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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. ūüôā

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

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Giving Explanations

Part 2 to last weeks post on offering and asking for explanations.

Constructions for giving explanations rely heavily on prepositions/prepositional phrases, conjunctions, or verbs of explanation.

Prepositions/Prepositional Phrases

Il n’a pa pris la voiture¬†√† cause du brouillard. | He didn’t take the cause¬†because of the fog.


La bibliothèque sera fermée le mardi en raison des congés annuels. | The library will be closed on Tuesdays due to staff holidays.

Le stock est épuisé en vertu des demandes exceptionnelles. | Supplies have been exhausted due to exceptional demand.


Par suite d‘encombrements, nous ne pouvons pas r√©pondre √† votre appel. |¬†Since all the lines are engaged, we cannot answer your call.


Gr√Ęce √† sa g√©n√©rosit√©, nous pourrons r√©parer l’√©glise. |¬†Thanks to his generosity, we will be able to repair the church.


Les fouilles ont √©t√© achev√©es¬†√† l’aide d‘une prestation municipale. | The excavations were completed with¬†the help of a grant from the local council.


Ils augmenteront leur chiffre d’affaires¬†au moyen d‘un investissement consid√©rable. | They’ll increase their turnover¬†thanks to large scale investment.


Devant les accusations, il a d√Ľ retirer sa candidature. |¬†In view of the accusations, he had to withdraw from the election.


Malgré la pluie, on est sortis. | We went out despite the rain.


Le concert a eu lieu en dépit des protestations des résidents. | The concert took place despite protests from residents.


Faute de personnel, nous sommes obligés de fermer à midi. | Due to staff shortages, we have to shut down at noon.

Conjunctions Which Indicate an Explanation

Je ne peux pas venir¬†parce que j’ai un d√ģner ce soir. | I can’t come¬†because I’ve got a dinner tonight.


Il faudra augmenter les contr√īles de s√©curit√©¬†puisqu‘il y a un risque d’attentat. | Security risks will have to be increased¬†since there is a risk of an attack.


Elle a re√ßu sa formation au Mexique,¬†ce qui fait qu‘elle parle bien espagnol. | She did her training in Mexico,¬†which means she speaks Spanish well.


Nous avons perdu deux employ√©s,¬†si bien que le courrier a pris du retard. | We’ve lost two members of staff,¬†so we’re behind with this mail.


On a besoin d’un √©tudiant en sciences naturelles.¬†Voil√† pourquoi j’ai pens√© √† toi. | We need someone studying biology.¬†That’s why I thought of you.


Cet auteur est tr√®s appr√©ci√©,¬†car il traite un sujet d’actualit√©. | This author is highly thought of¬†because he writes about a topical subject.


Je me chargerai des invitations,¬†√† condition que vous m’envoyiez la liste des adresses. | I’ll take care of the invitations,¬†provided that you send me the address list.


Nous sommes rentr√©s hier,¬†bien qu‘ils /¬†quoiqu‘ils aient voulu nous garder un jour de plus. | We came back yesterday,¬†although they wanted us to stay a day longer.


Je n’ai pas sonn√©¬†de peur que /¬†de crainte que vous¬†ne soyez d√©j√† couch√©. | I didn’t ring the bell¬†in case you were already in bed.

Verbal Constructions Used to Give an Explanation

L’√©rosion¬†r√©sulte surtout¬†des intemp√©ries. | The erosion¬†is mainly caused by adverse weather.


La querelle¬†provenait d‘un conflit de temp√©raments. | The quarrel¬†stemmed from a clash of temperaments.


Ce sujet de dol√©ance¬†remontait aux conditions de vie √† l’√©poque. | This grievance¬†could be traced to living conditions at the time.


On peut attribuer son succès à son enthousiasme. | His/Her success can be attributed to his/her enthusiasm.


La crise¬†s’explique par le manque d’investissement. | The crisis can¬†be¬†explained by the lack of investment.


Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Asking for and Offering Explanations

Something to note before going into this lesson, the verb¬†expliquer is used to translate “to explain”, but the reflexive form¬†s’expliquer often translates to “to quarrel”, or “to have a fight”, and¬†une explication can suggest an acrimonious change of views.

Ils se sont expliqués hier. | They fought yesterday.


Asking Someone for an Explanation

This may be a neutral request for information, or a demand that the person addressed should justify him/herself.

Est-ce que vous pourriez m’expliquer les modes d’emploi ? |¬†Could you explain the instructions¬†to me?


Tu peux m’expliquer ce qui se passe ? |¬†Can you explain to me what’s happening?


Je vous demanderais de m’expliquer votre d√©cision. |¬†May I ask you to explain your decision?


J’esp√®re du moins¬†que vous pourrez expliquer votre absence. |¬†I trust you can account for your absence.


Comment voulez-vous justifier ce retard ? | How do you intend to justify this delay?


Offering an Explanation

Here are some examples of how to give your explanation to someone.

Vous aimeriez que je vous explique la structure de notre soci√©t√© ? |¬†Would you like me to explain to you our company’s structure?


Si tu veux,¬†je peux te montrer comment l’appareil fonctionne. | If you’ like,¬†I’ll show you how the machine works.


Permettez que je vous explique notre raisonnement. | Allow me to explain our reasoning to you.


Si vous permettez,¬†j’essayerai d’√©clairer la raison de ce malentendu ? |¬†May I try to explain the reason for this misunderstanding?


