Ten Popular French Idioms and Expressions to Talk About How You’re Feeling

When you start learning French, one of the first topics that you’ll probably cover is emotions, feelings, and moods. A lot of time, you’ll just be taught adjectives like heureux, triste, fatigué, and related idioms like avoir le cafard will be overlooked. Even those who’ve been learning French for a while are likely to be unfamiliar with a lot of the expressions that come with this topic.

So to help you out, I’ve put together a list of the idiomatic expressions that native French speakers most often use when talking about how they’re feeling.

C’est parti !

avoir la banane

Illustration of a banana

Meaning: to be happy, to have a smile on one’s face

Literal Translation: to have the banana

Example: Elle a la banane du fait de son nouveau travail. She’s happy because of her new job.

ne pas être dans son assiette

Illustration of a plate

Meaning: to not feel like oneself, to feel unwell

Literal Translation: to not be in one’s plate

Example: Je vais prendre un jour de congé, je ne suis pas dans mon assiette ce matin. I’m going to take a day off, I don’t feel like myself this morning.

avoir la pêche

Illustration of a peach

Meaning: to feel great, to be full of energy

Literal Translation: to have the peach

Example: Je me suis remis de mon rhume et j’ai encore la pêche ! I’ve gotten over my cold and I feel great again!

Note: there’s quite a few variations of this idiom. Among the most common are avoir la patate (lit.: to have the potato) and avoir la frite (lit.: to have the French fry). (Both of these have the same meaning as avoir la pêche).

Illustration of a cockroach

avoir le cafard

Meaning: to have the blues, to feel down, to feel depressed

Literal Translation: to have the cockroach

Example: Quand j’ai le cafard, je préfère être seul. When I’m feeling down, I prefer to be alone.

Illustration of a woman with nice hair

être de bon poil

Meaning: to be in a good mood

Literal Translation: to be of good hair

Example: La patronne est de bon poil aujourd’hui. The boss is in a good mood today.

Illustration of a face with scruffy hair

être de mauvais poil

Meaning: to be in a bad mood

Literal Translation: to be of bad hair

Example: Je suis toujours de mauvais poil le matin. I’m always in a bad mood in the morning.

Illustration of a compass

être à l’ouest

Meaning: to not be with it, to be spaced out

Literal Translation: to be in the west

Example: Je n’ai que dormi trois heures cette nuit alors je suis un peu à l’ouest ce matin. I only got three hours sleep last night, so I’m a bit out of it this morning.

Illustration of a tree trunk with a hollow in it

avoir un petit creux

Meaning: to feel peckish (British), to be a little bit hungry

Literal Translation: to have a small hollow

Example: J’avais un petit creux alors j’ai pris un goûter. I was feeling peckish so I had a snack.

avoir la dalle

Meaning: to be very hungry, to be famished, to be starving

Illustration of a man holding a big slab of concrete

Literal Translation: to have the slab, to have the gullet (dalle can also be a slang term for “throat” or “gullet”)

Example: J’ai la dalle depuis des heures. I’ve been starving for hours.

Note: you may also see crever la dalle (lit.: to burst the slab, to burst the gullet). This is simply a more informal variation of avoir la dalle and also means “to be very hungry”.

Illustration of a woman sulking

faire la tête

Meaning: to sulk

Literal Translation: to do the head

Example: << Pourquoi fais-tu la tête ? >> “Why are you sulking?”

If you found this article useful, then check out my recently published e-book The Little Book of French Idioms. It’s exclusive to Amazon, and can be read with the free Kindle app (mobile and tablet), the free Kindle for PC app (desktop), the free Kindle Cloud Reader (desktop), and all Kindle devices.