For members


French phrase of the day: Vider son sac 

Why you might sometimes need to empty a metaphorical bag in France.

French phrase of the day: Vider son sac 
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know vider son sac?

Because it doesn’t mean the same as its direct translation and it may be good for your mental health.

What does it mean?

Vider son sac translates as ‘to empty one’s bag’, vider being the verb ‘to empty’ and sac is French for ‘bag’, as in sac à main (handbag) or sac à dos (backpack).

The expression is a metaphor and what you’re emptying is not really your bag, but yourself.

It’s not a dirty expression, however, so if your mind had travelled to stuff that happens below the belt, then think again.

Vider son sac is the French equivalent of ‘getting something off your chest’ or ‘speak your mind’.  It’s an alternative to dire ce qu’on a sur le coeur, which directly translates as ‘to say what’s in your heart’.

A person qui vide son sac speaks truthfully about something, even if it’s difficult to say. French online dictionary l’Internaute explains it as when someone says “all the unsaid things that they until then kept for themselves”.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, several French media used the expression about Oprah Winfrey’s explosive interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry last week.


There are two main theories for how this expression originated. One claims that the sac refers to the stomach, and that vider son sac became a metaphor for ‘relieving the pressure’ (going to the bathroom).

The second and most widespread theory says the expression originated in the courtroom, as a referral to when lawyers got out the documents necessary to plead their case – literally emptying their bags.

Use it like this

Parfois on a besoin de vider son sac pour que les choses ne s’accumulent pas. – Sometimes we need to get stuff off our chest so that things don’t pile up.

Elle vide rarement son sac, mais hier elle m’a vraiment dit tout ce qu’elle avait sur le coeur. – She rarely opens up about her true feelings, but yesterday she really told me everything she had on her mind.

Tu as vu l’interview de Meghan Markle et Prince Harry avec Oprah ? Qu’est-ce qu’ils ont vidé leur sac ! – Have you seen Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah? They really got things off their chest!


Dire ce qu’on a sur le coeur – say what’s on your mind.

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For members


French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why being a good pupil can sometimes be … bad.

French Phrase of the Day: Syndrome de la bonne élève

Why do I need to know Syndrome de la bonne élève?

Feeling under-valued at work despite doing everything – and more – asked of you? You may have ‘good student syndrome’.

What does it mean?

Syndrome de la bonne élève – pronounced sin-dromm de la bon ell-evv – translates, as we’ve already hinted, as good student syndrome. 

You may well also see it written as syndrome du bon élève (pronounced sin-dromm doo bon ell-evv) – but this is predominantly a female issue.

It refers to someone in the workplace who tries their hardest to work to the rules, do all the jobs asked of them – and more – and yet is overlooked in favour of co-workers who don’t necessarily put in the same hard graft.

It’s not an official ‘syndrome’, but mental health experts do recognise it in many people – particularly women.

It is a hangover, according to features in magazines such as Cosmopolitan and Marie Claire, from school days when girls are considered to be harder workers and less trouble than their boy counterparts.

Marie Claire labelled it a “destructive perfectionism … which affects the mental health of the women they become, while preventing them from embracing positions of responsibility’.’

Use it like this

Le syndrome de la bonne élève touche essentiellement les femmes dans le monde occidental. – Good student syndrome mainly affects women in the Western world.

Cette question d’éducation est d’autant plus marquante que le syndrome du « bon élève » affecte généralement les femmes – This question of education is all the more striking because “good student” syndrome generally affects women