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Boiling broth and breaking heads – 13 French ways to say ‘it’s not worth it’

Foreigners in France encounter a multitude of challenges, from confusing bureaucracy to intricate grammar rules. But sometimes it's just not worth the effort, so here is the linguistic equivalent of the famous Gallic shrug.

Boiling broth and breaking heads - 13 French ways to say 'it's not worth it'
Photo: Jason Strull on Unsplash

1. Ça ne vaut pas la peine 

This is one of the most common ways to say ‘it’s not worth it’ in French. Ça ne vaut pas la peine translates as ‘it’s not worth not the pain’ and is one of the many French equivalents to ‘it’s not worth the effort’. You can scratch the beginning and say vaut pas la peine (not worth the pain), or merely pas la peine.

Pas la peine de venir à l’heure, ils sont toujours au moins 10 minutes en retard. – No use being on time, they are always at least 10 minutes late.

2. Ça ne vaut pas le coup

This is another version of the same expression, just with le coup instead of la peine. Coup here refers to the ‘attempt’, so basically you’re telling someone that there’s no use in trying something. You can also say ça ne vaut pas le coût, which means ‘it’s not worth the cost’.

3. Laisse tomber

Laisse tomber directly translates as ‘let (it) fall’ and is the French version of ‘drop it’. It means that it’s no use in trying, it’s already too late – like running after the bus when it’s already started driving: laisse tomber, ça ne sert a rien – forget it, it’s no use.

4. T’inquiète pas

T’inquiète pas is short for ne t’inquiète pas, which means ‘don’t worry’.

People frequently drop the ne when speaking in France, and with this particular expression you can also drop the pas. T’inquiète and t’inquiète pas are actually the same expression, which can seem confusing seeing as the first alternative actually looks like you’re telling someone ‘DO worry’, instead of ‘don’t worry’.

T’inquiète pas is extremely common in France. If your partner is running late for dinner, you can tell them t’inquiète pas, je t’addends, which here means ‘don’t worry, i’ll wait for you’. But if they respond, non non, t’inquiète, je mange en rentrant, they’re telling you ‘no no, don’t bother, I’ll eat when I come home’. 

(Normally you would conjugate the verb s’inquièter as tu t’inquiètes, but seeing as this is an interjection you drop the s at the end.)

READ ALSO: Six culture clashes foreigners should prepare for when visiting French families

5. Te casse pas la tête

This one is a pretty literal way of telling someone they shouldn’t fret over something. Se casser la tête literally translates as ‘breaking one’s head’, so if you tell someone (ne) te casse pas la tête you’re telling them ‘don’t break your head’. Another version is te prends pas la tête (don’t take your head).

6. Ça ne vaut pas le jus

If something isn’t worth it, you can also say that ça ne vaut pas le jus – it’s not worth the juice. Jus is a versatile term in the French language: tenir au jus is the same as tenir au courant (keep someone updated).

But if something isn’t worth the jus, it’s not worth the effort. (The jus could be a reference to bodily fluids lost during strenuous efforts, similar to the English expression ‘don’t sweat it’.) 

7. Ça ne vaut pas le détour 

If something vaut pas le détour, it’s ‘not worth the detour’. It’s pretty straightforward, implying that in order to accomplish something you need to walk an extra stretch (and that it’s not worth it).

8. T’en fais pas 

T’en fais pas – short for ne t’en fais pas – also means ‘don’t bother’, and comes from the expression se faire du souci (going through trouble). In the s’en faire, the en refers to souci, so telling someone ne t’en fais pas is like telling them, ne te fais pas du souci – don’t go to the trouble.

If you’re having your friend over for wine and she starts cleaning up afterwards, you can tell her: t’en fais pas, je le ferai toute à l’heure – don’t worry about it, I’ll do that afterwards.

9. Te tracasse pas 

Te tracasse pas means ‘don’t worry’ or ‘don’t bother’, although tracasser can mean ‘harass’ in French. Here the harassment is figurative and self-inflicted, so telling someone to (ne) te tracasse pas is similar to saying ‘don’t fret’.

10. Te mets pas la rate au court-bouillon

You may not have heard this one, but it’s an old classic. It literally translates as ‘don’t put your spleen in the court-bouillon’, the court-bouillon referring to a specific kind of broth (it doesn’t get more French than this.)

It’s a figurative way of saying, ‘don’t beat yourself up’, referring to the without doubt highly painful action of dropping your poor spleen into a boiling broth.

READ ALSO: Language dilemmas: Why can’t I understand what French people say?

11. Oublie

Oublie means ‘forget’, and can be used to say ‘forget about it’, as in ce n’est pas grave – it’s doesn’t matter. It’s an interjection, so you drop the s at the end here too, even if you’re addressing someone directly. You can also say on oublie – let’s forget about it.

12. Ça ne sert à rien

If something ne sert à rien, ‘it’s no use’. Use this the next time your friend is fretting over some impossible French bureaucratic task that you know doesn’t serve any real purpose: ça ne sert strictement à rien – it doesn’t really make any difference.

