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French Expression of the Day: Mon oeil

Have you noticed French people pulling down their eyelid when they talk to you? Here's why.

French Expression of the Day: Mon oeil
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know the expression mon oeil? 

Because we all know someone who is not 100 percent reliable with the truth. 

What does it mean? 

It literally means ‘my eye’. But the reality, mon oeil (pronounced ‘mon oi’) is something you say when you think someone is lying to you or exaggerating a story – it’s used in the same way as the phrase in English, but is more common in France.

It derives from the 14th century expression, il n’y en a pas plus que mon oeil which translates roughly as ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’

You may see French people taking an index finger to pull down their lower eyelid, while tilting their head towards you to display the eyeball. This gesture is the physical equivalent of saying Mon oeil. This gesture is also used in other countries such as Turkey and Israel to convey the same meaning of disbelief. 

In other Mediterranean cultures, the eyelid pull is used as a silent warning to stay alert, while in Japan, this so-called Akanbe (あかんべえ) is used to indicate sarcasm or as a taunt. 

Use it like this:

Toi, tu apprends le français depuis deux mois ? Mon œil !  – You have been learning French for two months? Yeah, right!

T’es allé à l’école avec Kylian Mbappé ? Mon oeil ! – You went to school with Kylian Mbappé? Bullshit! 


Tu parles – You’re all talk

Je te crois pas – I don’t believe you

C’est du bla bla – That’s nonsense 

Mes couilles – My balls (yeah right)

Mon cul – My arse (yeah right) 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

This might look like a mix of Spanish and French, but it is definitely not Franish.

French Expression of the Day: Mettre le holà

Why do I need to know mettre le holà?

Because you might need to do this if your friends go from laughing with you to laughing at you. 

What does it mean?

Mettre le holà – pronounced meh-truh luh oh-la – literally means to put the ‘holà’ on something. You might be thinking this must be some clever mix of Spanish and French, but ‘holà’ actually has nothing to do with the Spanish greeting. 

This expression is a way to say that’s enough – or to ‘put the brakes on something.’

If a situation appears to be agitated, and you feel the need to intervene in order to help calm things down, then this might be the expression you would use. Another way of saying it in English might be to ‘put the kibosh on it.’

While the origins of ‘kibosh’ appear to be unknown, ‘holà’ goes back to the 14th century in France. Back then, people would shout “Ho! Qui va là?” (Oh, who goes there?) as an interjection to call someone out or challenge them. 

Over time this transformed into the simple holà, which you might hear on the streets, particularly if you engage in some risky jaywalking. 

A French synonym for this expression is ‘freiner’ – which literally means ‘to break’ or ‘put the brakes on,’ and can be used figuratively as well as literally. 

Use it like this

Tu aurais dû mettre le holà tout de suite. Cette conversation a duré bien trop longtemps, et il était si offensif. – You should have put a stop to that immediately. That conversation went on for too long, and he was so offensive. 

J’ai essayé de mettre le holà à la blague sur ma mère, mais ils étaient sans pitié. – I tried to put a stop to the joke about my mother, but they were merciless.