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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Source : Expressio.fr (French)
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.
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.
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 ?
Mais non, ton ex !
No, your ex!
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.
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.