Speak like a local: French expressions

Your reliable business translation & interpretation partner

How can we help you?
Translate From
Translate To

If you are trying to learn French, you probably already know it is a rich language full of beautiful expressions and sayings. But if you’re not fluent in French, it can be hard to understand those expressions without context. That’s why we put together this list of common French expressions, some of which you may have already heard. 


Oh la vache! 

Literal translation: Oh the cow!

If you have ever heard one French person telling another some gossip, you have most likely heard this famous French phrase before! Similar to the English “holy cow,” this expression is often used to express shock, disbelief or surprise.  


La Vie en Rose 

Literal translation: Life in pink 

Very similar to the English saying, “seeing life through rose-tinted glasses,” la vie en rose means life is good. It can be used to describe a person who always sees the bright side or who has a positive outlook on life. 


Chacun voit midi à sa porte

Literal translation: Everybody sees midday at their door 

This is a great saying to use when you want to talk about how people have their own opinions. For example: “I like cats, but my friend hates them.” You can respond by saying: “Chacun voit midi à sa porte!” It can also be used when you think someone’s opinion is strange or silly.

Speak like a local: French expressions

On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge !

Literal translation: We’re not out of the hostel/shelter 

The English equivalent to this saying is “We’re not out of the woods yet”. This expression is used to say that the situation is still tough. It’s often used when you’re in a difficult situation but don’t know how to get out of it. For example: “I have problems at work, and I’m worried about my future.” You can respond by saying: “On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge!”


Coûter les yeux de la tête

Literal translation: To cost the eyes from the head 

The English equivalent of this saying is “to cost an arm and a leg”. Like the English, the exaggeration of something costing a body part puts an emphasis on how expensive something is. For example: “I really want to buy that new car, but it just costs the eyes out of my head!” 


Poser un lapin à quelqu’un

Literal translation: To drop someone a rabbit

Nothing like the English, this expression means “to stand someone up”. It means not showing up for an appointment or event that you promised to attend. It can also mean making someone wait or disappointing them by not showing up at all (even if they know you’re going to be late).

In other words, if you pose your friends with rabbits, they’ll probably be very disappointed!


Un Coup de Foudre 

Literal translation: A lightning bolt

Nothing to do with lightning bolts, this expression actually means “love at first sight”.  A coup de foudre is a sudden and intense feeling of love. It is such a sudden feeling that takes you by surprise, it is like being struck by lightning. 


We hope you have learnt a little bit more about the French language and culture through these expressions and phrases. Let us know which expression is your favourite?