Learning French expressions is one of the easiest ways to learn to speak more colloquial French — the kind that will make you sound like a more advanced, confident French speaker.
We have a lot of funny expressions in French, including some that use otherwise normal words.
Take cabbage for example.
“Chou” (= cabbage) is a cute funny word in French, and many classic French expressions use it. You can too!
“Ménager la chèvre et le chou”, “Être bête comme chou“…
Today, we’ll explore what those French expressions mean, and even learn a few more.
Bonjour c’est Géraldine, Bienvenue sur Comme une Française. C’est parti !
Learning goals: This is what you’ll be able to do after watching this lesson
- Learn fun French expressions to use in everyday conversation
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1) Ménager la chèvre et le chou
This expression uses the French verb “ménager” — a strange verb that can mean “le ménage” (= cleaning) or “se ménager” (= to take care of oneself).
It also uses “la chèvre” (= the goat) and of course, “le chou” (= cabbage)
So Ménager la chèvre et le chou literally means “to be frugal with the goat and the cabbage.” Which isn’t a situation that comes up often, nowadays!
As any dictionary (such as Le Robert for instance) indicates, it also means “ne pas prendre parti” (= to keep both parties sweet/happy), or to compromise in some way. The corresponding English expression would be “run with the hare and hunt with the hound.”
Le président ménage la chèvre et le chou en ne répondant pas aux questions des journalistes.
The President keeps both parties sweet by not answering the journalists’ questions.
2) Être bête comme chou
As an adjective, bête means “stupid, dumb.”
Être bête comme chou means, literally, “to be dumb as a cabbage.” But it’s not an insult!
Actually, it’s often used to describe a problem or a task: “c’est bête comme chou” means “it’s dead easy.”
You can also use : “c’est simple / c’est facile à comprendre / c’est enfantin (= even a child could do it)”
Acheter une baguette en France, c’est bête comme chou.
Buying a baguette in France is dead easy!
3) Faire chou blanc
Faire chou blanc means, literally, “Make a white cabbage.”
When used as a French expression, however, it means “échouer” (= “to fail”), especially in terms of “not being able to find something.”
Nathalie est allée à Paris pour chercher un appartement mais elle a fait chou blanc.
Nathalie went to Paris to look for an apartment but her flat-hunting has failed.
4) Un bout de chou
Un bout de chou / un petit bout de chou means literally “a (small) piece of cabbage.”
It’s not something you can eat, though! Actually, it’s a cute name to say “a child / a baby (boy or girl).”
For instance, you can ask: “Comment va ton petit bout de chou ?” (= “How is your little kid?”)
5) Être chou
Être chou means literally “to be a cabbage.”
But yet again, that’s not an insult!
This French expression actually means “to be nice / to be cute / to be charming.” It applies to people or situations.
Jules est très chou quand il suce son pouce dans son berceau.
Jules is very cute when he sucks his thumb in his cradle.
Finally, “mon chou” (= “my cabbage”) means “my dear / my darling / my sweetheart.” So “Être chou” also means “to be a dear”.
Tu m’as offert des fleurs ? Oh tu es trop chou !
Did you buy my flowers? Oh you’re such a dear!
Now it’s your turn! Tell me the French translation using the appropriate French expression for the following:
- Jean is cute.
- It’s very simple.
- Anne doesn’t take sides.
(Answers: Jean est chou / C’est bête comme chou / Anne ménage la chèvre et le chou.)
→ ET TOI ?
Quelle est ton expression favorite avec des légumes?
What’s your favorite French expression with vegetables?
Answer in the comments. In French, if you dare!
For example, you can write: “J’aime bien “Mettre du beurre dans les épinards” car j’adore manger les épinards de mon jardin.”
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Allez, salut 🙂