Ne vends pas la peau de l’ours | French Expressions

French expressions, image of angry bear and basket of eggs

What do an angry bear and a basket of eggs have in common?

Each of them represent an expression that means you should not count on or plan on things before they actually happen.

If English, we would say:

Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.

In French, you’ll say:

Ne vends pas la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.

This would literally translate to Don’t sell the hide/skin of the bear before you have killed it.

expressions in french and english with graphics

The week or two before Christmas would be the perfect time to use this expression, as young children often think they know what they’ll receive for the holiday!

Why is that guy in the potatoes? | Être dans les patates and other French expressions

Oh, man, do I find expressions to be adorable, hilarious, and insightful. I think they are half the reason I enjoy learning French. While I love them both traditionally French expressions and Quebecois expressions sincerely, Quebecois expressions are particularly dear to my heart, as they reveal so much about the culture (and maybe because I live here!). Here, I’ve got a mix for you.

Since I’ve been sharing posts on cooking sites and food vocabulary, I thought it’d be fun to share one of my favorite expressions: être dans les patates. Or if you tried to translate it directly, to be in the potatoes.

Être dans les patates means to be wrong. In French, you would probably say that it means the same think as se tromper ou avoir tort.


Two of my other favorite food-related expressions are:

  • raconter des salades (to tell salads): to tell stories/make stories up
  • avoir du pain sur la planche (to have some bread on the [cutting] board): to have a lot to do or, as we might say in English, to have a lot on your plate

I’ve got oodles more where these come from, thanks to my former French instructors, just you wait.

Casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un

casser le sucre sure les dos de quelqu'un

So, what does it mean to “casser du sucre sur le dos de quelqu’un”?

Literally translated, it would mean to break some sugar on someone’s back.  It’s used to describe a situation when someone is talking about someone else who isn’t there. Normally, in English, we would say something like “talk behind his/her back” when wanting to describe talking about someone in his or her absence.

I thought the expression might be appropriate to share this week, because we are talking about sweet, sweet maple syrup. 🙂