funny french phrases

15 Funny French Phrases That’ll Make You Giggle

funny french phrases

The French language has some pretty hilarious words and phrases. In this week’s guest post, our friend Lily from French Possum lists 15 funny French phrases that natives commonly use in conversation…

The French say some of the funniest phrases without even realizing that word-for-word they don’t actually make sense.

While the French did indeed produce some of the greatest writers, natives don’t necessarily speak like the characters in novels.

If you’re traveling to France or learning French, don’t look surprised when you hear some funny French phrases.

Simply, smile and be attentive. After all,  you’ll know what to expect after reading the list of 15 funny French phrases below.

15 Funny French Phrases That’ll Make You Giggle

1. “Ah, la vache!”

Translation: Oh, my cow

Don’t panic, no cow is lost or wildly running away. The French phrase “Ah, la vache” actually expresses surprise and excitement. The best English equivalent would be “Oh my god!”

2. “Casser les oreilles”

Translation: Break your ears

What happens when your neighbors decide to have an electro party at 3 a.m. and think they should let everybody know by turning the volume up? They “break your ears,” literally…

3. “Devenir chêvre”

Translation: To become a goat

While Americans like to say “to be driven mad,” the French like to make it quite clear that anger is not their right state of mind. Rather, they use the French expression “to become a goat.” If you’re not fluent in French, trying to understand an angry French person may actually turn you into a goat as well!

4. “Arrête ton char!”

Translation: Stop your chariot

Initially, you might think that this French expression is used when trying to get someone to slow down. In actuality, however, this funny French phrase actually means to stop bluffing!

 

5. “Se prendre/prendre un râteau”

Translation: Gives you the rake

This is what happens when a man arrives late to dinner with his lovely date: she leaves the place with a note saying “adieu” (yes, French women are famous for their temper). If a French person “gives you the rake,” it means he or she refuses to go out with you.

6. “Faire l’andouille”

Translation: To make the sausage

This is the French we are talking about, so of course somewhere in this article there had to be a reference to traditional French food. What does “Faire l’andouille” actually mean? Simply to do something ridiculous!

7.  “Chercher la petite bête”

Translation: Look for the little beast

When the French feel that someone is looking really hard for a reason to complain about something, they say someone is “looking for the little beast.” The best English equivalent would be “splitting hairs.”

8. “Être sur son 31” 

Translation: Be on their 31

On big occasions, the French will “Être sur son 31,” meaning that they’ll be putting on beautiful and elegant clothes. If you watch the Cannes Festival Red Carpet events, for instance, this is typically what “to be on your 31” entails.

9. “Tomber dans les pommes” 

Translation: Fall in apples

When the French faint, they don’t fall on a bed of roses perfumed with Chanel N°5, but in… apples! To “fall in the apples” means to lose consciousness.

10.“Il y a quelque chose qui cloche”

Translation: There is something ringing

Imagine D’Artagnan sensing that “there is something wrong.” He would say, “Il y a quelque chose qui cloche” or “there is something ringing.” He would then say to his friends: “Un pour tous, tous pour un!” (All for one, one for all!)

11. “Faire un froid de canard”

Translation: Does a cold of duck

When it gets very cold, the French pretend they’re chasing ducks to keep warm. Okay, I admit, that’s not true at all…but you’ll definitely hear the French say the weather “faire un froid de canard,” meaning “is extremely cold.”

12. “Avoir un chat dans la gorge”

Translation: To have a cat in the throat

Having some trouble speaking? While the English say “to have a frog in one’s throat,” the French prefer to say they “have a cat in the throat.”

13. “En avoir ras le bol”

Translation: To have a bowl full of it

If you “En avoir ras le bol,” it means that you’re “sick of it” and well, the bowl is full and your anger may overflow.

14. “Donner un coup de main”

Translation: To give a knock of hand

If a French person asks you to “donner un coup de main,” don’t punch him or her please. They are actually asking you to “give a helping hand.” So, smile and say “oui, avec plaisir” (yes, with pleasure).

15. “Être au taquet”

Translation: To be at a piece of wood

The word “taquet” is used to refer to a piece of wood put between a door and a wall to block it. This funny French saying means to work hard with the expectation that something good will happen. The best English equivalent would be “to give your best.”

Your Turn!

Try using these funny French phrases in conversation. The more you practice using them, the more natural they will start to become.

Do you know any funny French phrases? Share with us in the comment section below.

Photo by Amber Litzinger

Guest Post Author: Lily
Lily is the creator of French Possum, a blog and YouTube channel that’s dedicated to promoting the French culture and language to people around the world. Learn more about Lily and French Possum here. 

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