French expression of the day: Sous le capot

French expression of the day: Sous le capot
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Why, in French, keeping stuff under the bonnet is a sign you're good to go.

Why do I need to know sous le capot?

It's that kind of French expression you'll hear thrown around by people in different contexts, but that doesn't make any sense before someone explains it to you.

What does it mean?

Sous le capot can be translated to 'under the bonnet'- the 'bonnet' here is a referral to the bonnet of a car – which is a metaphor for 'having what it takes'.

French people use the expression en avoir sous le capot – ‘to have it under the hood” – to signify that someone is 'raring to go', or that they 'have the skills needed' or that they 'are in good shape'.

Saying that someone en a sous le capot can be a way of vouching for them.

It's commonly used in sports, for example if you want to say that a professional football player still has what it takes you can say il/elle en a toujours sous le capot.

But you can also use it about things that have nothing to do with sports and refer to a skill that isn't physical at all.

Use it like this

Ne t'inquiète pas, tu peux compter sur lui, il en a sous le capot – Don’t worry, you can count on him, he’s got what it takes.

Ils voulaient montrer qu'ils en avaient toujours sous le capot. – They wanted to prove that they still had what it took.

On s'est acheté une Tesla et j'ai été étonné, elle en a vraiment sous le capot. – We bought a Tesla and I was surprised, it's a really powerful car.

And, to finish, a fun little proverb for afterthought:

Il ne faut pas avoir peur des chevaux sous le capot mais de l'âne derrière le volant. – Don't worry about the number of horses under the bonnet, but rather the donkey behind the wheel. 

(Basically it means you should worry more about who is in control of something rather than the size or power of the thing itself.)

Synonyms

Avoir la forme – being in shape

Avoir de l'energie à revendre – having energy to resell (being in shape)

 


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