Top French expressions you won’t learn at school

Learning French in school can be all about the grammar and pronunciation. But the French language is positively packed with some bizarre, hilarious and poetic turns of phrase, that you can use every day to impress the locals, and express exactly what's on your mind. Here's 12 of the best.

Top French expressions you won't learn at school
Who said learning French couldn't be fun? Check out these 12 French expressions they don't teach at school. Photo: Pascal Pavani/AFP

The way French is taught at school (remember être and avoir verbs?) can often be about as thrilling as watching paint dry.

Things would have been a lot more interesting if our teachers had taught us a few of the more fun, bizarre but easy-to-use French expressions that are out there.  And there are plenty of them. 

Here at The Local, we've taken it upon ourselves to select some of the best and most colourful French expressions, that you wouldn't have picked up in a classroom. Click on the link below to se our top 12.


Use them on a daily basis to ingratiate yourself with your neighbours or quite possibly reduce them to fits of laughter.

See how many of these you've had cause to deploy.

Let us know some more great French expressions that you won't learn at school, and we'll include them. Email us at [email protected]

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French elections: What is ‘parrainage’ and how does it affect candidates?

If you follow French politics, it's about this time that you will start to see a lot of mentions of parrainage - here's what that means and how it affects the race for the presidency.

French elections: What is 'parrainage' and how does it affect candidates?

The French word parrainage means sponsorship or guardianship and it comes from parrain – godfather.

Just as in English, parrain can be used in its literal sense for a child’s godfather (godmother is marraine) or a more general sense for anyone who is a powerful figure – the classic mafia movie The Godfather is Le Parrain in France.

But in the context of presidential elections it has a more specific meaning, which is to do with how you get onto the ballot paper.

In order to be a candidate in a French election you have to be a French citizen aged 18 years or over. 

But you also need to collect at least 500 signatures (or parrainages) from elected officials to back your campaign.

These can be from anyone elected to public office from village mayors to MPs, MEPs and Senator but there are some rules – the officials must come from at least 30 different French départements or overseas French territories and no more than 50 signatures can come from one département or overseas territory.

This year, candidates have until March 4th to gain the signatures they need, if you’re on French social media you may recently have spotted lots of obscure politicians tweeting pictures of either a signed form or a letter being popped into the postbox – they’re making a public declaration of their parrainage.

You don’t need to be on Twitter though, the names of all the officials who have given their signatures will be published on March 8th, along with the list of candidates who have gained the required 500 and therefore their place on the ballot paper. 

Until that date, the question of who has the required numbers of parrainages is the subject of a lot of speculation and newspaper headlines, as well as charts like the one below, which are generally based on public declarations of support.

You can follow all the latest news and explanations of the 2022 presidential election campaign HERE.