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French Idioms: Practical and Fun

edited June 2016 in French

Idiomatic expressions are at the heart of a language, and give us glimpses on the 'spirit' that informs it. Try learning a number of them, especially if they are practical and sound funny or charming to you. Here are a couple very common ones:

à couper le souffle (ah koo-peh luh soo-fl(uh)) breathtaking (lit. ‘to’ cut the breath). Example: “C’est une vue à couper le souffle.” (It’s a breathtaking view.)

avoir l’air (ah vwahr layr) to look, to seem, to feel (lit. to have the air). Example: “Ce café a l’air sympa. Le propriétaire aussi.” (This café looks nice. The owner too.)

faire la queue (fayr lah kuh) wait/get in line (lit. to do the tail). Example: “Si on va à ce restaurant, il faudra faire la queue, c’est sûr.” (If we go to this restaurant, we’ll have to wait in line, that’s for sure.)

gagner du temps (gah-nyeh dew tah(n)) to save time (lit. to win some time). Example: “Pour gagner du temps, prenons la voiture.” (To save time, let’s take the car.)

jeter un coup d’oeil sur (zhuh-teh uh(n) koo duh-y(uh) sewr) to have a look at/around (lit. to throw a hit of eye). Example: “Pourriez-vous jeter un coup d’oeil sur ce document ?” Could you have a look at this document?)

mettre à jour (may-tr ah zhoor) to update, to bring up to date.. Example:”Veuillez mettre à jour votre logiciel.” (Please update your software.)

perdre son temps (payr-dr(uh) soh(n) tah(n)) to waste one’s time (lit. to lose one’s time). Example: “Il perd son temps avec elle; elle n’est pas intéressée.” (He’s wasting his time with her; she’s not interested.)

rendre (un) service (rah(n)-dr(uh) (uh(n)) sayr-vee-ss) to do a favor (lit. to give back service). Example: “Tu peux me rendre un service/Tu peux me rendre service et m’emmener ?” (Can you do me a favor/Can you do me a favor and take me?)

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