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French Idioms

To know a language you have to know its idioms, and French is no exception. All forms of the language, from the highly colloquial to the utterly erudite use idioms. Browse below to find the idiom you need, or just explore the many ways you can express yourself in French.


d’autres fois
at other times

d’entrée de jeu
right from the start

d’un certain âge
middle-aged; getting on in years (lit.: of a certain age)

d’un common accord

damer le pion à
outwit; go one better; get the better of

dans l’embarras
in a spot; in trouble

dans l’ensemble
on the whole; overall

dans l’exercise de ses fonctions
in one’s official capacity

dans le bain
in the know; in trouble; in the picture (lit.: in the bath)

dans le tas
at random

dans les choux
in a fix (lit.: in the cabbages)

dans les coulisses
behind the scenes

dans nos pieds
in your place

danser devant le buffet
go hungry; go without dinner; skip a meal

dater de loin
go back a long way

de bon coeur
a lot, considerably

de bonne composition

de bouche à oreille
by word of mouth

de bout des lèvres
halfheartedly; without conviction

de but en blanc
point-blank (range)

de commande

de conserve
hand in hand; together; in cooperation

de côté et d’autre
here and there; on both sides (lit.: from side to the other)

de deux chose l’une
one way or the other

de égal à égal
as equals; as an equal

de façon à
so as to

de fil en anguille
one thing leading to another

de la fête
in on it [something]

de long en large
from end to end; up and down

de mauvais poil
grumpy; bad mood (lit.: with bad hair)

de part et d’autre
here and there, in some places

de plein fouet

de plus belle
with renewed vigor

de point(e)
leading; latest; advanced; ultramodern; peak

de première main
firsthand; first-hand

de près

de quel bois on se chauffe
what one is made of (lit.: of what wood is being burnt)

de sa façon
of one’s own making

de seconde main
secondhand; second-hand

de son côté
for one’s part

de son cru
of one’s own (creation, invention)

de temps à autre
from time to time; sometimes

de tout poil
of all types; of all sorts; of all kinds

de touts poils
of all types; of all sorts; of all kinds

de toute façon
in any case

demander des comptes
call to account

démarrer en flèche
start off with a bang

déménager à la cloche de bois
skip out on the rent

démon de midi
old goat; dirty old man or woman (lit.: demon of middle age)

dents du bonheur
the upper front incisors when there is a space between them (lit. teeth of joy)

starting from, as far back as

des semaines durant
for weeks on end (lit.: for hard weeks)

des temps en temps
from time to time; sometimes

devoir une fière chandelle à
be deeply indebted to; owe a debt of gratitude to

dire des niaiseries
talk rubbish; talk nonsense

dire en bon français
tell it straight

dire la bonne adventure
tell fortunes

dire le mot et la chose
call a spade a spade

dire que
to think that

dire ses quatre vérités à qqn
tell someone off

dire son fait à
give a piece of one’s mind to

donnant donnant
even-steven; fair trade

donner à
sell out to

donner des ailes
give somebody wings

donner du fil à retordre à
give a lot of trouble to

donner l’éveil à
arouse the suspicions of

donner la patate

donner la peine
go to the trouble (lit.: to give the pain/suffering)

donner le bouillon d’onze heures à
slip poison to

donner le change à
throw off the scent

donner le la
set the tone

donner le ton
set the tone

donner lieu à
give an opportunity for

donner prise à
give an opening to

donner raison à
agree with

donner sa langue au chat
give up guessing

donner son congé à qqn
give someone notice [of termination] (lit.: give someone a vacation)

donner sur
look out on; look over

donner tort à
disagree with

donner un coup de pouce à qqn/qch
give someone/something a boost; help someone/something get started (lit.: to give a thumb’s push to someone or something)

donner une gifle
slap someone in the face; give someone a slap in the face (lit.: to give a slap)

dorer la pilule
sweeten the pill; sweeten the deal

dormir à la belle étoile
sleep out of doors (lit.: to sleep at the good star)

dormir à poings fermés
sleep like a baby

dormir comme un loir
sleep like a log (lit.: to sleep like a dormouse)

dormir comme une marmotte
sleep like a log (lit.: to sleep like a hedgehog)

dormir comme une souche
sleep like a log (lit.: to sleep like a stump)

dormir dans les cartons
gather dust

dormir dans les fichiers
gather dust

dormir sur ses deux oreilles
sleep soundly

doubler le cap de
go beyond; turn

dresser une liste
make out a list

du coup
as a result

du fait de
as a result of

du moment que
since; seeing that; as long as

du tout au tout

dur à cuire
a hard nut to crack

dur d’oreille
hard of hearing

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