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12 funny French idioms that will make you smile

funny French idioms

The real fun in speaking a foreign language is your ability to understand the French culture, and to discover how the people live and talk.

Here are the most funny French idioms you can use in your day-to-day conversations in France.

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1. Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard

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'It doesn’t break three legs to a duck'

Let say you finally go to that restaurant everyone is talking about. Unfortunately, the meal ends up being just average.

To play down your disappointment, use this funny French idiom: ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard (it doesn’t break three legs to a duck).

The English equivalent would be 'It has nothing to write home about'.


2. C'est comme pisser dans un violon

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'It’s like peeing into a violin'

In French, to say that something is useless, you can say: c’est comme pisser dans un violon (it’s like peeing into a violin).

When you deal with stubborn people for example, you may use this French idiom, meaning that these people won’t listen to you anyway.


3. Avoir le cul entre deux chaises

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'To have one’s ass between two chairs'

This French idiom literally means 'to have one’s ass between two chairs'.

When someone has to make an important decision, and can’t choose between two opposite directions, you can say: il a le cul entre deux chaises (he's faced with a difficult decision).


4. Occupe-toi de tes oignons

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'Deal with your onions!'

We all know intrusive people. Or people who have an opinion about everything we do…

In French, you could say: Occupe-toi de tes oignons! (deal with your onions!).

The English equivalent would be: 'Mind your own business!'


5. Noyer le poisson

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'To drown the fish'

Another funny French idiom is noyer le poisson (to drown the fish).

Here's an example... Let’s assume you ask for a pay rise. Your boss starts talking about the canteen, asks about your next holiday…

Clearly, he doesn’t want to talk about your salary. In English, you would say that he's trying to 'muddy the waters'.

In French, you would say: il noie le poisson.


6. Être con comme un balai

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'Dumb as a broom'

I would not recommend that you use this idiom, but it is important to understand what it means!

Literally, the French expression il est con comme un balai means: 'he’s dumb as a broom', a figurative way to say 'he’s idiotic'.


7. Un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelaine

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'An elephant in a china shop'

Let’s suppose you’ve just failed your driving test.

In such situations, you will always find someone to tell you how easy it is to pass the driving test nowadays!

Well… In French, when talking about such a tactless person, you can say: c’est un éléphant dans un magasin de porcelaine (he/she is an elephant in a china shop).

The porcelain, here, being your feelings…


8. Chanter comme une casserole

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'To sing like a pan'

If someone tells you: tu chantes comme une casserole (you sing like a pan), it may not be the right time to drop university and go on tour…

In French, this idiom means 'to sing out of tune'.


9. Cracher dans la soupe

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'To spit in the soup'

To express that someone is ungrateful, there is a funny French idiom: cracher dans la soupe (to spit in the soup).

For example, when someone complains about their high-paying job, you could say: arrête de cracher dans la soupe! (stop spitting in the soup!).


10. Un accent à couper au couteau

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'To have an accent to be cut with a knife'

Avoir un accent à couper au couteau (to have an accent to be cut with a knife) means 'to speak with a broad accent'.

But no worries… If you can’t lose your accent, keep in mind that most foreign accents sound great in French!


11. Quand les poules auront des dents

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'When hens have teeths'

In English, you would say 'when pigs fly' or 'never on your life' according to the context.

Tthe equivalent in French would be quand les poules auront des dents (when hens have teeth).


12. Comme un cheveu sur la soupe

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'Like a hair in the soup'

This last funny French idiom literally means 'like a hair in the soup'.

It is commonly used in France when you feel unwelcome, or when you arrived at the wrong time.

When you say j’arrive comme un cheveu sur la soupe (I arrive like a hair in the soup), you actually resent the lack of enthusiasm of your hosts.


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