French expression of the day: Avoir la boule au ventre

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French expression of the day: Avoir la boule au ventre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond"

If you - like most of us - have felt a little anxious, lately, this is a very telling way to express it in French.


Why do I need to know avoir la boule au ventre?

Because, once you know what it means, it's an expression that really hits the nail on the head - no further explanation needed. But you really don't want to be the person who thinks someone is announcing that they're bloated, have put on weight or - much worse - are pregnant.

What does it mean?

Avoir la boule au ventre translates to ‘having a ball in the stomach’, but it doesn't mean you actually have swallowed a ball.

Like the English expression ‘having your stomach in knots’ it refers to a state of psychological unease, when anxiety balls up to what feels like an actual lump in your abdomen.

You probably have felt it before an exam, before going to the dentist or holding an important work presentation.

J'avais la boule au ventre ce matin, je suis content que ca s'est bien passé.  - I was so stressed this morning, I'm glad it went well. 


Perhaps you have felt it over the past weeks, as we try to overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus. 

Cette situation me donne la boule au ventre, il y a tant d'incertitudes. - This situation is making me really stressed, there are so many uncertainties.

You can use it about any situation that makes you nervous. If you're not happy with your work situation, you could say

Je déteste mon travail, chaque jour j'ai la boule au ventre avant de me coucher. - I hate my job, every day when I go to bed my stomach is in knots.

If you have la boule au ventre after reading this piece, we suggest reading this piece about boules being one of words you need to be extremely careful with when pronouncing in French - you don't want to ask for water with balls.



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