5 Most Useful Colloquial Expressions in French

Bonjour !

French expressions and colloquial idioms are fun! And they’re very useful in your everyday speech. You can talk about your feelings, about love, about money

They’re informal, and can often be used in many different situations. You can use them to express yourself with confidence. In an uniquely French way!

Here are five of the most useful French expressions in slang, colloquial or everyday speech in French, that you’ll hear all the time with your native-speakers friends.

Let’s dive in.

1. J’ai la Dalle

J’ai la dalle is a common slang term for j’ai faim = I’m really hungry

For instance:
On s’achète des pains au chocolat? J’ai la dalle.
“What if we bought some pains au chocolat? I’m starving.”

Note, that for feelings in French, we often use avoir, to have, when the English language uses to be, être.

As in another useful colloquial expression: J’ai la flemme, I’m feeling lazy.

It doesn’t necessarily sound like something we are, but something that happens to us, like the flu.

The More You Know:
You can use another common colloquial expression for any feeling that causes you discomfort: Je crève de… (“I’m dying from…”)
Je crève de faim = I’m sooo hungry.
Je crève de chaud = I’m feeling sooo hot.
Je crève de froid = I’m so cold
Je crève de sommeil = I’m so sleepy… (or Je tombe de sommeil for a less colloquial version.)

Or you can use “J’ai tellement chaud / faim / froid…” (“I’m so hot / hungry / cold”) on its own.

2. Dans le Coin

Dans le coin means “around here,” “in the area,” or literally “on the corner.”
It’s not really slang, it’s a bit colloquial, and it’s very useful! Especially for asking for recommendations.

Tu sais s’il y a une boulangerie dans le coin ?
Do you know if there’s a good bakery around here?

Also:
Dans le quartier
In the neighbourhood

Vous connaissez le meilleur restaurant dans le quartier?
Do you know the best restaurant in the neighbourhood?

Or:
Pas loin = not far from here
Vous savez s’il y a une banque pas loin ?
Do you know if there’s a bank nearby?

(“Pas loin” is often used with incorrect, casual grammar.)

“Dans le quartier” isn’t really colloquial, it’s a regular French expression. You could also use:
Près d’ici = Nearby
Dans les environs = in the area

Par ici = “Around here” can also be used to describe the area you’re in.

Oh, c’est joli par ici !
Oh, it’s beautiful around here!

3. Ça Déchire

Ça déchire = that’s awesome, in slang. Mostly used by younger people.

Il y a une boulangerie au coin de la rue. Ils ont une recette spéciale de pains au chocolat et ça déchire.
There’s a boulangerie on the street corner. They have a special recipe for pains au chocolat and it rocks!

You can also apply the verb to specific things, such as:

Waouh, elles déchirent, tes nouvelles chaussures !
Wow, your new shoes are fantastic!

In official, regular French, “déchirer” means “to tear” or “to tear apart.”
In slang, “être déchiré” means “to be completely drunk.”

J’étais tellement déchiré hier soir, je ne sais plus comment je suis rentré.
I was so drunk last night, I don’t remember how I got home.

There are a lot of other ways to say “Ça déchire” / “It’s awesome.” When three French people befriend each other, they seem to create yet another unique synonym for it.

I think each generation needs a different way to express this feeling without using their parents’ or their older sibling’s words, so language changes.

For instance, you could say:
Ça poutre, ça pète, ça envoie…
And with “ça envoie” (“it’s sending / emitting / throwing / launching…” = “It’s awesome”), we can send many things depending on the local variation, still with the same exact meaning:
Ça envoie du pâté = “that’s sending some pâté.”
Ça envoie du steak = “it’s launching some steaks.”
Ça envoie du lourd = “that’s emitting some weight.”
Ça envoie du bois = “that’s throwing some wood.”
Ça envoie du poney = “That’s hurling a piece of poney.”

Don’t worry if you hear some of these expressions, it’s just common slang. No cow, tree or poney have been hurt.

4. Ça Fait Chier

“Chier” is a profanity! It’s quite mild, but still, it’s un gros mot, a dirty word.

