French phrase of the day: En faire une maladie

French phrase of the day: En faire une maladie
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Nothing to do with Covid - this is a long-established phrase in France that speaks to an important aspect of the national character.

Why do I need to know en faire une maladie?

Because it is a timely expression for a health crisis, but it also says a lot about France.

What does it mean?

En faire une maladie directly translates as 'to make a disease of it', which is a metaphor for saying that someone is making a big fuss over nothing.

It is similar to the English expressions 'making a mountain out of a molehill', 'to blow something out of proportion' or 'to make a big deal' about something.

READ ALSO: Nine French phrases that English really should have too

The en at the beginning of the expression means 'it', and it's important to remember not to leave it out: Tu en fais toute une maladie alors que ce n'est vraiment pas grave – you're making such a big deal out of it when it really doesn't matter.

En faire une maladie is often accompanied by toute – en faire toute une maladie – which makes it even more dramatic and means 'to make a WHOLE disease out of something', hinting at a hypochondriac's tendency of turning minor ills into warnings of deadly diseases.

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Accusing someone of being overly dramatic is common practice in France, which the French language attests to through its long list of expressions reserved for this purpose.

Most of these are food-based – en faire tout un plat de (make a whole plate out of it), en faire tout un fromage de (make a whole cheese out of it), en faire tout un cake (make a whole cake out of it) – but there's also the mountain-molehill example –  en faire tout un montagne de – and the more basic one, en faire tout une histoire (make a whole story out of it).

En faire toute une maladie can be used just interchangeably with these and means, just like the others, that ce n'est pas la fin du monde – it's not the end of the world.

Use it like this

Ça va, pas la peine d’en faire une maladie. – It's ok, no need to make a big deal out of it.

Ma belle-mère en ferait toute une maladie si elle savait qu'on a laissé les enfants manger une glace avant le dîner. – My mother-in-law would make a huge deal out of it if she knew that we let the kids have ice cream before dinner.

On m'a fait toute une maladie juste parce que j'étais quelques minutes en retard. Je trouvais ça un peu injuste. – They made such a big deal about my being a few minutes late. I thought that was a bit unwarranted.  

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