Home Education Language Learning The quirkiest French expressions (and how to use them)
Last update on 17/08/2023
Written by Morgane Croissant

A French person won’t comment on your ‘broken French’ but they’ll let you know you speak French like a Spanish cow.

Learning French? Here are some humourous French expressions to color your language learning with an array of quirky colloquialisms.

1. Faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties

The French won’t tell you that ‘you’re going a bit far’ – they’ll tell you not to ‘push grandma in stinging nettle’.

2. Yoyoter de la cafetière

The French are not ‘crazy’, instead they ‘play yoyo with the coffee pot’.

3. Faire avaler des couleuvres à quelqu’un

The French don’t ‘lie’ – they ‘make someone swallow grass snakes’.

4. Manger les pissenlits par la racine

The French are not ‘dead’, but they ‘eat dandelions from the root’.

5. Se faire manger la laine sur le dos

A French person is not ‘naive’, they let ‘their wool get eaten while it’s still on their back’.

6. On a pas gardé les cochons ensemble

The French won’t say that someone ‘takes liberties’ but they’ll say, “We did not look after the pigs together.”

7. Ne pas avoir froid aux yeux

When the French are ‘brave’, their ‘eyes are not cold’.

8. C’est de la crotte de bique

The French won’t tell you that your work is ‘worthless’, instead they’ll politely say that it’s ‘goat’s poop’.

9. Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un

The French won’t ‘talk behind your back’ but they will ‘break sugar’ on it.

10. Ramener sa fraise

When the French want to ‘add their two cents’, they ‘bring in their strawberry’.

11. Ca sent le sapin

A French person doesn’t say ‘he/she does not have long to live’, they say, “It smells like fir tree.”

12. Pleurer comme une madeleine

The French don’t ‘cry a lot’ – they ‘cry like a madeleine’.

13. Etre con comme la lune

The French won’t call someone ‘stupid’, but they’ll say they are ‘as dumb as the moon’.

14. Avoir les portugaises ensablées

The French don’t say that someone is ‘hard of hearing’ – they say that ‘their Portuguese are filled with sand’.

15. Parler français comme un vache espagnole

A French person won’t tell you that you speak ‘broken French’ but they’ll say you speak French ‘like a Spanish cow’.

16. Je ne suis pas né(e) de la dernière pluie

A French person won’t defend themselves by saying ‘I’m not stupid’ – they’ll say, “I was not born during the last rain fall.”

17. S’en aller en eau de boudin

The French don’t say that something is ‘fizzling out’, they say, “It’s turning into blood sausage water.”

18. Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles

When the French are not ‘very lucky’, their ass is ‘lined with noodles’.

19. Passer un savon à quelqu’un

The French don’t ‘reprimand someone’, they ‘soap them up’.

20. Jeter l’éponge

The French don’t ‘give up’, instead they ‘throw away the sponge’.

Reprinted with permission of Matador Network.