For members


French Expression of the Day: Tendre les bras

This phrase not only captures the spirit of Christmas but also describes a particularly useful gesture when it comes to the Covid-19 pandemic.

French Expression of the Day: Tendre les bras
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know tendre les bras?

Because it’s nice to be helpful.

What does it mean?

Tendre les bras, pronounced “ton-druh ley brah”, means to help someone, to welcome someone or to reach out to someone. 

The literal meaning of this expression is to “extend the arms” – it is analogous to “lending a hand”. 

A bras tendu is an outstretched arm – a term often used in a medical context and a pre-requisite for many injections. 

The phrase is thought to have biblical origins. 

Use it like this

Je me mis à tendre les bras à d’autres personnes – I am beginning to help other people 

Je lui a tendu les bras – I helped him 

Pour inciter les quelque 5 millions de non-vaccinés à tendre le bras, le gouvernement envisage de créer un pass vaccinal – To incite the 5 million unvaccinated people to offer their arms [for injections], the government envisages creating a vaccine pass 

Tendre les bras signifie épouser les enseignements de Dieu, en venant en aide à son prochain – To help others is to follow the teachings of god by coming to the aid of others 


Tendre la perche 

Donner un coup de main 

Aider quelqu’un 

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

This expression is more than just your last order at the boulangerie.

French Expression of the Day: Tarte à la crème

Why do I need to know tarte à la crème ?

Because if someone uses this phrase to describe you, you should probably be a bit offended.

What does it mean?

Tarte à la crème – pronounced tart ah lah krem – literally refers to a cream filled tart, or a custard tart, in English. However, this expression has more to do than just baking. It is another way of describing something that is boring, predictable or commonplace.

This expression comes straight from Moliere himself. In the 17th century, there was a popular rhyming game called “Corbillon.” The phrase “Je vous passe mon corbillon” (I pass you by corbillon) is said, and then it is followed by “Qu’y met-on?” (What does one put on it?) To keep the rhyme up, people must respond with something ending in an -ON sound.

In the play, “L’Ecole des Femmes” (The School of Wives), one character says the ideal woman would respond to the question with “tarte à la crème” which is obviously the wrong answer. The right answer would be tarte à la citron (lemon tart). Molière did this on purpose to poke fun at the fact that disgruntled fans would send poor actors cream tarts to express their frustration.

It was a way of ridiculing his critics and showing he was unimpressed by their method of showing discontentment at his plays. Over time, the phrase went on to describe things that are commonplace or boring. It is often used to describe entertainment related topics, such as books, movies, or plays.

A synonym for this phrase in French might be banal and in English you might say something is ‘vanilla’ to describe something that is fairly unexciting.

Use it like this

Le film était vraiment tarte à la crème. Je ne recommande pas d’aller le voir au cinéma, vous pouvez attendre de le voir une fois qu’il sera gratuit en ligne. – The movie was really boring. I don’t recommend going to see it at the movies, you can simply wait to see it once it is free online.

Je pense que l’album est tarte à la crème. Elle a pris tellement d’idées d’autres artistes que ce n’est vraiment pas original du tout. – I think the album is predictable. She really took plenty of ideas from other artists and it was not original at all.