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Posted by on in French Culture & Traditions

9 Favourite French Expressions

The French language is peppered with expressions and being such a gastronomic place it should come as no surprise that it is particulary rife with culinary-inspired idioms.  Here are 9 of my favourite French food expressions.  

Tomber dans les pommes

tomber dans les pommes

photo credit: Leading Line Photography via photopin cc

Literally "fall in the apples".  Meaning: to faint, to pass out.

Long comme un jour sans pain

sans pain

photo credit: PetitPlat - Stephanie Kilgast via photopin cc

Literally "long like a day without bread".  Meaning:  something very long and dreary, both physically like a long road, or more commonly the duration of an event like a long speech.

C'est la fin des haricots

fin des haricots

photo credit: Mr.TinDC via photopin cc

Literally: "it's the end of the beans".  Meaning:  it's the last straw, all hope is gone, the end of the world.

Sucrer les fraises

sucrer les fraises

photo credit: Tim@creighton via photopin cc

Literally "to sugar the strawberries".  Meaning:  to have shaky hands, be doddery.  Implies getting old. 

C'est pas tes oignons

cest pas tes oignons

photo credit: sleepyneko via photopin cc

Literally: "they're not your onions".  Meaning:  it's none of your business.

Avoir la pêche

avoir la pêche

photo credit: I Nancy via photopin cc

Literally: "to have the peach".  Meaning:  to be in high spirits, in a good mood.

Pédaler dans la choucroute

pédaler dans la choucroute

Literally:  "to pedal in the sauerkraut".  Meaning:  to be in a tricky situation and every effort to get out of it only makes it worse.

Mettre son grain de sel

mettre son grain de sel

Literally:  "putting in your grain of salt".  Meaning:  to stick one's nose in, interfere with a conversation with an unsollicited comment.

En faire tout un fromage

en faire tout en fromage

photo credit: Chiot's Run via photopin cc

Literally:  to make a whole cheese about it.  Meaning:  to exaggerate something, make a big fuss.

french food idioms

The photo above is of a local supermarket's doors, covered in food idioms!  What do you think of these expressions?  Do you have similar ones in your language?

All expressions added to photos have been made by me.  Photos credited where appropriate.


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  • Guest
    Nancie samedi, 22 novembre 2014

    C'est pas tes it!;)

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 04 mars 2015

    It's a good one isn't it Nancie!

  • Guest
    Franglaise Mummy vendredi, 21 novembre 2014

    Some fab expressions here - although not my favourite which is "ne fais pas un flan" which I say to Hubs all the time when I want him to make me a "flan", it goes like this "chéri, tu me fais un flan? Mais ne fais pas un flan!" followed by lots of laughter - 13 years in and the joke never gets old ;-)

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 04 mars 2015

    Excellent Sophie!! Love it!

  • Guest
    Richard dimanche, 16 novembre 2014

    Phoebe sure knows her onions.

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 04 mars 2015

    You are so funny Richard!! :D

  • Guest
    Mel jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    What a fab post! The French are just obsessed with food (she says, thinking about what she could eat!). My all-time favourite is, "Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties!"

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Another fan of granny in the nettles! You're the 3rd to mention this fab phrase. I must start using it!!

  • Guest
    Elena jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    I love the fact that so many French idioms focus around food! I'd been trying to insert some of these in my speech, but been failing a little 'cause my French is still so imperfect...

    Anyways, that's a fantastic list!

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Thanks Elena, it's fun to keep trying!

  • Guest
    Richard mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    Amazing. It's almost as if you could have your cake even though you'd eaten it.

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Another witticism from Richard! You are so funny!!

  • Guest
    Steph @MisplacedBrit mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    What a fantastic post! Love this little insight into French life and culture, and you've done the images fantastically! I can see you've put a lot of time into it and it's really beautiful I hope you've done your SEO wonderfully & get google hits for years to come ;-)
    Haha! That must be the blogger version of live long and prosper!!

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Ah, it takes another blogger to spot the work that has gone into this deceptively simple post! Thanks Steph for acknowledging it. It was fun to do. As for SEO, I'd love to think I'd got it right but it's not my strong point and time will tell! Thanks for your enthusiasm!!

  • Guest
    Funky Wellies mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    I know them all... ;) xx

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Excellent! :D

  • Guest
    Catherine mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    My favourite one, could be Australian, is " don't boil your cabbage twice" meaning don't repeat yourself. Thanks for the French expressions. I didn't know any of them

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    Oh I like that one Catherine, thanks for adding it!

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    I love the idiosyncrasy of idioms and because they are so odd I do find them difficult to use in a foreign language. That said I use "Tomber dans les pommes" but possibly only because I can never remember the word for "to faint"! I blogged a while back about the other few French idioms I use so now I think I need to work on getting more of them into my everyday chit chat!

  • Guest
    Phoebe jeudi, 13 novembre 2014

    I use quite a lot of these regularly, particularly sucrer les fraises whcih I love, but I know it takes time to feel at ease with idioms.

  • Guest
    Rosie @Eco-Gites of Lenault dimanche, 16 novembre 2014

    Maybe I should challenge myself to learning and using a new idiom once a month or so. I am sure I could use "mettre son grain de sel" when the boys are nosing into something that they have no business nosing into!

  • Guest
    Hannah Budding Smiles mardi, 11 novembre 2014

    How funny! I love finding expressions and sayings in other languages x

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    So do I!

  • Guest
    Eolia Disler lundi, 10 novembre 2014

    Oh gosh, "pédaler dans la choucroute" was one I didn't heard for quite some time, but I love it. We have indeed rather funny expressions. "Il ne faut pas pousser mémé (ou mémère) dans les orties": don't exagerate it, don't be overdramatic and too egoistic. (one of my favorites, my son laughs everytime I use it.)

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    You're the second person to mention mamie in the nettles!! I hadn't heard of it before but I love it!

  • Guest
    Boo Roo and Tigger Too lundi, 10 novembre 2014

    I'm loving some of these phrases

  • Guest
    Phoebe mercredi, 12 novembre 2014

    They're great, aren't they!

  • Valerie
    Valerie lundi, 10 novembre 2014

    What about "poser une pêche", "être chocolat", "tirer les marrons du feu", "faire ses choux gras" and "pousser mémère dans les orties" (my personal favorite although I admit that nettles are somewhat of an uncommon delicacy)?

  • Guest
    Phoebe lundi, 10 novembre 2014

    Valerie, there are so many wonderful expressions, I shall post more at a future date, but thanks for adding these. I must say I hadn't heard about mémère and the nettles but I do rather like it!!

  • Guest
    jean-claude lundi, 10 novembre 2014

    Sucrer les fraises is my favourite one, must be getting old...

  • Guest
    Phoebe lundi, 10 novembre 2014


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