bounce


7. Avoir un chat dans la gorge

Literal translation – to have a cat in the throat

Actual meaning – to have difficulty of speaking

English equivalent – to have a frog in the throat

French sentence – Il a un chat dans la gorge donc il ne peut pas parler.

English translation – He has a frog in my throat so he can’t speak.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Stromae


8. Être dans la lune

Literal translation – to be in the moon

Actual meaning – to describe someone who is absent-minded; to be simply distracted

English equivalent – to have your head in the clouds

French sentence – Elle dort ou elle est dans la lune?

English translation – Is she sleeping or is her head in the clouds?

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Searchlight Pictures


9. Se vendre comme des petits pains

Literal translation – selling like small breads

Actual meaning – to sell quickly and effortlessly

English equivalent – to sell like hotcakes

French sentence – Les sacs se vendent comme des petits pains.

English translation – The bags are selling like hotcakes.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy


10. Ce n'est pas tes oignons

Literal translation – it’s not your onions

Actual meaning – none of your business

English equivalent – to mind your own business

French sentence – Arrête de poser des questions, ce n'est pas tes oignons.

English translation – Stop asking questions, it’s none of your business.

Cartoon characters welcoming the new year by playing music

Giphy / Netflix España


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