French expression of the day: Il pleut des cordes

French expression of the day: Il pleut des cordes
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Why 'ropes' are essential to rainy days in France.

Why do I need to know il pleut des cordes?

If you live in France, chances are you will need this from time to time.

What does it mean?

Il pleut des cordes translates to 'it rains some ropes', which means it is raining heavily – 'it's pouring'.

While it may sound a bit odd to compare rain to ropes, the idea is that the rain drops are so thick and heavy that it looks like ropes are coming down from the sky. A rather old-fashioned English equivalent would be its raining 'stair-rods'.

The more usual English equivalent is 'it's raining cats and dogs' – which you could argue is an even weirder way of picturing rain.


So if you're in an area hit by thunderstorms and heavy rain, this is one for you.


If you are caught by a rafale de pluie (heavy gusts of wind and rain), you could exclaim Il pleut des cordes ! – It's raining cats and dogs!


Use it like this

On attend un peu avant de faire les courses ? Il pleut des cordes en ce moment. – Let's wait a little before getting groceries? It's raining cats and dogs at the moment.

Je suis désolée, je mouille tout, il pleuvait des cordes quand je suis partie. – I'm sorry, I'm dripping everywhere, it was pouring when I left.

C'était bien le festival ? Non, il pleuvait des cordes, c'était l'enfer. – Was the festival good? – No, it was pouring, it was hell.


Il tombe des cordes – Ropes are falling down

Il pleut très fort – It's raining heavily

Il pleut à flots – It's pouring

Il pleut comme vache qui pisse – It's raining like a pissing cow (very colloquial)


Member comments

  1. Back in my Kentish schooldays of the early 1950s, I was taught to say: Il pleut des hallebardes. I don’t suppose that, even then, anyone English or French knew what a halberd was any more.

  2. Reminds me of the Lancashire expression: “It’s coming down in stair rods”. I believe the Italians say something similar.

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