As a French teacher, I love learning about French idioms. They are so interesting and fun to use! In this blog post, I will share with you 5 common idioms in French that involve everyday objects. Each French idiom is accompanied by a definition and an example sentence. So without further ado, let’s get started!
P.S.: If you’re interested in learning more about French idioms in general, check out my other blog post on the topic. Enjoy! 😀
What is a French idiom?
The idioms in French that we will be learning today are expressions that have a different meaning than the words that make them up.
For example, “Avoir la main verte” (to have a green thumb) doesn’t mean to have a thumb of the color green- it means to be good at gardening.
French idioms can be fun and useful in conversations with native speakers. But not surprisingly, idioms are among the most difficult linguistic usages to assimilate when learning French. There are no miracles, the best way to learn these idioms is to live or travel for a while in France or a French-speaking country.
Of course, the French language is not the only one to use idioms in its daily use. All the languages of the world have their own expressions and their own imaginary constructions.
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Let’s discover together 5 idiomatic expressions with everyday objects
The 5 French idiomatic expressions that I have selected for you are expressions that are actually used in everyday life by the French.
1. Aller à quelqu’un comme un gant
Here is a 2 in 1 expression. Indeed, there is the first expression: “aller à quelqu’un” which means that something is nice on a person.
For example, a friend tries on a new dress in a store, and when she shows you the dress, you think that the dress looks very nice on your friend, that she wears the dress very well. Then, you tell her that “ça (the dress) lui va bien” (It looks good on her) or “La robe te va bien” (the dress looks good on you).
And then, to this first expression, we add the word “gant” (glove).
In general, a glove corresponds exactly to the hand, the thickness and length of the fingers. So when “quelque chose va comme un gant“, it means it fits the person perfectly.
– Seller: Oh mon Dieu, ça vous va comme un gant !
– Customer: Ah oui ? Je dois l’acheter alors !
2. Être au bout du rouleau
Un rouleau is a roll. Be at the end of the roll…
It means: being very tired, being exhausted.
A synonymous but familiar expression used by young people is: “Être au bout de sa vie” (to be at the end of one’s life).
- Laissez-moi tranquille car je suis au bout du rouleau !
(Leave me alone because I am at the end of my rope!)
3. Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre
You know the verb “prendre” (to take), you know what “un pied” (a foot) and “une lettre” (a letter) is?
So, you understood this French idiomatic! 😜
Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre (Taking something literally) means that we understand what we are told at face value, respecting exactly every piece of information that is communicated.
In France, this is IMPOSSIBLE!
NEVER does a French person communicate exactly what he means.
If a Frenchman tells you: “I’ll be there in 5 minutes” it means that he will be there… Soon… One day…
Ne prends surtout pas son information au pied de la lettre (Don’t take his information at face value) 😁
4. Chercher une aiguille dans une botte de foin
- Aiguille: Needle
- Botte de foin: haystack
Imagine that you have to look for a needle in a haystack. Do you think this would be a simple activity to do and that you would easily find the needle? Of course not!
“Chercher une aiguille dans une botte de foin” means that the activity to be done is extremely difficult and most likely impossible.
– Sophie a oublié son iPhone.
– Et il faut la retrouver dans ce concert de 15 000 personnes ??? Autant chercher une aiguille dans une botte de foin !
– Sophie forgot her iPhone.
– And we have to find her in this concert of 15,000 people??? It’s impossible!
5. De fil en aiguille
You already know what a needle is, now let’s discover the word “fil” (thread).
Pay attention to the phonetics and spelling in French.
“fil” is different from “fils“.
- un fil = a thread
- un fils = a son. You pronounce the final /s/.
But if you say “fils” (threads) – that is, in the plural form – of course you will put an -s at the end of the word but you will always pronounce it as singular: without pronouncing the final /s/.
Now let’s come to the expression “De fil en aiguille“. It means doing things gradually.
– Hier soir au restaurant, de fil en aiguille on s’est mis à discuter de politique alors qu’on avait décidé de ne pas le faire.
Last night at the restaurant, one thing led to another and we started to discuss politics even though we had decided not to do so.
Idioms are a big part of any language, and the French language is no exception. These colorful expressions add flavor and color to our conversations, and make us sound more like native speakers. But idioms can be difficult to learn, especially if you don’t know what they mean.
In this article, we have explored 5 common idioms in French, and explained what they mean. We have also provided examples of how to use these idioms in your everyday conversation.
So what are you waiting for? Start learning these fun expressions today!
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