15 Funny French Phrases That'll Make You Giggle

 

The French language has some pretty hilarious words and phrases. 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 how to speak French, don’t look surprised when you hear some of the funny French phrases below. Here are 15 phrases that natives commonly use in conversation.

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.”

Can’t get enough funny French phrases? Check out the video below for some interesting French idioms that don’t quite translate!

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

You can also practice these fun expressions during a TakeLessons Live French class, or with a private French tutor near you.

Need help learning French?

Try one of our most popular online French classes for free

Intermediate French Conversation Practice
Are you ready to take your French speaking skills to the next level? In this intermediate level, French conversation class, your expert instructor will help you tell stories about when you were young. You’ll also learn how to give advice using new verb tenses and grammar. Get ready for a fun, supportive group class where you’ll stretch your skills and gain more confidence in your speaking abilities.
Tips to Improve Your French Accent and Pronunciation
When learning a new language, oftentimes we focus so much on correct grammar and memorizing words, that we forget one of the most important parts - our pronunciation! Having a proper accent is very important, especially when it comes to French. This class will help you take your skills to the next level by helping you improve as you read aloud stories and tongue twisters. A variety of methods, including mimicry from songs and videos, will help you hear and understand proper pronunciation.
How to Conjugate Irregular Verbs
Some of the most important verbs in French are the hardest, but this online class will make them easier! With the help of an expert instructor, you’ll understand how to conjugate irregular verbs that don’t follow patterns you’ve previously learned and are used to. By the end of this class, you’ll be more prepared whatever comes your way in a French conversation!
Basic Greetings & Asking Questions in French
Let’s get to know each other! This group class focuses on what to do when meeting someone for the first time. You’ll get to know your fellow classmates through asking questions, and you’ll learn how to respond to common questions. This is the gateway into having fluid French conversations.
Intermediate Conversation About the Future in French
If you’re comfortable conjugating French verbs in the present and past tenses, this live, online group French class is for you! With the help of an expert French teacher, you and your classmates will practice expressing ideas about the future, in the *future simple* verb tense. You’ll get instant feedback on your pronunciation, so you can gain confidence in your conversational French skills.
French Conversation: Practice Speaking with Other Students
The best way to learn a language is to practice speaking it with others. These French group classes will give you the opportunity to do just that. You’ll work on expressing your thoughts and ideas as you cover various topics to really exercise your knowledge of the French vocabulary.
French Phonetics for Beginners
French is a beautiful language rich with different sounds that make it unique. Distinguishing between these various sounds can be difficult, but these online French classes will break it down and make them easy to understand. Your instructor will help you sound out difficult words so you can improve your French accent.
French Listening Comprehension for Beginners
Listening to French is just as important as speaking French. This interactive class will help you improve your comprehension skills as you listen to various songs or radio clips, and then answer questions about them. This fun exercise will test your knowledge, expand your vocabulary, and improve your grammar. Ultimately, this will make conversations with other French speakers a lot easier!