For members


French word of the day: Coup de barre

This does not mean someone actually had a go at you with a metal rod, but it could mean you're feeling beaten.

French word of the day: Coup de barre
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know coup de barre?

Because sometimes tiredness can hit you like a metal rod.

What does it mean?

Coup de barre means ‘knock of bar’. 

Like the many French expressions that begin with coupcoup de coeur, coup de main, coup de bol, etc – the 'knock' or 'punch' is merely symbolic.

When used like this, coup can express the feeling of being suddenly overwhelmed with a feeling – like someone actually knocked you over the head.

A barre is a metal pole of some sort, like the bar you use to lift weights at the gym or hold onto on public transport, or what ballet dancers use during dance class.

Coup de barre refers to what French online dictionary l’Internaute calls “a sentiment de fatigue subite” – ‘feeling of sudden tiredness'.

Je ne sais pas ce que j’ai, j’ai un coup de barre – I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I feel exhausted all of a sudden

J’ai toujours un coup de barre après le déjeuner – I always get acutely tired after lunch

Quand il m'a dit qu'il fallait tout recommencer, ça m'a mis un coup de barre – When he told me that I needed to start from scratch I lost all motivation.


Coup de mou – feeling sluggish

Coup de pompe – hit by a shoe (feeling flat)

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

This is definitely not lip synching.

French Expression of the Day: Chanter faux

Why do I need to know Chanter faux ?

Because if you were not blessed with a beautiful singing voice, then this might be a good phrase to know. 

What does it mean?

Chanter faux – pronounced shahn-tay foe – literally means to ‘fake sing.’ You might assume this expression would mean ‘lip sync’ in French, but its true meaning is to sing out of tune. (Lip synching is chanter en playback).

It joins a chorus of other French expressions about bad singing, like chanter comme une casserole (to sing like a saucepan) or chanter comme une seringue (to sing like a siren).  

Chanter faux is actually the most correct way to describe someone being off key, so it might be a better option than comparing another’s voice to a cooking utensil. 

You might have seen this expression pop up recently amid the drought, as people call for rain dances and rain singing (where there is no shame in singing badly).

Use it like this

Pendant l’audition pour la pièce, Sarah a chanté faux. Malheureusement, elle n’a pas obtenu le rôle. – During her audition for the play, Sarah sang out of tune. Sadly, she did not get a role.

Si on fait un karaoké, tu verras comme je chante mal. Je chante vraiment faux, mais je m’en fiche. Il s’agit de s’amuser. – If we do karaoke you will see how badly I sing. I am really out of tune, but I don’t care. It’s all about having fun.