French Idioms

La fin des haricots

Pink coco beans

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “La fin des haricots.”

Literally translated as, “the end of the beans,” it means that the situation is disastrous, that it’s all over, and that all hope is gone.

Sounds depressing? Wait! It is in fact a colloquial expression that is most often used humorously, with a measure of irony. It may refer to 1) a situation that really is serious, but of which the speaker is trying to make light, 2) a situation that seems terrible in the heat of the moment, but isn’t that significant in the grand scheme of things, or 3) a trivial situation, the importance of which the speaker wants to exaggerate for comic effect.

Example: “Si on perd ce client, c’est la fin des haricots !” “If we lose this client, it’s the end of the beans!” (This exemplifies usage 1 or 2, depending on how much you depend on the client.)

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Ca ne mange pas de pain

Starter bread

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Ça ne mange pas de pain.”

Literally translated as, “It doesn’t eat bread,” it is used to say that a thing or an action can’t hurt: it may never amount to much or be of much use, but if it costs nothing and entails no risk, why not?

It is a colloquial expression that is usually delivered with a shrug, and when spoken, the ne and the de are often swallowed, so that you will hear it as, “Ça mange pas d’pain.”

Example: “Passe un coup de fil à ton médecin, ça ne mange pas de pain !” “Give your doctor a call, it doesn’t eat bread!”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Mettre de l’huile sur le feu

Oil

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Mettre de l’huile sur le feu.”

Literally translated as, “putting oil on the fire,” it means making a difficult situation even worse, exacerbating a conflict, often purposefully. It is equivalent to the English expression, “adding fuel to the flames.”

Note that it can also appear as, Jeter de l’huile sur le feu” (throwing oil on the fire) or Verser de l’huile sur le feu” (pouring oil on the fire), and that an older form puts the oil dans le feu (in the fire).

Example: “Il aurait pu porter plainte contre son voisin, mais il ne voulait pas mettre d’huile sur le feu.” “He could have filed a complaint against his neighbor, but he didn’t want to put oil on the fire.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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Tomber dans les pommes

Pommes

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Tomber dans les pommes.”

Literally translated as, “falling in the apples,” it is a colloquial expression that means passing out, fainting, losing consciousness.

Example: “Le métro était tellement bondé que la fille à côté de moi est tombée dans les pommes.” “The metro was so crowded that the girl next to me fell in the apples.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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En faire tout un flan

Flan

This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Browse the list of idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “En faire (tout) un flan.”

Literally translated as, “making a (whole) flan out of it,” it is a colloquial expression that means making a big deal out of something insignificant, blowing something out of proportion.

It is comparable to the English expressions, “making a mountain out of a molehill,” “making a song and dance about something,” and two edible idioms, “a storm/tempest in a teacup/teapot,” and “making a meal out of something.”

Example: “Si le plan de table ne lui va pas, il faut le changer, sinon il va en faire tout un flan.” “If the seating plan doesn’t suit him, we have to change it, otherwise he’ll make a whole flan out of it.”

Listen to the idiom and example read aloud:

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