50 English Phrases/Idioms and their French equivalents

50 English Phrases/Idioms and their French equivalents

I don’t know about you, but I love me some idioms! And in English, we have a lot of them! In fact, it almost seems as though the whole language is made up of them.

Native English speakers use idioms and phrases all day long, often without even realising it. This does make the language richer, but it also makes it a little more opaque for ESL learners, as some of these phrases make no sense at face value.

French Udemy

What’s even more nonsensical, though, is the foreign language equivalents of said phrases. Taking the already bizarre and putting a foreign spin on it makes for some interesting, and often hilarious, translations.

Today, we’re looking at 50 French translations of some common English phrases/idioms. And because I’m always up for a laugh, I’ve also included the literal French translations. There’s even a handful of images to illustrate some of the more… colourful sayings.

If you’re learning English or French as a second language, these will make great additions to your vocab collection, so do write down the ones you think you’ll use.

All right, that’s enough from me. Hope you enjoy these as much as I did.

English/French phrases 1 – 10

English french idiom 1
EnglishFrenchLiteral translation
I don’t care!Je m’en moque! / Je m’en fiche!I don’t care about it!
So far so good.C’est fort bien jusque-la.It’s very good up to there.
To be lost in thought.Être absorbé dans ses pensées.To be absorbed in one’s thoughts.
By all accounts.Au dire de tout le monde.According to everyone.
With open arms.A bras ouverts.
To be in love with ….Être amoureux de ….
Birds of a feather flock together.Qui se ressemble s’assemble.Those who resemble, assemble.
To want badly.Avoir grand besoin de ….To have great need of ….
To fish for compliments.Quêter des compliments.To seek compliments.
When the cat’s away, the mice will play.Le chat parti, les souris dansent.The cat gone, the mice dance.

English/French phrases 11 – 20

EnglishFrenchLiteral translation
To travel abroad.Voyager a l’étranger.
What’s wrong?Qu’avez-vous?What do you have?
To make a fool of one’s self.Se rendre ridicule.To make oneself ridiculous.
Hands off!A bas les mains!Hands down!
I have it on good authority.Je le tiens de bonne source.I hold it from a good source.
Tit for tat.À bon chat bon rat.To a good cat, a good rat.
To have no backbone.Manquer de caractère.To lack character.
Pretty much.À peu près.About/roughly.
In my opinion.A mon avis.
To turn one’s attention to ….S’occuper de ….To take care of ….


English/French phrases 21 – 30

EnglishFrenchLiteral translation
To set free.Mettre en liberté.
Out with it!Allons, parlez!Come on, speak!
To be in someone’s good books.Être dans les petits papiers de quelqu’un.To be in someone’s little papers.
Mind your own business.Mêlez-vous de vos affaires.
Burst out laughing.Éclater de rire.
To take into account.Tenir compte de ….
Practice makes perfect.A force de forger, on devient forgeron.It’s by forging that one becomes a blacksmith.
That is not the case.Il n’en est rien.It is nothing.
To do your best.Faire de ton mieux.
What a pity!Quel dommage!

English/French phrases 31 – 40

EnglishFrenchLiteral translation
To be in a hurry.Être pressé.
To take it easy.Ne pas se tourmenter.Not to torment oneself.
Beat around the bush.Tourner autour du pot.To turn around the pot.
Much ado about nothing.Beaucoup de bruit pour rien.A lot of noise for nothing.
There’s no place like home.Il n’y a pas de petit chez soi.There is no small at home.
From head to toe.De la tête aux pieds.From head to feet.
Take care of yourself.Prenez soin de vous.
I’ve heard of it.J’en ai entendu parler.
Better late than never.Mieux vaut tard que jamais.
To come of age.Atteindre sa majorité.To reach one’s majority.

English/French phrases 41 – 50

EnglishFrenchLiteral translation
Every little helps.Tout fait nombre.Everything makes (a) number.
Leave him alone.Laissez-le tranquille.
In broad daylight.En plein jour.
That is enough.Cela suffit.
To take advantage of ….Profiter de …. / (bad sense) abuser de ….
To listen with both ears.Écouter de toutes ses oreilles.To listen with all one’s ears.
To be better off.Être dans une meilleure position.To be in a better position.
Arm in arm.Bras dessus, bras dessous.Arm over, arm under.
To die a natural death.Mourir de sa belle mort.To die a beautiful death.
Beats me.Cela me passe.It passes me.

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