13 totally relatable French expressions
There are a million reasons to learn French: is beautiful, sexy and suave. But it’s also thoughtful and intelligent. The French have a certain je ne sais quoi when it comes to expressing themselves – which might explain why the English language has borrowed so many French words.
But there are many more beautiful French words and expressions that are just wonderfully relatable and explain a situation so perfectly, it’s almost as if we haven't even thought of the concept in English!
1. Leche vitrine
While some people may like to browse the shops and do a bit of window shopping, in France the pastime is better known as ‘leche vitrine’ – literally window licking. And it certainly makes sense when you flâneur (wander aimlessly) around Paris, drooling over the pretty window displays in the boutiques lining the charming streets.
The ‘laissez-faire’ attitude reflects the idea that people should be free to choose how to do things, without too much involvement from authority. Translating to ‘allow to do’, it can be applied to workplaces, government policy, the economy and even parenting styles.
You don’t want to get a bad reputation as a ‘Seigneur-terraces’ (translated to Lord of the Terrace in English) during your travels in France. This phrase is used to describe people who sit around in a café all day without spending much money. So if you’re going to order one coffee while using the free WiFi for hours, you can expect the waiters to mutter ‘Seigneur-terrace’ as they deliver the bill.
4. Bon vivant
Like to party and socialize? Do you have a taste for good food and wine? Do you enjoy indulging in life’s luxuries? Then you could be described as a ‘bon vivant’. And with food and wine making up a large part of French culture, there is certainly no shortage of bon vivants in the country. Bon appétit!
5. Quand meme
‘Quand meme’ can’t be easily translated into English, and that’s partly because it has so many uses! This versatile word can be dropped into almost any French conversation, so it’s handy to have in your back pocket.
Quand meme is the equivalent of so many different English expressions, such as “thanks, but no thanks”, "anyway," "even so," "all the same," "nevertheless," "really," "finally," and "how about that!
Used to describe a social blunder or mistake that leaves you feeling embarrassed, ‘faux-pas’ is such a fitting expression that it’s slowly made its way into the English language. In France, not making eye contact when clinking glasses with someone would be considered a social faux-pas.
7. Faire la grasse matinée
One of the best French expressions for those who like lazy weekends, to ‘faire la grasse matineé’ means to have a long, lazy sleep in. The literal English translation “to make the fat morning” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.
8. La douleur exquise
That specific heartbreak that comes from unrequited love can be perfectly articulated in the French expression ‘la douleur exquise’. Only the French could come up with something so eloquent to describe that feeling of loving someone you can never have, or who doesn’t love you back.
If you’re looking for an excuse to get out of something while avoiding any follow up questions, simply say 'désolé, empêchement!’. It roughly translates to “an unexpected last minute change of plans” or “something came up” and the vagueness of it means you don’t need to give any further explanations.
10. Déjà vu
You’re probably familiar with the French expression ‘déjà vu’, that curious sensation of feeling like you’ve already experienced or seen something before. It translates directly to “already seen” so that would probably explain why we prefer to use the French version!
11. Nuit blanche
Translating to “white night”, this phrase can be used to describe a sleepless night. If you pull an all-nighter and party til dawn you would ‘faire une nuit blanche’ or if you had a terrible night of sleep, the phrase also works in a negative sense.
In French, someone who is sensitive to the cold is known as a ‘frileux’. So if you are constantly turning the temperature up in the house or car to the annoyance of your partner, you can justify your actions in French just by simply saying ‘je suis frileux.’ It can also be used to describe someone who is risk averse or a bit of a scaredy-cat.
This word describes a curious phenomenon that occurs when a man puts on weight at the same time as his pregnant partner starts to grow a baby bump. It can be used to gently tease a male friend whose stomach has rounded out a little – a symptom experienced by around 20% of French men during their partner’s pregnancy.