10 useful expressions with the verb “tomber” (to fall)

Tomber (to fall) is one of the most common French verb. As such, it’s used in many French expressions to talk about a sudden and often unexpected event. Here are 10 useful French idioms with the verb “tomber”. Audio is available for each expression.

Tomber amoureux/tomber amoureuse (to fall in love)

This one won’t surprise you as an English speaker since it means “to fall in love”.

You can use it exactly the same way as “fall in love” in English. If you are a woman, you need to say “amoureuse” instead of “amoureux”.

Marc est vite tombé amoureux de sa voisine. Marc quickly fell in love with his neighbor.

Tomber enceinte (to get pregnant)

When you have been pregnant for a while, you use “être enceinte” (to be pregnant), but if it’s something new, you use “tomber enceinte” (lit : to fall pregnant) instead.

Cette femme est enceinte de 2 mois, mais l’autre vient de tomber enceinte. This woman is 2 months pregnant, but the other (woman) just got pregnant.

Tomber malade (to get sick)

You wake up one morning with a strong headache and a running nose, you just got sick. In French we talk about falling sick instead.

Je tombe souvent malade en ce moment, j’en ai marre.

I often get sick these days, I am sick of it.

Tomber dans les pommes (to faint)

George Sand, famous French writer once wrote that she was in “les pommes cuites” (in the baked apples) to say she was exhausted.

This is where the expression “tomber dans les pommes” is thought to come from.

When you fall in the apples, you are extremely tired, so tired in fact that you faint.

Elle est tombée dans les pommes en le voyant.

She fainted when she saw him.

SourceExpressio.fr (French)

Tomber en panne (to break down)

When an electronic device or a car suddenly stops working, you can use “tomber en panne”.

La voiture est tombée en panne ce matin.

The car broke down this morning.

Tomber dans le panneau (to fall into a trap)

During the 15th century, a “panneau” was a net used to catch wild animals.

Nowadays “panneau” means “sign”, but this idiom means you fell into a trap without realizing it. And when you do, it’s too late.

On lui a vendu une fausse bague en or, et il est tombé dans le panneau.

Someone sold him a fake gold ring, and he fell into the trap.

Source : expressio.fr (French)

Tomber dans un piège (to fall into a trap)

This expression literally means “to fall into a trap”.

You can use it the same way you use “tomber dans le panneau” and it has the same meaning.

Tomber sur quelqu’un (to bump into someone)

This literally means “to fall on someone”, but as often the literal meaning is not the most common.

This expression is used to say you unexpectedly met someone in the street for example.

Devine sur qui je suis tombé ce matin?

Guess who I bumped into this morning?

Le père noël ?

Santa Claus?

Mais non, ton ex !

No, your ex!

Tomber des nues (to be extremely surprised)

This is perhaps the less common expression of this article.

When you “tombe des nues”, you are extremely surprised.

You may be confused if you try to literally translate this idiom. After all, “to fall from the nakeds” doesn’t make much sense. But “nue” used to have another meaning. It used to refer to clouds which suddenly appeared and were often followed by rain.

Tu savais qu’il était mort ?

Did you know he was dead?

Alors là, je tombe des nues.

Wow, I am extremely surprised.

Laisser tomber (to drop, to let go)

This expression is similar to the English “to drop”. It means you decide to let go.

Alors, ton livre ça avance ?

So, how is it going with your book?

Oh, j’ai laissé tomber, c’était trop difficile.

Oh I gave up, it was too difficult.

Benjamin Houy

Benjamin Houy is a native French speaker and tea drinker with a BA degree in Applied Foreign Languages and a passion for languages. After teaching French and English in South Korea for 7 months as part of a French government program, he created French Together™ to help English speakers learn the 20% of French that truly matters.

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  1. I came across this article while trying to understand a Tweet I saw today – “M. Mulroney a tenté de défendre sa fille Caroline qui a complètement laissé tomber les Franco-Ontariens.”

    I assumed that “laisse tomber”, in this context, mean “let down” (as in, disappointed), but I figured I should look it up to be sure, as I am not a native French speaker, just an English speaker always trying to learn and improve the small amount of French I do know.

    Anyway, every site I look this expression up on says that it means “drop it” or “let it go” or something…yet I don’t see how it can mean that, here. It really seems like it must mean “dissapoint” or “let down” (especially if you know the whole story of what’s going on with that Tweet). So I’m confused.

    Then again, the person who tweeted that wouldn’t speak the French I was taught (France French)…they’d either be from Quebec or Ontario, I think, so they are probably speaking Quebecois? Which, yes, is French, but it sure isn’t France French.

    Anyway, thank you for the article. It was very interesting to learn all of those expressions, most of which I didn’t know. I think the only one I knew was “falling sick”.

  2. Bien fait! Il me plaît beaucoup. C’ est utile de pouvoir lire des expressions idiomatiques sélectionnées selon un critère d’importance, où pouvons-nous dire de fréquence, par un natif. J’ aime aussi la représentation de texte parallèle donné aux exemples.

    Je suis tombé des nues quand je suis tombé sur ma petite amie qui sortait avec un autre homme! (Ce n’est pas mauvais! N’est-ce pas?)


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