French expression of the day: Sous le capot

Why, in French, keeping stuff under the bonnet is a sign you're good to go.

French expression of the day: Sous le capot
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

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.)


Avoir la forme – being in shape

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


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French Expression of the Day: Les toxicos

You'll want to be sure to only use this French expression in the right contexts.

French Expression of the Day: Les toxicos

Why do I need to know les toxicos?

Because you might want to avoid using this term if you simply want to describe someone as behaving in a toxic manner.

What does it mean?

Les toxicos roughly pronounced lay tox-ee-kohs – is the French slang term to describe “drug addict”.

The English equivalent might be “junkie”.

The word comes from a French word for drug addiction more generally. “Toxicomanie” refers to the physical and/or psychological dependence on chemical substances without prescription or therapeutic justification.

The official term for a person addicted to substances is “toximane” – and les toxicos is a shortened, more informal version of the term. 

In French, you can also use the term “dépendance” to refer to addiction as well.

READ MORE: French Expression of the Day: Les stups

Some may use this term in a derogatory way, though its usage depends on context and the person speaking.

Use it like this

Le politicien a critiqué le manque de financement de la police et a cité le fait qu’il y avait trop de toxicos près de la gare. – The politician criticised a lack of funding for police and cited the fact that there were too many drug addicts by the train station.

L’homme m’a dit que je devais faire attention en traversant le parc car il y avait beaucoup de toxicos, mais je me sentais en sécurité.– The man told me that I should be careful when crossing the park because there are many junkies, but I felt safe.