French idioms

Published in: News 17/01/2018

Tête-à-tête, vis-à-vis, noblesse oblige, rien ne va plus, ça va sans dire... These are the most popular French idioms used all over the world. Let’s see what do they exactly mean

French idioms: C'est la vie
This French exclamation (literally, that’s life) is used when something unpleasant happens in your life and you can't do anything about it. Well, you have to accept it… that's life! C'est la vie!

French idiomsÇa va sans dire
The French expression Ça va sans dire can be translated into it goes without saying, meaning that something, a concept or a thought are so obvious and clear, that they do not need to be explained or even stated.

French idioms: Comme ci comme ça
The French idiom Comme ci comme ça (literally, like this like that), means that something is not good nor bad, it is just average, mediocre.

French idioms: Crème de la crème
Literally translated, Crème de la crème in English is cream of the cream, meaning that something or someone is the very best available, the best of the best.

French idioms: En plein air
En plein air can be literally translated into in the open air. This French expression has the same meaning as English idiom derived from Italian: Al fresco. It means outdoors, on the outside. En plein air is also the act of painting outside. The most famous En plein air  artists were Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Paul Cézanne, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Vincent van Gogh.

French idioms: Enfant prodige
The Enfant prodige literally is a child prodigy, a child particularly gifted and talented under the age of ten. The most famous Enfant prodige, worldly recognized, is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who started composing at the age of five.

French idioms: Enfant terrible
This French expression, Enfant terrible, literally terrible child, refers to an unruly child who, in a very candid way, says terrible things embarrassing parents and whoever is there. However, this expression can also be used referring to adults, usually in artistic fields, who are considered genius and can create very unique and unorthodox masterpieces, usually offensive.

French idioms: Esprit de l'escalier
This idiom was created by French philosopher and writer Denis Diderot to indicate the situation when someone makes a rather unpleasant remark to you and you do not have a quick reply: the right replay comes when is too late… when you are on a ladder. Esprit de l'escalier literally is ladder wit.

French idioms: Femme fatale
The French expression Femme fatale (literally, fatal woman) indicates a siren, a woman incredibly attractive who can be a real danger to a man.

French idioms: Les jeux sont faits
Les jeux sont faits (literally, the bets are made) is a sentence used by croupiers in the roulette games. Outside casinos, this French expression means that it is not possible to change things, time is over.

French idioms: Ménage à trois
This French saying literally means love affair involving three people. It indicates a relationship in which three lovers are involved: a threesome.

French idioms: Noblesse oblige
The French idiom Noblesse oblige can be literally translated into nobility obliges. It is used to express the concept that: being noble and rich requires some responsibility towards the less fortunate. High rank people, since they are so privileged, should be good role models for less lucky folks.

French idioms: Pourparler 
Pourparler is a French expression used to indicate a diplomatic consultation, a preliminary talk before an important decision. It is commonly used with the meaning of talking about, discussing.

French idioms: Rien ne va plus
Rien ne va plus (literally, nothing goes any more), such as Les jeux sont faits, is a French expression used in the roulette games. The croupier says Rien ne va plus when the time to bet is over.

French idioms: Tête-à-tête
The French idiom Tête-à-tête (literally, head-to-head) is used to indicate a very private meeting, a very intimate encounter between two people.  

French idioms: Tout court
Tout court (literally, all short) is a French idiom indicating a very short concept, without any futile addition, kept very simple.

French idioms: Vis-à-vis
In English, Vis-à-vis means face-to-face, but in French it can also be used to indicate across from, being opposite: a neighbour can leave vis-à-vis, and that means he leaves in front of my house. 

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