Why do I need to know coup de main?
This French expression is nicer than it might initially sound, and can mean a few different things.
What does it mean?
As coup means ‘knock’ or ‘smack’ and main means hand, so you might think that un coup de main is an act of violence or something a woman on the Paris Metro should give to someone harassing her.
But if you want to talk about punching someone the right coup to use would be a coup de poing, with poing meaning ‘fist’.
Giving someone a coup de main is actually nice gesture, because it means you give them ‘a helping hand’.
You can use the expression with the verbs donner or filer, both of which mean ‘to give’, such as, Je peut te filer un coup de main demain si t’as besoin. (I can give you a helping hand tomorrow if you need it.)
Or, Tu peux me donner un coup de main demain matin? (Can you give me a hand tomorrow morning?)
If ever you only want to give someone a little help, you can also give them un coup de pouce, with pouce meaning ‘thumb’. This means, rather than a whole ‘helping hand’, you give them a ‘push in the right direction’ or a ‘helpful tip’. For example, Il a eu besoin d'un coup de pouce pour compléter son travail. (He needed a push in the right direction to finish his work)
Using coup de main with the verb avoir (to have) changes its meaning to something more literal.
If you say, for example, elle a le coup de main, you mean to say ‘she is handy’ or is able to make, fix and build things.
Along the same lines you can also prendre le coup de main, or ‘to get the hang of something’, such as je lui a montré une fois et il prit le coup de main trés vite. (I showed him once and he got the hang of it really quickly)
And, of course you can, perdre le coup de main or ‘lose your touch’. For example, Je n’ai pas joué au foot depuis 6 mois et j’ai perdu le coup de main. (I haven’t played football for six months and now I’ve lost my touch.)
How do I use coup de main?
Merci pour le coup de main! Sans toi, je n’aurais jamais pu finir de déménager dans le temps.
Thanks for giving me a hand! I’d never have been able to get the move done in time without you.
Pour monter ce meuble, il faut le coup de main.
You need to be good with your hands to put this piece of furniture together.
(The expressions above come from wordreference.com)