For members


French expression of the day: Soupe à la grimace

This is a soup you really don't want to get served for dinner.

French expression of the day: Soupe à la grimace
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know soupe à la grimace?

Because it’s pretty canny for certain situations.

What does it mean?

Just like soupe à l’onion means ‘onion soup’, soupe à la grimace directly translates as ‘grimace soup’.

However, as you may have guessed, the difference between the two is that the soupe à la grimace is inedible.

“Grimace” means the same in French and English: a facial expression that shows how you feel, for example unhappy, tired or disgusted over meal (like a soup).

Soupe à la grimace is like a sour-faced emoji, only it’s the general vibe.

If a dinner discussion turns into an argument and the whole atmosphere sours, you could say c’est la soupe à la grimace – it’s grimace soup.

French online dictionaries translate the term as mauvaise humeur (bad mood), quelque chose de désagréable (something disagreeable) or une mauvaise ambiance (bad atmosphere).

There can be soupe à la grimace on the highway as impatient drivers blocked by traffic jams try to get home. There can be soupe à la grimace at home after someone promised they would take out the smelly trash before the family weekend trip, but forgot.

Soupe à la grimace is something that *is* rather than something you *do*, hence why the expression generally goes c’est la soupe à la grimace (it’s grimace soup) or c’était la soup à la grimace (it was grimace soup). It’s rarer to hear someone say tu m’as fait une soupe à la grimace, as in ‘you made me a grimace soup’, even if this sounds like the more logical option.

Use it like this

C’est la soupe à la grimace dans l’équipe de France de foot en ce moment depuis qu’ils ont perdu contre l’Espagne. – The atmosphere in the French football team has been bad ever since they lost to Spain.

C’était vraiment la soupe à la grimace à Paris hier lors de l’annonce du troisième confinement. – The mood in Paris was really bad yesterday when they announced the third lockdown.

Après le resultat des élections, je peux vous dire que c’est vraiment la soupe à la grimace dans le camp du président. – After the election results, I can tell you that the mood has been bad in the president’s camp.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Un de ces quatres

The perfect response to that invitation you don't really want to say a firm yes to.

French Expression of the Day:  Un de ces quatres

Why do I need to know un de ces quatres?

Because you will probably hear this phrase while trying to make plans with someone in French

What does it mean?

Un de ces quatres – usually pronounced uhn duh say cat-truhs – translates exactly to “one of these fours.” If taken literally the phrase really does not make any sense in French or English. But in actuality, it means “one of these days,” “at some point,” or just “soon.”

This expression is a shortening of “one of these four mornings to come,” which was first used in the second half of the 19th century. It designates a time that is sometime in the near future, but still rather indeterminate.

In French, the number ‘four’ is often used in expressions to refer to imprecise, or small, quantities. Some people say this is because four is the number for the seasons and cardinal points (North, South, East, West), so saying ‘one of these four’ shows a level of ambiguity. But unfortunately we don’t really know exactly how (or why) this phrase arose.

If you want another way of saying this, you can always stick with the regular “un de ces jours” (one of these days).

Use it like this

J’ai été tellement occupée ces derniers temps mais nous devrons prendre un verre un de ces quatres. – I’ve been so busy lately, but we have to grab a drink one of these days.

Il m’a dit qu’il nettoierait la salle de bain un de ces quatres, donc je suppose que ça n’a pas encore été fait. – He told me he would clean the bathroom one of these days, so I guess it hasn’t been done yet.