14 French expressions that are nonsensical when translated literally

Here are some common french expressions that completely loose their meaning if you translate them literally in English. A funny way to learn some French 😉

1. Il fait un froid de canard

Translated literally : It is a cold of duck

Meaning : It’s freezing cold










2. Noyer le poisson

Translated literally : Drown the fish

Meaning : To avoid the question/the issue









3. Etre le dindon de la farce

Translated literally : To be the turkey of the stuffing

Meaning : To be the fall-guy











4. Avoir la gueule de bois

Translated literally : To have a wooden face

Meaning : To have a hangover

wood face


5. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire

Translated literally : It’s not the sea to drink

Meaning : This is not asking too much



6. Vouloir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et la crĂ©miĂšre

Translated literally : To want the butter, the money from the butter and the creamer

Meaning : To want everything














7. Se mettre le doigt dans l’Ɠil

Translated literally : To put your finger in your eye

Meaning : To get it all wrong

312 GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


8. Prendre ses jambes Ă  son cou

Translated literally : To take his legs to his neck

Meaning : To run away



9. Donner sa langue au chat

Translated literally : Giving your tongue to the cat

Meaning : Giving up searching for an answer


10. Prendre le chou à quelqu’un

Translated literally : Take the cabbage to someone

Meaning : Arguing with someone

#Chou #Cabbage GIFs - Find & Share on GIPHY


11. Tomber dans les pommes

Translated literally : To fall on the apples

Meaning : To faint



12. Etre fleur bleue

Translated literally : To be blue flower

Meaning : To be sentimental








13. Etre de mauvais poil

Translated literally : To be of bad hair

Meaning : To be in a bad mood









14. Avoir le cul bordé de nouilles

Translated literally : To have your ass surrounded by noodles

Meaning : To be very lucky







Bonus – Avoir un coeur d’artichaut

Translated literally : To have an artichoke’s heart

Meaning : To easily fall in love

Gif UP dog loving everyone

Which of these expressions is your favorite?
Let us know in the comments ! 😉

12 Responses to “14 French expressions that are nonsensical when translated literally

  • Thanks

  • Bernier
    3 years ago

    “Vouloir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et la crĂ©miĂšre” signifie : vouloir tout sans faire d’efforts. Par exemple, habituellement, un fermier vend du beurre contre de l’argent. S’il veut garder son beurre, il devra se passer de l’argent. Il doit choisir entre les deux : personne ne lui donnera de l’argent pour du vent.

    • I always heard “vouloir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et le sourire de la crĂ©miĂšre”, like she would gladly let you get away with the butter without paying for it, otherwise I think it sounds like she’s part of the loot.

      • AmĂ©lie
        3 years ago

        I have always said and heard “vouloir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et le cul de la crĂ©miĂšre” 😉

  • Bonjour
    Ca me vient en tĂȘte aussi, avoir un coeur d’artichaut pour une personne qui donne de l’amour facilement. Si on traduit littĂ©ralement en anglais, c’est “to have a spinach artichoke” alors que cela signifie “to fall in love easily”

    • RĂ©mi Appell
      3 years ago

      Merci beaucoup pour votre commentaire Marielle ! C’est effectivement une belle expression, je l’ai rajoutĂ©e Ă  l’article 😉

  • Guido boccara
    3 years ago

    Dans “le dindon de la farce”, la farce correspond Ă  “comedy”, et pas Ă  “stuffing”. Homonymes, mais non synonymes…

  • Hi Laura,

    These are great. Just one point : creamer for crémiÚre is misleading, as the picture you are using shows: it should be dairywoman :).

    • Laura FernĂĄndez Calzada
      3 years ago

      Thank you for your comment! 🙂 We note it 😉

  • Merci! 🙂

  • Philippa
    3 years ago

    …and the English expression is ‘to have your cake and eat it’

  • Patricia Russell
    2 years ago

    To have one’s cake and eat it too

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