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French Words

26+ Commonly used French Expressions you should know

Say the right things at the moment you need it most. In theory, yes, that does sound perfect but, in practice, how do you do if you don’t know the most commonly used French Expressions?

So, yes, of course, you can walk around with your bilingual dictionary but it’s not quite ideal, is it?

The other solution is for you to learn some popular French phrases.

Imagine going to France and being told you speak well. That would be great, wouldn’t it?

Off Course, it would… but now, imagine going to France and being told you sound just like a real native speaker! Now, that would be amazing!

Learning French daily expressions will not only make you sound more French, it will also help you understand the French culture better. Indeed, in any language, the daily way of life often shows through common phrases.

It is now time to drop boring textbooks and to learn some real French, spoken every day by real French native speakers.

I have obviously explained the meaning of each French expressions but you will also find under each of them an audio to check their exact pronunciation.

One last thing before I start, have a look at this video. It’s a Tex Avery cartoon called La Symphonie de l’argot (the symphony of slang). Do you understand what the character is on about? Not really? You will once you will have read this article and check my very complete French expressions e-book!

C’est parti (mon kiki)!

 As a teacher, I (very) often get asked how to say such or such swear word in French… It seems to be the first, or at least one of the first, interest my students have when they learn French.

In this first part, I will not teach you how to swear in French but I will tell you about a few colloquial and slang French phrases (because not only it would make you sound French – and that’s what we are aiming for, aren’t we?- it is also very funny!).

a) Ca roule / ça roule ma poule!

You would use this expression when you want to say that everything is good, when life is treating you right. It would, therefore, be an answer to the question “ça va?”.

However, you could also use it instead of “ça va?”.

It can be both a question meaning “how are things?” and an answer meaning “everything is good”.

Just like in English, you have loads of rhyming expressions such as “see you later alligator, in a while crocodile”, you could add “ma poule” to “ça roule” to get the funny slangy phrase “ça roule ma poule” (meaning literally: it is rolling my hen”).

For example:

  • Alors ça roule?
  • Oui, ça va, merci.

(So is everything good? Yes, fine, thanks). 

  • Comment vas-tu?
  • Ca roule, merci.

How are you?

Good, thanks.

b) Comme d’hab!

Short for comme d’habitude, comme d’hab is a familiar expression meaning “as usual”.

For example:

  • Que fais-tu dimanche?
  • Je vais courir, comme d’hab.

What are you doing on Sunday?

I’m going running as usual.

c) Ca te dit? / Ca vous dit?

This is a very popular French expression. I personally use it very often. It means: are you up for it? / do you fancy it?

A similar phrase is ça te branche? / ça vous branche? 

For example:

  • Ca te dit d’aller boire un verre?

Do you fancy going for a drink?


d) Tiens moi au courant / Tenez moi au courant

If you want to find out the outcome of a situation, you could use this very common French expressions.

It means: Keep me up to date / let me know.

An equivalent is tiens moi au jus.

You could also say On se tient au courant / On se tient au jus. In that case, you would say we’ll keep in touch.

For example:

  • Tiens moi au courant pour tes examens médicaux.

Keep me informed regarding your medical tests.

  • On se tient au jus pour samedi .

We keep in touch regarding Saturday.

e) Revenons à nos moutons

I quite like this one! Pretty cute, I think. It literally means Let’s go back to our sheeps. It comes from a novel written by the very famous Rabelais in the 15th century, La Farce du maître Pathelin.

Imagine you’re talking with someone and you kind of go off the subject. To go back to it, you’ll simply need to say revenons à nos moutons! It means “let’s get back to the subject at hand”.

For example:

  • On s’éloigne du sujet. Revenons à nos moutons.

We’re getting off the subject. Let’s go back to it.

f) Tu veux un coup de main ? / Vous voulez un coup de main?

Do you like helping others?

Well, you might want to ask someone if they want a hand. If so, you could say tu veux un coup de main / Vous voulez un coup de main?

For example:

  • Tu veux un coup de main pour vider la voiture?

Do you want a hand to empty the car?

g) Tu t’en sors? / Vous vous en sortez?

Is your friend struggling to do something? If so, you might want to ask him/her if he/she is managing okay? In that case, you would say, tu t’en sors?

For example:

  • Tu t’en sors ou tu veux un coup de main?

You managing there or do you want a hand?

h) Ca me prend la tête

Argh! That does my head in!

If something annoys you, in French, you’ll say that this thing is “taking your head” (ça me prend la tête).

For example:

  • Alors, tes maths? Tu t’en sors?
  • Non, ça me prend la tête!

So, these Maths? Do you manage?

No, it does my head in!

i) Rendre quelqu’un chèvre

Similar to ça me prend la tête but not as familiar, rendre quelqu’un chèvre means to drive someone crazy.

For example:

  • Elle va me rendre chèvre si elle continue!

She will drive me crazy if she carries on!

j) En avoir ras le bol

Okay, so you can’t work out how to resolve this Maths problem (I feel your pain…). Are you fed up with it? Well, in French you would “have a bowl full of it”. In other words, you would have it up to here!

Just a little reminder: you have to conjugate the verb avoir with the subject when you use this popular French expressions in a sentence.

For example:

  • J’en ai ras le bol qu’il pleuve!

I’m fed up with the rain!

k) Faire la grasse matinée / faire la grasse mat

This is THE one expression I would adore to use a lot more often but I can’t because of my beautiful babies (the joys of motherhood, eh…). It means to have a lie in.

