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10 useful and Easy French Idiomatic Expressions

If you take French lessons you have probably already heard about idiomatic expressions. In French, just as in other languages, there are hundreds of common expressions and proverbs. They are so many that you can easily be lost if you see them listed in alphabetic order. Some are currently commonly used in everyday conversations whilst others are rarely or no longer in use. I have listed 10 useful and easy French idiomatic expressions that you will come across in everyday conversations.



1 Raconter des salades

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Literal meaning : to tell salads

What it means : to tell lies

-Paul ment tout le temps, il raconte des salades à ses amis et maintenant plus personne ne le croit

– Paul lies all the time, he keeps lying to his friends and now nobody believes him anymore


2 Fumer comme un pompier

Learn French Fumer comme un pompier : with idiomatic exppressions









Literal meaning: to smoke like a fireman

What it means : to smoke like a chimney

-Sonia fume 30 cigarettes par jour, elle fume comme un pompier

-Sonia smokes 30 cigarettes a day, she smokes like a chimney


3 Il n’a pas l’air dans son assiette

Literal meaning : he doesn’t seem in his plate

What it means : it seems that he is not feeling well

-Il est très pâle ce matin et il a l’air fatigué ; il n’est pas dans son assiette

-He is very pale this morning and he looks tired. He is not feeling well


4 Etre craquant(e)

Literal meaning : to be crunchy

What it means : used about someone who is very cute

-J’adore ce petit chat noir, il est vraiment craquant

-I love this little black cat. He is very cute


5 Etre mauvaise langue

Literal meaning : to have a bad tongue

What is means : to be a malicious gossip

-Elle critique tout le temps ses amis. Elle est mauvaise langue

-She keeps critisizing her friends. She is a malicious gossip



6 Avoir le cœur sur la main

coeurmain : learn French with ifiomatic expressions









Literal meaning : to have the heart on the hand

What is means : qualification of someone who is very generous or kind hearted

-Elle est adorable, elle aide toujours ses amis et consacre beaucoup de temps aux autres. Elle a vraiment le cœur sur la main

-She is adorable, she always helps her friends et dedicates a lot of time to people. She is very kind hearted


7 : Etre serré( e ) comme des sardines

Someone tight : Learn French with idiomatic expressions








Literal meaning : as packed as sardines

What is means : when people are a large number in a small space

 -Lorsque les gens vont travailler tout le monde est serré comme des sardines dans le métro

-When people go to work, everybody is tight as sardines


8 : Ce n’est pas tes oignons

Literal meaning : these are not your onions

What is means : this is none of your business

– Alors, c’est vrai ce que j’ai entendu ? Tu sors avec Béatrice maintenant ?
– Is it true what I’ve heard? You’re going out with Beatrice now ?

– Désolée, je ne peux pas te le dire, ce n’est pas tes oignons

– Sorry but I can’t tell you, this is none of your business


9 : C’est bon marché

Literal meaning : it is good market

What is means : it is quite cheap

-Les fraises au marché ne sont pas chères, elles sont même très bon marché 

-Strawberrys at the market are not expensive, they are even very cheap



10 : L’habit ne fait pas le moine

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Literal meaning : cloth doesn’t make the monk

What is means : do not judge people by their appearance

-C’est incroyable, cet homme a l’air d’un ange et pourtant c’est un dangereux criminel

-C’est possible, l’habit ne fait pas le moine

– It’s incredible, this man looks like an angel, though he is a dangerous criminal

– It is possible, you can’t judge people by their appearance


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Do you have favorite French proverbs or French expressions, that you would like to add here?

Make sure to leave a comment! And if you wish to learn more idiomatic expressions, why don’t you have private French lessons in Paris with French à La Carte ? We offer  personalized lessons on a one-to one basis to match your needs, learning abilities, schedule, and location in Paris.









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