It means “defecating” in colloquial French, and as in most languages, this word is widely used in colloquial language in many ways. (By the way: the link above will direct you to a great Coffee Break video essay on profanity across languages.)

“Faire chier” means something is annoying and/or boring! And it’s something French people use a lot. It’s probably in our Top 3 Favorite French Expressions, especially when we’re in a traffic jam in the Parisian area.

Oh non, encore des bouchons, ça fait chier!
“Oh no, yet another traffic jam, it’s pissing me off!”

A synonym for “faire chier” is C’est chiant.

La boulangerie est fermée jusqu’à vendredi, c’est chiant !
The bakery is closed until Friday, that’s annoying!

Ce cours de littérature médiévale comparée est très complet mais un peu chiant.
This lecture on comparative medieval literature is very informative, but a bit boring.

Just like “ça déchire”, “ça fait chier” actually has many synonyms. And you might want to use one of those instead – to “soften” the profanity.

One of the most popular is:
Ça me soûle
Literally, it means: “It’s making me drunk.”
Figuratively: “It’s bothering me, it’s very frustrating.”

Mon portable a presque plus de batterie, ça me soûle.
My phone is dying, that’s frustrating.

However, be careful:
Je suis soûl / Je suis soûle, means “I’m drunk.”

5. Grave

Grave means both “low-pitch” and “serious.”

Une voix grave, a deep voice.
Une maladie grave, a serious illness.

But in colloquial French, “grave” can mean several other things too.

First, as an adverb on its own, it means “Yes”, or “totally.”

“On se prend un kebab à la place ?
– Grave.”

Let’s have a kebab instead? Totally.

It can also be an adjective. For a person; it’s a mild insult, that means something like “crazy,” or “out of the normal.” It’s slightly outdated though I think.

“Tu veux encore manger ? T’es grave, toi !”
“You want to eat again? You’re really special!”

Finally, it can be an adverb in a sentence, use like the adverb vraiment, “really.”

It can even be used within the other expressions!
Ça me fait grave chier. -> That’s really annoying.
J’ai grave la dalle -> I’m really hungry.
Tu déchires grave ! -> You’re truly amazing!

Et toi ?

What is your favorite French colloquial expression?

Bonne journée,
Géraldine

Join the conversation!

  • I have always used “bien fait” for “well done!” But you said in one of your episodes, NOT to use it for this. Please explain further. Thank you!

  • Salut Géraldine, mon expression familiere Francaise preferee est: l’heure entre chien et loup. Connaissez-vous celui-ci?

  • Je ne peux pas commenter maintenant. C’est le temps de dîner par ici. J’ai la dalle et la flemme, mais tu déchires grave, Géraldine! T’es jamais chiante!

  • Je suis en train de lire Le Petit Nicolas et il arrive souvent que Nicolas et ses copains “Faire les guignols”.

  • J’aime beacoup “Il caille!” (It’s freezing!) Je l’ai dit à une femme au comptoir d’un bar et elle a commencé a rigoler. “J’ai dit une drôle de chose?” j’ai demandé en rigolant aussi. “Non, monsieur, pas vraiment. Mais c’est un peu bizarre pour un homme americain un peu plus agé!” Quand je suis rentré à l’appart, j’ai cherché la phrase sur l’internet, et on a rit encore. La France me manque. Vos vidéos déchirent! (J’ai commencé mes études de français après avoir atteint l’age de cinquante ans.)

  • and to avoid saying “chiant” or il me fait chier (which is entirely possible I admit) can one say “Il est embêtant” or “Il est casse-pieds”? Ça évite d’utiliser un gros mot.

  • Bonjour, Géraldine! Et si on dit: “J’ai les crocs” (n’est-ce pas que les crocs sont les grands dents) similar to “J’ai les dalles”? On utilise encore cette expression?

  • Grave: I hear “C’est pas grave !” a lot here in the Languedoc. As in “It’s not a problem, it doesn’t matter.” Used by respectable grownups 😉

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