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Idioms & Expressions with Negative & Indefinite Words

It’s been awhile since I did an idioms post. Here’s one that is specific with negative and indefinite words.

Expressions with jamais:

  • jamais deux sans trois | Misfortunes always come in threes
  • à jamais | forever
  • à tout jamais | forever and ever
  • jamais de la vie ! | Not on your life!
  • il n’en manque jamais une ! | He’s always blundering/He always puts his foot in it

Expressions with quelque(s):

  • Il est trois heures et quelques | It’s a little past three
  • Je suis quelque peu déçu | I’m a little disappointed

Expressions with ni … ni:

  • Cette histoire n’a ni queue ni tête | This story doesn’t make any sense at all
  • Cela ne me fait ni chaud ni froid | It’s all the same to me/I don’t feel strongly

Expressions with rien:

  • de rien | you’re welcome
  • ça ne fait rien | it doesn’t matter/that’s ok (A response to “Pardon”.)
  • comme si de rien n’était | as if nothing had happened
  • si cela ne vous fait rien | if you don’t mind
  • Rien qu’à le voir, on sait qu’il est gentil | Just by looking at him you know he’s nice
  • Je veux te parler, rien que cinq minutes | I want to talk to you, just five minutes
  • rien ne sert de pleurer | it’s no use crying

Expressions with chacun:

  • chacun son goût/chacun ses goûts | everyone to his own taste/to each their own
  • chacun pour soi | every man for himself
  • chacun à son tour | each one in his turn

Expressions with certain:

  • d’un certain âge | middle-aged
  • elle a un certain charme | she has a certain charm

Expressions with ailleurs:

  • il est ailleurs/il a l’esprit ailleurs | he’s miles away (not paying attention)
  • d’ailleurs | moreover, besides
  • partout ailleurs | everywhere else

I’m hoping to post at least one idioms post every month. Have a wonderful week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

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Idiomatic Expressions

It’s good to learn the idiomatic expressions of a language you want to learn. Not everything is translated literally, and unless you learn these expressions, you’ll be left with scratching your head. So I’ve compiled a few of these helpful expressions for your reference. 🙂

Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles.

Literal translated: To have the ass surrounded by noodles.

Idiomatic expression: To be a lucky so-and-so.

Pédaler dans la semoule.

Literal translation: To pedal in semolina.

Idiomatic expression: To go around in circles.

L’habit ne fait pas le moine.

Literal translation: The habit doesn’t make the monk.

Idiomatic expression: The suit doesn’t make the man.

Chanter comme une casserole.

Literal translation: Sing like a saucepan.

Idiomatic expression: Someone who can’t sing/sings flat.

Avoir le cafard.

Literal translation: To have the cockroach.

Idiomatic expression: To feel blue/feel down.

Faut pas pousser mamie dans les orties!

Literal translation: Don’t push granny into the nettles!

Idiomatic expression: Don’t push your luck!

Être dans de beaux draps.

Literal translation: To be in beautiful sheets.

Idiomatic expression: To be in a right mess.

Noyer le poisson.

Literal translation: Drown the fish.

Idiomatic expression: Change the topic/confuse the issue.

Il pleut des cordes.

Literal translation: It’s raining ropes.

Idiomatic expression: It’s raining cats and dogs.

C’est la fin des haricots.

Literal translation: It’s the end of the beans.

Idiomatic expression: Nothing more can be done.

Il me court sur le haricot.

Literal translation: He’s running on my bean.

Idiomatic expression: He’s getting on my nerves.

Ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.

Literal translation: It doesn’t break three legs of a duck.

Idiomatic expression: Nothing to write home about.

Faire une queue de poisson.

Literal translation: Make a fish tail.

Idiomatic expression: Cut someone off.

Avoir le cul entre deux chaises.

Literal translation: To have one’s ass between two chairs.

Idiomatic expression: To sit on the fence.

Revenons à nos moutons.

Literal translation: Let’s come back to our sheep.

Idiomatic expression: Let’s get back to business/get back on track.

Manger les pissenlits par la racine.

Literal translation: Eat the dandelions by the root.

Idiomatic expression: Push up daisies.

Avaler des couleuvres.

Literal translation: To swallow snakes.

Idiomatic expression: To be gullible.

Être rond comme une queue de pelle.

Literal translation: To be round as a shovel handle.

Idiomatic expression: Drunk as a skunk.


I hope everyone is having a great week! Let me know if you like posts like this, and I can make more. Also, if anyone is having difficulty understanding the idiomatic expressions in English, let me know and I’ll be happy to explain it. I know a lot of my readers come from non-English speaking countries, and English isn’t their first language.

Merci à vous !

Courtney

Omitting the Possessive Adjective

In an imperative or command:

In French, possessive adjectives are used to modify the noun they precede.

Voici ma mère. | This is my mother.


Regarde ma nouvelle voiture ! | Look at my new car!

A common construction is one where the possessive adjective is dropped in an imperative or command (and replaced with a definite article along with a personal pronoun) only if an action is being taken on a physical attribute (head, back, arm etc.). In the following examples, action is not being taken on the physical attribute, therefore the possessive adjective remains.

Regarde mon dos. | Look at my back.


Remarque mes cheveux. | Notice my hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Masse-moi le dos. | Massage my back.


Coupe-moi les cheveux. | Cut my hair.


Tiens-moi la main. | Hold my hand.