READ ALSO: The A-Z of French bureaucracy

13. C’est inutile

This is one of the queen of linguistic uselessness. When all hope is lost, c’est inutile – it’s useless, futile, pointless. Inutile d’essayer, on a déjà perdu – no use in trying, we’ve already lost.

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For members


Le Havre rules: How to talk about French towns beginning with Le, La or Les

If you're into car racing, French politics or visits to seaside resorts you are likely at some point to need to talk about French towns with a 'Le' in the title. But how you talk about these places involves a slightly unexpected French grammar rule. Here's how it works.

An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre.
An old WW2 photo taken in the French port town of Le Havre. It can be difficult to know what prepositions to use for places like this - so we have explained it for you. (Photo by AFP)

If you’re listening to French chat about any of those topics, at some point you’re likely to hear the names of Mans, Havre and Touquet bandied about.

And this is because French towns that have a ‘Le’ ‘La’ or ‘Les’ in the title lose them when you begin constructing sentences. 

As a general rule, French town, commune and city names do not carry a gender. 

So if you wanted to describe Paris as beautiful, you could write: Paris est belle or Paris est beau. It doesn’t matter what adjectival agreement you use. 

For most towns and cities, you would use à to evoke movement to the place or explain that you are already there, and de to explain that you come from/are coming from that location:

Je vais à Marseille – I am going to Marseille

Je suis à Marseille – I am in Marseille 

Je viens de Marseille – I come from Marseille 

But a select few settlements in France do carry a ‘Le’, a ‘La’ or a ‘Les’ as part of their name. 

In this case the preposition disappears when you begin formulating most sentences, and you structure the sentence as you would any other phrase with a ‘le’, ‘la’ or ‘les’ in it.


Le is the most common preposition for two names (probably something to do with the patriarchy) with Le Havre, La Mans, Le Touquet and the town of Le Tampon on the French overseas territory of La Réunion (more on that later)

A good example of this is Le Havre, a city in northern France where former Prime Minister, Edouard Philippe, who is tipped to one day run for the French presidency, serves as mayor. 

Edouard Philippe’s twitter profile describes him as the ‘Maire du Havre’, using a masculine preposition

Here we can see that his location is Le Havre, and his Twitter handle is Philippe_LH (for Le Havre) but when he comes to describe his job the Le disappears.

Because Le Havre is masculine, he describes himself as the Maire du Havre rather than the Maire de Havre (Anne Hidalgo, for example would describe herself as the Maire de Paris). 

For place names with ‘Le’ in front of them, you should use prepositions like this:

Ja vais au Touquet – I am going to Le Touquet

Je suis au Touquet – I am in Le Touquet 

Je viens du Touquet – I am from Le Touquet 

Je parle du Touquet – I am talking about Le Touquet

Le Traité du Touquet – the Le Touquet Treaty


Some towns carry ‘La’ as part of their name. La Rochelle, the scenic town on the west coast of France known for its great seafood and rugby team, is one such example.

In French ‘à la‘ or ‘de la‘ is allowed, while ‘à le‘ becomes au and ‘de le’ becomes du. So for ‘feminine’ towns such as this, you should use the following prepositions:

Je vais à La Rochelle – I am going to La Rochelle

Je viens de La Rochelle – I am coming from La Rochelle 


And some places have ‘Les’ in front of their name, like Les Lilas, a commune in the suburbs of Paris. The name of this commune literally translates as ‘The Lilacs’ and was made famous by Serge Gainsbourg’s song Le Poinçonneur des Lilas, about a ticket puncher at the Metro station there. 

When talking about a place with ‘Les’ as part of the name, you must use a plural preposition like so:

Je suis le poinçonneur des Lilas – I am the ticket puncher of Lilas 

Je vais aux Lilas – I am going to Les Lilas

Il est né aux Lilas – He was born in Les Lilas  


Islands follow more complicated rules. 

If you are talking about going to one island in particular, you would use à or en. This has nothing to do with gender and is entirely randomised. For example:

Je vais à La Réunion – I am going to La Réunion 

Je vais en Corse – I am going to Corsica 

Generally speaking, when talking about one of the en islands, you would use the following structure to suggest movement from the place: 

Je viens de Corse – I am coming from Corsica 

For the à Islands, you would say:

Je viens de La Réunion – I am coming from La Réunion 

When talking about territories composed of multiple islands, you should use aux.

Je vais aux Maldives – I am going to the Maldives. 

No preposition needed 

There are some phrases in French which don’t require any a preposition at all. This doesn’t change when dealing with ‘Le’ places, such as Le Mans – which is famous for its car-racing track and Motorcycle Grand Prix. Phrases that don’t need a preposition include: 

Je visite Le Mans – I am visiting Le Mans

J’aime Le Mans – I like Le Mans

But for a preposition phrase, the town becomes simply Mans, as in Je vais au Mans.