French idioms & expressions

Weird things French speakers say

As an English speaker you might find yourself chasing your tail while trying to get all your ducks in a row so you can get this show on the road.

French speakers have their own collection of weird expressions that make just as much sense as their English counterparts. Here are a few common ones to stuff in your vocabulary rucksack.

French expression Literal meaning What it really means
Se perdre les chèvres "To lose your goats" To forget what you were just saying / lose your place in a conversation
Perdre la boule "To lose your ball" To lose your head
Ce n'est pas la mer à boire "It's not like you have to drink the ocean" It's not hard to do
Faire la grasse matinée "To have a fat morning" To sleep in
Passer une nuit blanche "To have a white night" To stay up/awake all night (usually on purpose, not because of insomnia)
Passer un mauvais quart d'heure "To have a bad quarter of an hour" A short, difficult period of one's life
Dormir à la belle étoile "To sleep in the pretty star" To sleep outside
Être blanc comme neige "To be as white as snow" To be completely innocent
Faire boule de neige "To make like a ball of snow" To get bigger / more important
Faire du / son chemin "To go along the/one's path" To make progress
Mordre la poussière "To bite the dust" To suffer a defeat
TraƮner quelqu'un dans la boue "To drag someone through the mud" To dirty someone's reputation