10 french idiomatic expressions with animals

In French, as in English, there are many idiomatic expressions that use animals. These expressions can be funny, cute, or even a little bit mean, but they all have a specific meaning that is hard to translate literally.

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So if you’re ever in France and hear someone talking about une vache (a cow), you’ll know that they’re not actually referring to a farm animal! In this blog post, we’ll take a look at ten of the most common French idiomatic expressions with animals.

Bonne lecture! (Good reading!)

1) Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop

Impossible to hide its true nature because it always comes to the surface.

Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop

2) Être têtu comme une mule

Who shows obstinacy, tenacity, who absolutely does not want to change his mind, whatever the pressures.

être têtu comme une mule

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3) Chanter comme un rossignol

Have a clear and pleasant voice. Knowing how to sing.

Chanter comme un rossignol

4) Être excité comme une puce

Being very excited, being in a great state of excitement.

être excité comme une puce

5) Avoir un mal de chien

To be in great pain, to feel great pain.

Avoir un mal de chien

6) Être le bouc émissaire

This formula is often used to designate a person to whom the faults of others are attributed. A person to whom one unjustly attributes the responsibility for all the wrongs, all the faults.

être le bouc émissaire

7) Poser un lapin

Not showing up for an appointment.

Elle m’a posé un lapin = she didn’t come on a date with me.

Poser un lapin

8) Y a pas un chat !

There is nobody somewhere or almost nobody.

Il n'y a pas un chat !

9) Un remède de cheval

Particularly strong remedy, but whose purpose is to be very effective.

Un remède de cheval

10) Passer du coq à l’âne

Completely change the topic of conversation. Move abruptly from one topic to another, without transition or connection.

Passer du coq à l'âne

The expressions we have just seen are regularly used by the French. So don’t hesitate to use them in your discussions with native speakers.

So the next time you’re in France and hear someone talking about a vache, don’t worry – they’re not actually discussing livestock! Instead, they’re using a colorful French idiom to express themselves. And now that you know what these expressions mean, you can impress all your Francophone friends with your knowledge of animal idioms. Just be careful not to use them at the wrong time or in the wrong company; after all, some of these expressions can be a little bit rude!

Have you ever used an animal idiom in another language? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

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