French Idioms

Faire son miel de quelque chose

Honeycomb

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Faire son miel de quelque chose.”

Literally translated as, “making one’s honey out of something,” it means profiting from a situation.

Example: “Elle enchaîne les déclarations provocantes, et évidemment, les journalistes en font leur miel.” “She makes one provoking statement after another, and of course, journalists make their honey out of it.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Continue reading »

Ne pas manger de ce pain-là

Pain au levain

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Ne pas manger de ce pain-là.”

Translated as, “not eating that kind of bread,” it means refusing to act in a way that goes against your values, steering clear of a situation or behavior that you think is beneath you.

Example: “Il faudrait que je fasse des ronds de jambe à la directrice pour obtenir une place pour ma fille, mais je ne mange pas de ce pain-là.” “I’d have to kowtow to the principal to get a spot for my daughter, but I don’t eat that kind of bread.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Continue reading »

Tourner au vinaigre

Vinegar barrels
Vinegar barrels photographed by Rebecca Bollwitt.

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Tourner au vinaigre.”

Literally translated as, “turning to vinegar,” it describes a situation or a conversation that’s taking a bad turn and may get ugly. It can be likened to its English cousin “going (or turning) sour.”

Example: “Il a vite changé de sujet avant que la discussion tourne au vinaigre.” “He quickly changed the subject before the discussion turned to vinegar.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Continue reading »

Être serrés comme des sardines

Sardines

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Être serrés comme des sardines.”

Literally translated as, “being packed together like sardines,” it is a colloquial expression that’s used when people are squeezed into a very small space with absolutely no room to move. For some reason, I remember liking this expression a lot as a child.

Notice that serrés is in the plural form — the singular would be serré(e) — because this expression is always used to liken a group of people to a group of sardines, and never refers to a single individual, however sardine-packed he might feel.

Example: “Ils ont laissé trop de gens monter dans le bus ; on était serrés comme des sardines.” “They let too many people on the bus; we were packed together like sardines.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Continue reading »

Plein comme un oeuf

Goose egg

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s expression is, “Plein comme un œuf.”

Literally translated as, “full as an egg,” it is a colloquial simile applied to a thing or a place that’s completely full; close English equivalents would be “filled to the brim” or “packed to the gills.” Note that it can’t be applied to a person*: “full” here is not to be understood as having a full stomach, because the French adjective plein is not used in that sense.

Example: “Je peux mettre mes baskets dans ta valise ? La mienne est pleine comme un œuf.” “Can I put my sneakers in your suitcase? Mine is full as an egg.”

(In writing, the proper verbal construction would be “Puis-je mettre mes baskets dans ta valise ?” In common speach, however, it is the upward intonation that indicates the interrogation, and we skip the verb inversion.)

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

Continue reading »

Get the newsletter

Receive a free monthly email with a digest of recent entries, plus exclusive inspiration and special announcements. You can also choose to be notified of every new post.