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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.

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V


panne d’oreiller
lie in; sleep in (lit.: a pillow failure)

par acquit de conscience
just to be sure; ste one’s mind at rest (lit.: for receipt of conscience)

par bonheur
fortunately, luckily

par contre
on the other hand (lit.: for against)

par endroits
here and there; in places; in spots

par le fait
in point of fact

par mesure de précaution
as a precautionary measure

parler à bâtons rompus
talk about this and that; talk about little things (lit.: talk over broken sticks)

partir ventre à terre
leave in a flash; race off (lit.: to leave belly-to-ground. Note that this is used can be in reference to taking flight from a criminal activity)

partir du bon pied
get off to a good start

partir en guerre
go to war; launch a war

passer au peigne fin
search thoroughly; go through something with a fine-toothed comb (lit.: to pass through a fine comb)

passer un savon à qqn
reprimand someone; give someone a good dressing-down (lit.: to pass a bar of soap to/over someone)

payer les pots cassés
pay the piper; suffer the consequences

pédaler dans la semoule
take leave of one’s senses

perdre la main
lose the lead

perdre la tête
lose one’s mind

perdre son temps à des broutilles
spend one's time on trivial, irrelevant matters

petit à petit
slowly, little by little

petit jour
day-break

petite nature
delicate; fragile; hothouse orchid. 1. Elle est une petite nature.

piquer un roupillon 
take a nap

pisser de la copie
churn out trash, rubbish (lit.: piss out material)

pisser dessus
no give a shit about; not care about (lit.: piss on something)

pleuvoir à torrents
pour with rain; pour

pointer son nez
show up; appear

poser un lapin à qqn
stand someone up

pour ainsi dire
so to speak (lit.: to say as such)

pour comble de malheur
to crown it all; to top it all (lit.: for the summit of misfortune)

pour de rire
for fun

pour de vrai
for real; seriously; really

pour l’amour du ciel
for heaven’s sake

pour plus de précaution
to be on the safe side

pour une bouchée de pain
for next to nothing; for a song

prendre au mot
do what someone says; take action based on someone’s words

prendre de court
catch someone unawares; take someone aback

prendre de la bouteille
become mellow; grow mellow

prendre l’habitude
be in the habit of; make a habit of

prendre la fuite
run away; take off

prendre la fuite
flee; take flight; run away

prendre la peine
take the trouble

prendre la relève de
take over from

prendre le large
clear off; make scarce; take the lead

prendre son courage à deux mains
summon up one’s courage

prendre son point d’appui
take a stand

prendre un bain de foule
mingle with a crowd; work a crowd

prendre une résolution
make up one's mind

prêter le flanc
attack

propre-sur-soi
squeaky clean


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