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French expression of the Day: Comme chien et chat

Always in conflict with someone in particular? Here’s the perfect phrase to describe this relationship. 

French expression of the Day: Comme chien et chat

Why do I need to know Comme chien et chat?

Because the expression might date back from the 17th century, the French still love to use it when two people constantly disagree. 

What does it mean? 

Comme chien et chat is quite similar to the EnglishFighting like cat and dog’, except that in English you fight like the two animals, whereas in French you can simply be like a dog and cat. Also, the two countries have the animals in different order. 

Both phrases are used to describe two people in constant conflict.

In French it can be used as Être comme chien et chat – To be like dog and cat, or S’entendre comme chien et chat – to get along like a dog and a cat (ie not well). 

The idea that dogs and cats hate each other dates back to the 16th century. At the time, the expression used – Être amis comme chien et chat – to be friends like dog and cat – was a bit more ironic. 

Use it like this

J’aimerais les inviter à dîner, mais ils s’entendent comme chien et chat ! – I’d like to invite them for diner, but they fight like cat and dog!

A chaque fois qu’ils sont ensemble, ils se comportent comme chien et chat – Every time they get together, they end up arguing


Se disputer – To fight

Ne pas s’entendre avec quelqu’un – Not getting along with someone. 

Avoir une relation conflictuelle – To be in a conflicting relationship. 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine

No, this expression does not involve weeping cakes.

French Expression of the Day: Pleurer comme une madeleine

Why do I need to know pleurer comme une madeleine ?

Because it can be confusing to imagine why a madeleine cake might cry.

What does it mean?

Pleurer comme une madeleine roughly pronounced pler-ay kohm oon mahd-eh-lenn – translates literally to “cry like a Madeleine” which means to sob or cry a lot. 

A similar expression in English might be to cry one’s eyes out, or to cry like a baby. 

The French expression is biblical in origin – it refers to Mary Magdalene, known in the religious text as a former prostitute. In the Bible, there is a scene where Mary Magdalene covered Jesus’ feet in tears as she confessed her sins and received forgiveness. 

French has had many expressions implicating Mary Magdalene, prior to the 19th century, if one was to “faire la Madeleine” (make the Madeleine” that meant to “feign repentance.” In the 19th century, the expression pleurer comme une Madeleine became popular, in part due to its use by the classic writer Balzac. 

Over time, the phrase has come to describe a person whose tears or weeping is considered to be excessive or unjustified, though it can also be used to simply describe someone who is crying a lot.

In the first sense, the expression might be more similar to the English one of “crocodile tears.”

It has nothing to do with the delicious little shell-shaped sponge cake known as a madeleine, although the cake (via the author Marcel Proust) has inspired its own expression une madeleine de proust, which means a taste, smell, sight or sound that brings back a rush of memories or intense emotions.

Use it like this

J’ai dit à ma fille d’arrêter de pleurer comme une madeleine après avoir dû rendre le jouet de son frère qu’elle avait pris sans demander la permission. – I told my daughter to stop crying her eyes out over having to give back her brother’s toy that she had taken without permission.

On ne savait pas si ses larmes étaient authentiques quand elle pleurait comme une madeleine, mais le spectacle a duré longtemps. – We did not know if the tears were authentic when she was sobbing her heart out, but the ordeal went on for a long time.