French expression of the day: À quelle sauce seras-tu mangé?

French expression of the day: À quelle sauce seras-tu mangé?
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
If a French person asks you about the sauce you will be eaten with, read this before you run for the hills.

Why do I need to know à quelle sauce on va être mangé?

Because it's a very odd-sounding expression if you don't know what it means.

What does it mean?

The full expression is really ne pas savoir à quelle sauce on va être mangé, which means 'not knowing what sauce one is going to be eaten with'.

But the expression is only figuratively – the person is not asking you to choose between bérnaise and sauce au poivre – and really means 'not knowing what to expect' of something or someone.

The French like to play with the culinary pun though, for example in this cartoon of Carlos Gohsn, infamous French business man and Renault Nissan CEO-in-hiding: “What sauce will Carlos Gohsn be eaten with” here means “What will be the fate of Carlos Gohsn?”



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Use it like this:

The meaning depends on the context and you can use it to say you don't know what lies ahead, how you will be received, how something will go.

If you are meeting the French in-laws for the first time and you say Je ne sais pas à quelle sauce je vais être mangé, it means 'I have no idea how they will receive me'.

Le bac changent cette année et les élèves ne savent pas encore à quelle sauce ils vont être mangés. – The bac (final exam in high school) changes this year and the pupils don't know what to expect.

L'entreprise a annoncé des restrictions budgétaires et les salariés voudraient bien savoir à quelle sauce ils vont être mangés. – The business has announced budgetary restrictions and the employees would like to know how this will affect them.


Ne pas savoir quoi attendre – not knowing what to expect

Ne pas savoir comment on va être reçu – not knowing how one will be received


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