French phrase of the day: Etre au taquet

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French phrase of the day: Etre au taquet

For when you just can’t give any more.


Why do I need to know être au taquet?

Because it’s a common way of expressing enthusiasm… or exasperation.

What does it mean?

Etre au taquet means you’ve reached your limit. For a person, it’s usually positive, meaning you’re giving everything you can give, or you’re at the top of your enthusiasm and totally ready for the challenges ahead.

Although je suis au taquet can also mean that you’re submerged in work and you can’t take on any more tasks.

For objects, too, it can be less positive, since it means they have also reached their limits. A bag which is rempli au taquet is full to the brim, and can’t take anything else. Or if your car is struggling to get up a hill, you could say je suis au taquet, meaning you’re pushing the motor as much as you can and it won’t go any faster.


In the 15th century, the word taquet referred to a piece of word which served to keep a door closed. But from the 17th century it took on a second life in maritime vocabulary, referring to a piece of metal which keeps the rigging on a boat in place.

“Since it allows a boat to stretch the rope to the maximum, the taquet became a synonym for a limit that can’t be overcome,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces writes.

“That’s why this notion of reaching a limit got a new lease of life in the French Navy, where the expression ‘être au taquet’ now meant ‘to have reached the limit of your possibilities in terms of your pension, your workload, or even your patience’.”

Use it like this

J’ai hâte que la course commence, je suis au taquet – I can’t wait for the race to begin, I’m fired up

Il est au taquet pour finir son mémoire – He’s working flat out to finish his dissertation

Il fait froid, et le radiateur est au taquet pourtant – It’s cold, and yet the radiator is on full blast


Etre à fond – To be at the limit

Etre au max – To be at the maximum


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