Ne pas être sorti de l’auberge


This is part of a series on French idiomatic expressions that relate to food. Read the introductory Edible Idiom post, and browse the list of French idioms featured so far.

This week’s idiom is, “Ne pas être sorti de l’auberge.”

Literally translated as, “not being out of the inn*,” it means that one is tangled up in an unpleasant situation with still a ways to go, or a lot of work to do**, before one can expect to be freed from it.

It can be likened to the English idiom (not) being out of the woods, except that these woods often imply a precarious or dangerous situation, while the French auberge rather refers to one that’s burdensome and discouraging, but not necessarily unsafe.

Example 1: “Le correcteur pinaille sur chaque tournure de phrase, alors on n’est pas sorti de l’auberge.” “The copyeditor nitpicks about every turn of phrase, so we’re not out of the inn (= it’s going to take forever to go through the entire document).”

It is a colloquial expression that can also be used in a mildly mocking tone, implying that the person who’s “not out of the inn” is in fact mishandling the situation, and somehow responsible for his own difficulties.

Example 2: “Si tu cèdes à chaque fois qu’il fait un caprice, tu n’es pas sorti de l’auberge.” “If you give in every time he throws a tantrum, you’re not out of the inn (= your kid will drive you crazy).”

Listen to the idiom and examples read aloud:

(If no player appears, here’s a link to the audio file.)

This idiom comes from the use of l’auberge (the inn) as a (now outdated) slang word for prison, in reference to the fact that prisoners are given room and board. Consequently, someone who isn’t out of the inn is someone who still has time to serve, i.e. tough times to go through.

* The picture above was taken inside Gianni’s farm-inn.

** See also: Avoir du pain sur la planche.

  • BreadintheBone

    I am glad you explained that it originally meant ‘prison’! The picture you’ve posted is an auberge I would be happy to linger in.

  • sonia Murphy

    I love these! Makes me think of Chaucer’s “Canterbury Tales” for some reason, troubles at an inn seems so English somehow.
    A friend told me about the Lithuanian version of something being easy. We have “a piece of cake” and they have “it’s mushroom songs.” I love that! I imagine fairies and gnomes singing about mushroom soup!

  • Tara

    Love this one for some reason – great pic, too! :)

  • Noted and filed!

  • so interesting – this one makes sense to me. some of them don’t, but this one I can visualize!

  • Tee hee, I get “auberge” and “aubergine” mixed up, so at first glance, I read the title as “to not be out of eggplant.” I guess maybe it’s been a little while since high school French.

  • Aiyana

    *laughs* Between my French being a bit rusty and the fact that I was looking for a more food-related phrase, I first mistook “auberge” for “aubergine”! I was puzzling over that one…


  • I am really enjoying this series. I am always searcing for le mot juste, and scrabble about in my muddled bilingual head, on occasion, only finding the set of words in the language I am not speaking. Thanks Claudine

  • its always to good hear phrases or expressions in a different langauge as it usually has subtle differences, such as this one.

  • There’s also “in the weeds,” which means falling behind, being snarled in a project. I’ve heard it in a restaurant context, where an overworked waiter might be having trouble getting to all his tables.

  • could it also be “you’ve got your work cut out for you”?

    as far as Auberge being slang for Jail, one must know that centuries ago, you could often improve the dismal food you were given while in jail and the “board” in some cases by paying (just like in an Inn). It was totally accepted practice.


  • A Word A Day for today (2/13) is “canard” which, according to Anu Garg, originates from vendre un canard à moitié. ( Would this qualify as an edible idiom?

  • Where I come from (which is near Quebec) we also say “On n’a pas sorti du bois” as in “we’re not out of the woods (yet)”.

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