4 Motivating TED Talks in Portuguese For Polishing Your Language Skills
Have you ever watched TED talks? If you have, did you find them useful and amusing?
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Aside from learning French vocabulary and grammar rules – like the different tenses – you need to learn common French expressions.
As a beginner French language learner, you will probably learn quickly that conversations between native speakers don’t necessarily follow the dialogue examples you see in your textbook.
French is a culture values art and culture and the good things in life – like family, friends, good food, and wine.
There are many beautiful and even poetic French phrases and expressions that native speakers use in everyday life. While they might know instinctively what these expressions mean, a French language learner might be a little confused.
To help you out in your French language learning journey, you need to go beyond vocabulary lists and the translations of common French phrases; you need to learn common French expressions as well.
Bonus: Get a free pdf list with the 37 most common French expressions
Translation: You’re doing what?
Meaning: What are you doing?
If you translate this expression literally, it sounds kind of strange. In reality, however, it’s a casual and informal daily French expression. Basically the equivalent of asking “what’s up” in English.
Translation: Oh, my cow!
Meaning: I’m surprised!
This is a funny French expression that is used to express surprise or even excitement. It means the same as an English speaker saying “oh my god!”
Translation: To little happiness luck
Meaning: If we are lucky
This rather optimistic French phrase means something like keeping one’s “fingers crossed” in English. You are basically saying everything will be okay with a little luck.
Translation: Break your ears
Meaning: Too loud
If something will “break your ears”, it simply means that things are too loud.
Translation: You can’t put everything in the same bag!
Meaning: Don’t generalize
This rather long-expression is used when a French speaker is basically trying to say that you shouldn’t be so quick to judge. In this case, you shouldn’t generalize.
Translation: To put the dots on the “I”
Meaning: To explain clearly
This is slightly similar to the English expression to “cross the t’s and dot the i’s”. When a French speaker uses this expression they are implying that they have made sure that everything is clear and above board. They have made sure everything is in order and well understood.
Translation: I’d put my hand in the fire!
Meaning: I am sure
This French expression is used when the speaker is emphatically trying to say that they are sure of their opinion or their answer. It’s the equivalent of an English speaker saying that they’d “bet their life” on something.
Translation: To become a goat
French speakers use this expression to say that someone, usually someone who is known for being calm, has had enough and is now very mad at someone or a situation.
Translation: One should not push grandmother into the nettles.
Meaning: Do not exaggerate
This funny French expression translates to something that no loving grandchild or decent person should do. It’s not really just caution against elder abuse, however; rather it’s supposed to caution you about making exaggerated claims.
Translation: He’s running on my bean
Meaning: He’s annoying me
This is a French expression of annoyance. The equivalent to an English speaker saying someone is getting on their “last nerve.”
Translation: You get out?
Meaning: You doing okay?
This common French expression is used when a French speaker wants to be sure that you are “handling” a situation. It’s a casual way of asking how you are managing or coping.
Translation: I can’t believe my eyes!
When someone uses this expression, they are saying that they were surprised or shocked by what they are seeing.
Translation: To pedal in semolina
Meaning: To have difficulty
This is equivalent to saying that you are “going in circles” or “going nowhere” when trying to accomplish a task.
Translation: We’ve not left the hostel.
Meaning: It’s not over yet.
This might sound like a funny French expression, but there’s an explanation for it. It’s actually a bit of a “mistranslation” as “auberge” does translate to the hostel, but “hostel” didn’t always just mean a budget-friendly place of lodging for young travelers, it used to be a slang term for “jail”.
So, when a French-speaking person says this, they are basically saying that something is not over. It pertains to troubles or problems not being totally resolved yet.
Translation: Stop your chariot
Meaning: I don’t believe you
In French, this is a way of saying that you don’t believe what they are saying to you. It’s similar to the English expression, “I’m calling your bluff.”
Translation: The habit doesn’t make the monk
Meaning: Appearances can be deceiving
This is a French expression that is used to caution someone about making snap judgments, especially based just on appearances or first impressions.
Translation: It does not break three legs to a duck
Meaning: It’s nothing special
This is an odd bit of translation. Just remember, it’s not really meant to say something about French ducks, rather it is an expression that French-speaking people use to say that something isn’t “special.”
Translation: Does a cold of duck
Meaning: It’s cold
Another duck-related French expression; this doesn’t make much literal sense either. A French speaker, however, will know that this phrase means that it is cold.
Translation: To make the sausage
Meaning: That is ridiculous
When someone says this, they are implying that someone’s actions or reactions don’t make sense. They are being ridiculous.
