10 Very Popular Everyday French Idioms

Here is a list of 10 French idiomatic expressions that you will probably hear most frequently while in France.  The list is rather subjective, as I did not base myself on any official document proving the frequency (Does such such thing exist ?). The only explanation I have is that to my mind these idiomatic expressions are used more often than others. Of course, there are others but I thought these might be the most useful ones for the beginning and intermediate learners of French. Thus, upon your arrival to France you won't be surprised to hear what may at first appear as some strange sounding expressions you have no idea about their meaning.

"Why learn French idioms ?"

You may ask. If you want to get over the "speaking the very basic French" level, you need to get to know some idiomatic expressions. And this is true for any language. That's just the way people like to express ideas. Idioms make the language more vivid, more colorful and more expressive.It's one of the things that shows that you know the language well.

You may also check this website about The French Idioms (origin, explanations, translation).

The List of the 10 Popular Everyday French Idioms:

  1.  Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre: It is used to describe somebody who believes too seriously in everything he/she hears. Eg. On entend souvent dire que tous les parisiens sont grincheux mais il ne faut pas le prendre au pied de la lettre. C'est juste un cliché.
  2. Il n'y a pas un chat: used to say that there are very few or no people in a particular place. There isn't a soul. Eg. Cet endroit est complètement désert ! Il n'y a pas un chat !
  3. Il pleut des cordes: when it rains a lot and hard. It's raining cats and dogs. Eg. Tu as vu le temps qu'il fait dehors ? Il pleut des cordes ! Hors de question que je sorte ! 
  4. Il n'y a pas le feu au lac / y'a pas le feu: when you are not in a hurry. There is no panic. Eg. Attends ! Pourquoi t'es si pressé ? Il n'y a pas le feu au lac !
  5. Fumer comme un pompier: to smoke a lot of cigarettes. To smoke like a chimney. / To be a chain smoker. Eg. Ca pue la cloppe chez ton voisin ! C'est parce qu'il fume comme un pompier

    fumée-pompier
    In the past the firefighters used to soak their clothes with water so they wouldn’t set ablaze while fighting the flames. The water turned to steam and made their clothes “give off fumes”.
  6.  Maigre comme un clou: speaking about someone really thin, a skinny person. Thin as a rake. Eg. Il est maigre comme un clou ! Il ne doit pas peser plus de 50 kilos tout habillé ! 
  7. Etre au taquet: when you are fully engaged in some activity. To be going flat out / to be going full throttle.  Eg. Regarde le ! Il est complètement absorbé par son travail. Ouais, il est vraiment au taquet
  8. Etre nickel (chrome): when something is neatly / very well done. To be spotless. Eg.(En parlant de nettoyage d'une voiture par exemple) Vous avez fait du bon travail. C'est vraiment nickel ! / C'est nickel chrome
  9. En avoir marre: to have had enough of something. To be fed up with something. Eg. J'en ai marre de ton comportement stupide ! Je me casse d'ici !
  10. S'en moquer / ficher / foutre:  to be completely uninterested or indifferent to something / somebody. Not to give a damn / toss about something. Eg. Tu es au courant que fumer tue ? Oui, me je m'en fous

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