15 French animal-related idioms

In English we love our animal idioms. Someone can be ‘blind as a bat’, a ‘snake in the grass’ or as ‘mad as a cow’.

But did you know that the French love their animal expressions too?

When it’s freezing cold we say “Il fait un froid de canard” (=It is a duck’s cold) and if goose bumps appear, we call them  “la chair de poule” (=hen’s flesh).

To say “pigs might fly” we prefer using “quand les poules auront des dents” (=when hens will grow teeth).

We also have « C’est du pipi de chat » (this is cat wee) to talk about a drink with no fflavour or strength.

To refer to someone who is unreasonably stubborn we use the expression “Tête de mule” (=donkey’s head).

When we fail to turn up to a planned catch up or rendez-vous we use the expression « poser un lapin » (= to leave a rabbit).

If we turn up somewhere and nobody’s there, then we’ll use the expression “il n’y a pas un chat” (=there is not one cat).

While we’re trying to extract some information out of someone, then we will “tirer les vers du nez” (=pull the worms out of the nose).

If we’re starving hungry we might say we have a “une faim de loup” (= a wolf’s hunger).

Feeling a little down? Then you must “avoir le cafard” (= to have the cockroach).

If you are starting to feel pins and needles, then you’ll talk about “avoir des fourmis” (=to have ants).

How do you talk about someone with an impressive memory? Simply saying they have a “Mémoire d’elephant » (= an elephant’s memory).

Is your favourite French tutor quizzing you on some French expressions and despite your hard work you can’t remember? If you really don’t know the answer, your tutor might ask if you want to “donner ta langue au chat” (=give your tongue to the cat).

Now it’s your turn to give your fabulous tutor a hard time. If you can’t read their writing because it is oh soooooo small? Tell them they have “une écriture en pattes de mouche » (=a fly’s legs writing).

Last but not least, before you start learning, your French might not be top-notch and you might « parler français comme une vache espagnole » (=to speak French like a Spanish cow)… but don’t worry, this won’t last J especially if you choose a fantastic VoulezVouloz tutor!


This post was written for by our lovely French tutor lovely Delphine who teaches French on the Central Coast of NSW.  Merci Delphine!

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Published: Apr 16, 2013

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