Translation: Let’s get back to our sheep
Meaning: Let’s get back on topic
This French expression is used when, during the course of a conversation, you have strayed from the original topic. If you use this during a business setting, you are trying to get people “back to the point”.
Translation: Mind your onions!
Meaning: Don’t interfere
This is basically how the French say “mind your own business.” If someone tells you this, they are telling you not to interfere.
Translation: I have the cockroach
Meaning: I’m sad
Depending on how you feel about cockroaches when you first hear this phrase it is either gross or scary and probably confusing. The meaning, however, has nothing to do with roaches, it’s just a French expression to express sadness or feeling “down” or “blue”.
Translation: It’ll take your mind off things
Meaning: Cheer up or distract
If you hear this after saying “j’ai le cafard”, the French speaker is offering to brighten your mood by “taking your mind” off your problems.
Translation: To have a cat in the throat
Meaning: Lost your voice
If, after a hard night of partying, you wake out with your voice hoarse and your throat sore then the French will say that you have a “chat dans le gorge”.
Translation: It’s raining ropes
Meaning: It’s raining a lot
Does this common French expression sound strange to you? Well, it’s no stranger than the English expression “raining cats and dogs.” It will never literally rain either “ropes” or “cats and dogs” but both these expressions are understood to mean that it is raining a lot.
Translation: Look for the little beast
Meaning: Determined to find fault
For French speakers, this expression means that someone is looking to find fault or a reason to complain about something. You are implying someone is being a bit irrational and has a tendency to whine about little things.
Translation: To have a bowl full of it
Meaning: About to lose your temper
This is basically a French expression of exasperation. If your “bowl” is full, you have had enough and are ready to make your displeasure known.
Translation: It’s as simple as hello
Meaning: It’s easy
This is a common French expression to express the idea that something is easy for everyone. It can also be used to say something is easy or “natural” for you.
Translation: To have one’s ass between two chairs
This is the French equivalent to the English expression that you are “sitting on the fence”. In other words, you are undecided or trying to remain neutral.
Translation: To urinate in a violin
Meaning: To waste your effort
This is something you don’t want to do, literally or figuratively. This expression is used to tell someone that something is “futile” or not worth the time and effort.
Translation: Fall in apples
Meaning: Lose consciousness
This is a cute sounding expression to describe a situation that is potentially scary and serious. If you “fall into apples” you have fainted or lost consciousness.
Translation: Sing like a saucepan
Meaning: Can’t sing
This is a funny French expression that has nothing to do with cooking. Rather, it’s meant to describe someone who can’t sing. Sort of like the English expression “sing flat.”
Translation: To whom better better
Meaning: To outdo
Someone who does “better better” basically does “better” than anyone else at a particular task. They were the best.
Translation: To give a knock of hand
This is a French expression used when someone is asking for help. It’s basically the equivalent of an English speaking person asking for a “helping hand”.
Translation: To be in the galley
Meaning: To get in trouble
When someone uses this expression they are referring to someone being in a messy or problematic situation. Similar to being in “de l’auberge” being in “la galère” means you are in the midst of troubles.
Translation: To swallow snakes
Meaning: To be gullible
This is not a flattering French expression to describe someone. It basically means the other person is easily fooled and maybe a little stupid.
Translation: Everyone sees noon at their door.
Meaning: Everyone has their own opinions.
This expression is used by French speakers to basically say that everyone will come to their own judgment of a situation based on their own experiences and knowledge.
As with any other language, you know your French fluency is improving when you can understand and participate in conversations with native language speakers.
As we said in the beginning, native French speakers might not necessarily speak only in phrases that you will find in your French language phrasebook. The French language is full of unique expressions and turns of phrases that native speakers instinctively understand, but beginner learners might just not “get.”
Studying French slang and common French expressions are as important as memorizing vocabulary words to gaining fluency. You need to be able to use expressions such as the 37 we’ve enumerated here to effectively communicate with language speakers.
Download the PDF file of these expressions and memorize them. Of course, you shouldn’t stop there. Try and find other lists of French common expressions and try to learn them as well.
The best way to ensure that you learn common French expressions and how to use them is to work with an online native French language tutor. They can help explain when and where these expressions are appropriate and suggest more funny or interesting common French expressions for you to learn.
Tu fais quoi? - What are you doing? Ah, la vache! - I'm surprised. Au petit bonheur la chance - If we're lucky Casser les oreilles - Too loud
It means "To explain clearly". This is slightly similar to the English expression to “cross the t’s and dot the i’s”. When a French speaker uses this expression they are implying that they have made sure that everything is clear and above board. They have made sure everything is in order and well understood.
It means "You're doing okay?". This common French expression is used when a French speaker wants to be sure that you are “handling” a situation. It’s a casual way of asking how you are managing or coping.
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