Lesson: Mastering French Idiomatic Expressions


Welcome to our lesson on French idiomatic expressions! Idiomatic expressions are phrases where the meaning cannot be readily understood just by knowing the meanings of the individual words. They add color and cultural nuance to the language, making your French sound more native and expressive. Today, we will explore some common French idiomatic expressions, their meanings, and how to use them in conversation.

Why Learn French Idiomatic Expressions?

Learning idiomatic expressions helps you to:

  1. Understand native speakers better.
  2. Express yourself more naturally.
  3. Enhance your comprehension of French culture and humor.

Some Common French Idiomatic Expressions

1. “C’est la vie” – “Such is life.”

  • Literally: “That is life.”
  • Usage: Used to shrug off some minor disappointment or to accept a situation that cannot be changed.
  • Example:  Ils n’y avaient pas mon vin préféré au restaurant, mais c’est la vie. They didn’t have my favorite wine at the restaurant, but c’est la vie.

2. “Coûter les yeux de la tête” – “To cost an arm and a leg.”

  • Literally: “To cost the eyes out of the head.”
  • Usage: Used to say something is very expensive.
  • Example: Ce sac à main coûte les yeux de la tête. This handbag costs an arm and a leg

3. “Il pleut des cordes” – “It’s raining cats and dogs.”

  • Literally: “It’s raining ropes.”
  • Usage: Used to describe very heavy rain.
  • Example: Reste à l’intérieur, il pleut des cordes! Stay inside, it’s raining cats and dogs!

4. “Poser un lapin à quelqu’un” – “To stand someone up.”

  • Literally: “To place a rabbit on someone.”
  • Usage: Used when someone does not show up for a meeting or date without notifying the other person.
  • Example: Il m’a posé un lapin hier soir! He stood me up last night!

5. “Mettre son grain de sel” – “To give one’s two cents.”

  • Literally:To put one’s grain of salt.”
  • Usage: Used when someone offers an unsolicited opinion, often in a meddling way.
  • Example: Laisse les tranquilles ! Tu ne vas pas encore mettre ton grain de sel dans leurs histoires. Leave them alone! You’re not going to stick your nose into their business again


Exercise 1: Match the Expression

Match the idiomatic expression to its correct meaning.

Exercise 2: Fill in the Blank

Fill in the blank with the correct idiomatic expression.

  1. Je ne peux pas croire qu’elle ______ hier au café.
  2. Comment veux-tu que j’achète une voiture pareille ? Elle ___
  3. Oh, ne te soucie pas trop de cela, ______.
  1. Je ne peux pas croire qu’elle t’aie poser un lapin hier au café.
  2. Comment veux-tu que j’achète une voiture pareille ? Elle coûte les yeux de la tête.
  3. Oh, ne te soucie pas trop de cela, c’est la vie.

Exercise 3: Translate to English

Translate the following sentences using the English equivalent of the French idiomatic expression.

  1. Il va pleuvoir des cordes toute la journée.
  2. Elle a toujours à mettre son grain de sel dans nos conversations.
  1. It’s going to rain cats and dogs all day.
  2. She always has to put her two cents in our conversations.

By understanding and using these idiomatic expressions, you’ll not only boost your language skills but also enjoy richer conversations with native French speakers. Dive into practice, and don’t hesitate to use these expressions as often as possible!

French idiomatic expressions