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French expression of the day: A pleines dents

In France, biting into things with all your teeth is a very positive thing and not just at dinner time.

French expression of the day: A pleines dents
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know?

Because, if someone shouts 'full tooth', you will know that they aren't talking about biting.

What does it mean?

A pleine dent means 'full tooth' and the plural version à pleines dents means 'full teeth' or 'all your teeth'.

Both are commonly used in French, but rarely as a literal referral to teeth. The 'teeth' here are actually metaphors for life. 

Going at something 'with all your teeth' in France is equivalent to doing something 'at full speed' in English, 'giving it all you have'.

A pleines dents comes from the expression croquer la vie à pleines dents, which translates to 'biting into life with all your teeth'.

Today, croquer la vie à pleines dents is like saying 'live life to the fullest' (YOLO if you will).

At its origins in the 15th century croquer la vie à pleines dents was simply a way of saying bon appétit. (Similarly, croquer à belles dents meant 'eating with gusto').

Like many French expressions, croquer la vie à pleines dents with time became shortened, and many people today simply use à pleines dents (or à pleine dent). 

Funnily enough, A pleines dents ! is also the name of a food documentary series featuring famous French actor Gérard Depardieu, who together with a French chef trots around the world on a culinary excursion. The show screened on Arte in 2015 over two seasons.

Use it like this

Il faut y aller à pleines dents je t'ai dit ! – I told you that you need to give it all you've got!

Il faut apprendre croquer la vie à pleines dents. – You need to learn how to live life to the max.

Elle a changé tout. Boulot, copain, apart,. Et maintenant elle croque la vie à pleine dent. – She changed everything. Job, boyfriend, apartment.. And now she's really enjoying life.

l faut croquer à pleines dents dans cette finale. – We need to go into this final at full speed.


Avoir la soif de vivre – being thirsty for life (living life to the fullest)

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.