5 lesser-known and/or funny French idiomatic expressions

What is an idiomatic expression?

An idiomatic expression is made up of several words which, together, have figurative or colorful meaning to describe a given situation. These groups of words are specific to a given language –  they could consist in grammatical constructions or metaphors –  and therefore cannot be literally translated into another language.

Ex: The French idiomatic expression :  « il pleut des cordes » is translated in English to « it’s raining cats and dogs ».

Poser un lapin

If this expression is well known to French speakers around the world, it is not always the case among foreigners, although it can be particularly useful for professionals or students. The expression “poser un lapin” literally translates to “put a rabbit” and means “to stand someone up”.

This particular expression transcends generations and remains frequently used nowadays.

Il ne faut pas pousser mémé dans les orties

This expression is still frequently used by young people and is very surprising to non-French speaking foreigners on their first trip to France. This idiomatic expression can be translated to “Don’t push Granny into the nettles!” which simply means “don’t push it”. The initial expression goes back to the early 20th  when people just used to say “ il ne faut pas pousser, ” let’s not push it” (or simply “don’t push it”). The rest of the sentence was therefore added later on to give the expression a strong comic (and little irreverent) side.

To get a rake

The expression “poser un rateau” is one of those you might have to cope with if you’re a young student (unfortunately, but life goes on!) : literally translated as “to get a rake”, it means to be rejected in an attempt (to seduce someone).

The English equivalent would therefore be “Get knocked back, be shot down in flames”.

Faire gaffe

This other idiomatic expression is undoubtedly one of the most commonly used by French people, while it remains unknown to foreigners while on their first language stay. Its meaning is indeed confusing if literally translated in English, since we then get something like “to make mistake”. Used to warn someone of a potential danger, the English equivalent to this expression is in fact “ be careful”.

être sur son 31

Here is another idiomatic expression you are likely to hear as a student if you go to a party or a college gala. “Se mettre sur son 31” literally translates to « to be on one’s 31 », meaning you are wearing nice clothes and outfits.

So, if at some point during your student life you  hear someone say  « tu es sur ton 31 », just know that this person means « you re all dressed up ! ».

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Le secrétariat sera exceptionnellement fermé le mercredi 17 janvier.

The secretariat will be exceptionally closed on Wednesday, January 17th. 

Information sur la session de printemps 2024

L’inscription à la session de printemps (rentrée du 5 février 2024) est encore possible jusqu’au 2 février, sous réserve de places disponibles.

Les étudiants souhaitant s’inscrire sont invités à se rendre directement au bureau des admissions de l’institution, ouvert du lundi au vendredi de 9h30 à 16h30.
Ils doivent s’assurer de disposer d’un visa valide.

L’inscription en ligne pour cette session n’est plus possible sur ce site.

Information regarding the 2024 spring session

Registration for the spring session (starting on February 5, 2024) is still possible until February 2, subject to availability.

Students wishing to register are invited to go directly to the institution’s admission office, open Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm.
They must ensure they have a valid visa.

Online registration for this session is no longer available on this website.

Dates des prochains examens TCF

Les prochaines sessions d’examen TCF auront lieu dans les locaux de l’institution aux dates suivantes :

Le 30 janvier et le 27 février :

+ épreuve orale
+ épreuve écrite

Le 31 janvier et le 28 février :