If you’re lucky enough to know what these are, then, in France, you won’t actually have a lie in, you will “do the fat morning”.

For example:

  • Enfin, le week-end! Demain matin, je fais la grasse matinée!

Weekend, at last! Tomorrow morning, I’m having a lie in!

  1. Avoir le coup de foudre

One I have experimented and I hope you have too. Falling madly in love at first sight! In France, it’s a bit more violent though as you don’t just fall in love, “you are struck by lightning”!

For example:

  • Daz et moi, ça a été le coup de foudre!

Daz and I fell in love at first sight.

m) S’envoyer en l’air

Well after falling in love (or “being struck by lightning” as the French like to say), you usually have sex (too much information!).

Having sex in France actually sounds pretty fun as they “throw each other in the air”!

Please note that this expression is very familiar so don’t go round telling the world that you like t’envoyer en l’air…

 For example:

  • Pff, nos voisins sont bruyants quand ils s’envoient en l’air!

Pff, our neighbours are noisy when they are having sex!

n) Changer d’avis comme de chemise

Are you a rather indecisive person? Well, in France, you would “change opinion like you change shirt”. In other words, you would keep changing your mind.

For example:

  • C’est une girouette: elle change d’avis comme de chemise!

It’s a weathercock, she always changes her mind.

o) Être une girouette

Let’s hope you will never be called a girouette in French cause, if you do, it would mean that you are not a very reliable person and that people can’t really count on you…

For example:

  • Ne te fie pas à lui, c’est une girouette.

Don’t trust him, he’s a weathercock.

p) J’en mettrais ma main au feu / J’en mettrais ma main à brûler

When you are absolutely sure you’re right, you could bet your life on it! Well, not in French. In the language of love, you could actually “burn your hand” or “put your hand in the fire”!

This little gem comes from the Middle Age!

For example:

  • J’en suis sûre. J’en mettrais ma main au feu!

I am certain. I could bet my life on it!.

q) Je n’en crois pas mes yeux!

This common French expressions has its exact equivalent in English. It means “I cannot believe my eyes”. You could say that when you are happily surprised or dumbfounded by something you are witnessing.

For example:

  • Quel spectacle! Je n’en crois pas mes yeux!

What a show! I cannot believe my eyes!.

r) Je n’en crois pas mes oreilles!

Let’s stay carry on talking about our senses! Just as you sometimes cannot believe your eyes, you can also not believe your ears. So if you’ve heard something that surprises or shocks you, then, in French,  tu n’en croiras pas tes oreillles (you will not believe your ears).

For example:

  • T’as entendu ça? Ils se sont séparés! Je n’en crois pas mes oreilles!

Have you heard that? They broke up! I can’t believe my ears!.

s) Laisse tomber…

Be careful with that one. Words for words, it means “drop it”. However, it doesn’t have the quite same irritable tone as it has in English. It significates “forget about it” or “never mind”.

For example:

  • Je n’arrive pas à défaire ce noeud.
  • C’est pas grave. Laisse tomber.

I can’t undo that knot.

It doesn’t matter. Forget about it.

t) Avoir du pain sur la planche

It is time to roll up your sleeves and start working! Indeed, you have loads to do! Well, in France, you would “have some bread on the board”.

Don’t the French just love their baguettes? Haha

For example:

  • Allez, retrousse tes manches! On a du pain sur la planche!

Come on, roll up your sleeves! We have a lot to do!.

u) Avoir la gueule de bois

You enjoyed that last one drink last night, didn’t you? Well, I bet drinking it doesn’t seem quite that much of a good idea on the following morning, does it?

If you feel hung over in France, you will actually have the wooden mug/face!

For example:

  • Pff, j’ai la gueule de bois ce matin.

Pff, I’m hung over this morning.

v) Avoir le cafard

This an informal way of saying you’re feeling down. However, for some reasons, in France, you dont feel down nor feel blue, you “have the cockroach”. Bit of a strange one, that one.

For example:

  • Je suis déprimé en ce moment. J’ai le cafard.

I am depressed. I’m feeling down.

w) C’est naze / c’est nul / c’est pourri

These French expressions are the equivalent to the English phrase “that sucks”.

If you think something is totally stupid then you could use either of these three popular French expressions.

For example:

  • Ce film est trop nul!

This film is really rubbish.

x) Avoir les yeux plus gros que le ventre

Just like in English, your eyes can sometimes be bigger than your stomach, in French, tu as les yeux plus gros que le ventre.

For example:

  • J’en ai trop pris. J’ai eu les yeux plus gros que le ventre.

I took too much. My eyes were bigger than my stomach.

y) Avoir un chat dans la gorge

I quite like this one cause it’s the same type of expression as it is in English. Only the animal changes! When you have a cold and a sore throat in England, you have a frog in your throat. Well, in France, you have a cat instead!

For example:

  • J’ai certainement pris froid, j’ai un chat dans la gorge.

I must have caught a cold, I’ve got a frog in my throat.

z) Avoir la grosse tête

Is someone rather arrogant? Full of himself? Big-headed? In that case, you would use the French expression avoir la grosse tête.

For example:

  • Lucie a la grosse tête depuis sa promotion.

Lucie is being big-headed since she got her promotion.

So here you have them, a French popular expression for each letter of the alphabet. 26 common French expressions altogether. However, there are many more. If you want to learn more, have a look at my e-book bout popular French expressions. You’ll find many more!

Side Note: Want a light introduction to French Courses Online? Check Out Our French Courses Online for Beginners

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