Il voulait me fair comprendre les obstacles. | He wanted to explain the obstacles to me.


Mon collègue pourra vous rendre compte de nos progrès. | My colleague will be able to tell you about our progress.


Je dois¬†m’excuser de ma conduite hier. | I must¬†apologise for my conduct yesterday.


Je ne veux pas y aller. Je vais¬†pr√©texter un rendez-vous. | I don’t want to go. I’ll make¬†the excuse that I’ve got a meeting.


There will be a part 2 to this post, so be sure to come back next Thursday for that post! I hope everyone is having a great week!

A bient√īt !

Courtney

Accepting Apologies

This is part 2 to last week’s Making Apologies post. This week we’ll learn what to say when we accept these apologies.

To accept an apology without reservation:

Ce n’est pas grave. | It doesn’t matter.


Je t’en prie. / Je vous en prie. | Don’t mention it./Forget it.


Il n’y a pas de quoi. | That’s alright.


Ne t’en fais pas. / Ne vous en faites pas. | Don’t worry.


N’en parlons plus. | Let’s forget it.


To accept an apology, but stress that the fault must not happen again:

√áa va, pourvu que¬†tu ne recommences pas. (especially to children) | That’s alright, just don’t do it again.


Je vous excuse, mais¬†vous devriez faire mieux attention √† l’avenir. | I forgive you, but you should take more care in the future.


Esp√©rons du moins que¬†cela ne se reproduira pas. | Let’s hope it¬†does not happen again.


Some less formal and more colloquial responses:

Pas de problème ! | No problem!


Il n’y a pas de mal ! | No harm!


Pas de soucis ! No worries!


Very short post this week. I try to bring you guys enough content in each post, so I apologise for the brevity of this post! Look at how I’m apologising on an apologies post (not intentional!). Now what would you say in response? En fran√ßais. ūüôā

A la prochaine…

Courtney

Making Apologies

In French, as in most languages, there are set formulae for making your apologies, and accepting those apologies of someone else.

Apologizing to Friends/Close Colleagues

Simplest form of an apology:

Oh, pardon ! | Sorry!


Je m’excuse ! | My apologies! / I’m sorry!


Je suis d√©sol√©(e) ! | I’m really sorry!

Slightly more elaborate ways of apologising and admitting responsibility:

C’est ma faute. Excuse-moi. | It’s my fault. Sorry.


Je m’en veux beaucoup. | I’m really cross with myself for it.


J’esp√®re que tu ne m’en veux pas / ne m’en voudras pas. | I hope you’re not too upset with me.


Je suis d√©sol√©(e) de t’avoir d√©rang√©. | I’m really sorry to have disturbed you.

There are ways to apologise and also suggest that you are not entirely to blame. You would use “Je suis d√©sol√©(e)” and one of the following examples:

Je ne l’ai pas fait expr√®s. | I didn’t do it on purpose/deliberately.


Je ne pouvais pas faire autrement. | I had to./There was nothing else I could do.


J’essayais simplement de vous aider. | I was only trying to help you.


Je n’avais pas le choix. | I didn’t have a choice.


More formal apologies in conversation:

Brief apology:

  • Oh, pardonnez-moi ! (ex: if you accidentally bumped into someone or stepped on their foot) | Oh, I’m sorry!
  • Excusez-moi ! (ex: when you’ve done something wrong) | I’m sorry. / My apologies.
  • C’est moi le coupable. | It’s my fault. / I’m to blame.

Come back next week for part two of this post, “Accepting Apologies”. As always, if you have a request or a suggestion, feel free to leave a comment and I will be happy to help. ūüôā Have a great week, everyone!

A la prochaine…

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

‚Üô‚Üė

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

‚Üô‚Üė

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

‚Üô‚Üė

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

Cleft Sentences

Cleft sentences: highlighting the indirect object and other elements of the sentence.

Cleft sentences in French can be used to highlight elements of the sentence other than the subject and the direct object. For example, the indirect object can be placed after¬†c’est, and the rest of the sentence is converted into a relative clause.

J’ai donn√© les CDs √† mon coll√®gue.

C’est √† mon coll√®gue que j’ai donn√© les CDs.

I gave my coworker the CDs.


Il a demandé un prêt à ses parents.

C’est √† ses parents qu’il a demand√© un pr√™t.

He asked his parents for a loan.


Indirect object pronouns can also be highlighted as¬†√† + a disjunctive pronoun and placed after¬†c’est in a¬†c’est __ que construction.

Je lui ai envoyé un courriel.

C’est √† lui/elle que j’ai envoy√© un courriel.

I sent him/her an email.


Il leur a téléphoné hier.

C’est √†¬†eux/elles qu’il a t√©l√©phon√© hier.

He called them yesterday.


Prepositional phrases can be highlighted by placing them after¬†c’est in a¬†c’est __ que construction.

Nous avons acheté le cadeau pour Claudie.

C’est¬†pour Claudie que nous avons achet√© le cadeau.

We bought the gift for Claudie.


Il a travaillé avec Franck et Nicolette.

C’est¬†avec Franck et Nicolette qu’il a travaill√©.

He worked with Franck and Nicolette.


Ils ont joué au foot dans le parc.

C’est¬†dans le parc qu’ils ont jou√© au foot.

They played football/soccer in the park.


I hope everyone is having a wonderful week!

A la prochaine…

Courtney