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Noun

masse

mon

dos

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Verb

Personal Pronoun

Definite Article

Noun

masse

moi

le

dos

coupe

moi

les

cheveux


In a statement:

The possessive adjective may also be dropped in a statement only if an action is being taken on the physical attribute. In the following examples, an action is not being taken.

Je regarde son dos. | I’m looking at his/her back.


Elle remarque ses cheveux. | She’s noticing his/her hair.

In the following examples, an action is being taken on the physical attribute.

Je lui masse le dos. | I’m massaging his/her back.


Elle me coupe les cheveux. | She’s cutting my hair.

The possessive adjective takes the form of the appropriate personal pronoun and is placed before the verb, and a definite article is placed before the object. The same applies to pronominal verbs (when the action is being done to oneself).

  • I wash my hands. = Je me lave les mains.
  • She brushes her hair. = Elle se brosse les cheveux.

Subject

Verb

Possessive Adjective

Object

je

masse

son

dos

elle

coupe

mes

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux


In the past tense (passé composé):

In the past tense as well, the personal pronoun is placed after the subject (just as it is in the present tense).

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Verb

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

masse

le

dos

elle

me

coupe

les

cheveux

↙↘

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Avoir

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

lui

ai

massé

le

dos

elle

m’

a

coupé

les

cheveux


In the past tense using pronominal verbs:

The construction for using pronominal verbs is much like using passé composé with the exception that, as with all reflexive verbs, the past participle is conjugated with être.

Subject

Personal Pronoun

Être

Past Participle

Definite Article

Object

je

me

suis

lavé

les

mains

elle

s’

est

cassé

la

jambe


I hope everyone is doing well and having a wonderful week!

Merci à vous !

Courtney

All About ‘Bon’

Today’s post is all about colloquialisms with the word Bon. We all know that “bon” is an adjective that means “good” or “nice”, but it is also used in different ways in conversation.

Bon can be used to begin a conversation or end a thought before beginning another. It’s used the same way that “ok” is used in English.

  • Bon, tu tournes à gauche au coin de la rue, puis tu continues tout droit.
  • Ok, You turn left at the corner, then continue straight ahead.
  • Après avoir cherché un hôtel pendant une heure, j’en ai trouvé un. Bon, je suis prête pour le voyage.
  • After having looked for a hotel for an hour, I found one. Ok, I am ready for my trip.

Bon can be used to express anger or resentment. In cases like this, it would be the equivalent to the English word “fine”.

  • Vous voulez pas m’augmenter? Bon, je vous quitte!
  • You don’t want to give me a raise? Fine, I quit!

Bon + ben

Often, bon ben is used at the end of a statement when the speaker has nothing more to say.

  • Bon ben, je m’en vais. Au revoir!
  • Alright, I’m out of here. Bye!

Ah + bon = Ah, bon?

When used as a question, bon takes on the meaning of “really?” when preceded by “Ah”.*

  • La semaine prochaine, je vais aller en France.
  • Ah, bon?
  • Next week I’m going to France.
  • Really?

*When used in question form, ah bon does not mean “ah, good” even though that is the literal translation. Therefore it is correct to use Ah, bon when receiving bad news.

  • Mon grand-père est très malade.
  • Ah, bon?
  • My grandfather is very sick.
  • Really?
  • Hier, j’ai eu un accident sérieux.
  • Ah bon?
  • Yesterday I had a bad accident.
  • Really?

I hope this helps any questions you may have had regarding this word and these phrases in which it is used. As always, let me know if you have any questions.

Merci à vous !

Courtney

The Pronoun ‘Moi’

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post on colloquialisms. So here’s a new one! We’re going to take a further look into the pronoun ‘moi’ in this post.

In colloquial French, the pronoun moi is often used to add emphasis to a command or an imperative only when the statement involves the senses or personal perception. It’s used in the same way as “just” is used in English to add emphasis to the verb it modifies.

Example:

  • Regarde ça ! – Look at that!
  • Regarde-moi, ça ! – Just look at that!
  • Goûte ça ! – Taste that!
  • Goûte-moi ça ! – Just taste that!

In colloquial French, personal pronouns – moi, toi, lui, elle, nous, vous, eux, and elles, are used to emphasize the object of a statement and emphasize possession.

The object may be emphasized by repeating it at the end of the statement in the form of an objective personal pronoun.

Example:

  • Je peux pas le parler, lui! – I can’t talk to him, that guy!
  • Je te vois, toi! – I see you, you know!
  • Vous m’énervez, vous! – You’re getting on my nerves, you!

Possessive adjectives are used to indicate possession.

Example:

  • C’est ma mobile. – It’s my mobile/cellphone.
  • C’est son livre. – It’s his book.
  • C’est notre voiture. – It’s our car.

Have a great week, everyone! Leave any recommendations or requests in the comments. I’ll be happy to fulfill them.

À bientôt !

Courtney

French Idioms Lesson 1

Just as learning verbs, nouns, vocabulary, etc. is important to learning a new language, so is learning idiomatic expressions whose meanings cannot be translated literally. In addition to my weekly posts, I will be sharing an idioms post every week, for as many as I can find. 🙂 Let me know if you’d prefer one idiom per post, or two.

Ils étaient sur les dents

Idiomatic meaning: They were under great pressure.

Literal meaning: They were on their teeth.