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French expression of the day: A pleines dents

French expression of the day: A pleines dents
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
In France, biting into things with all your teeth is a very positive thing and not just at dinner time.

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.

Synonyms

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


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