10 Funny French Idioms With “Prendre” (to Take)

Do you sometimes hear sentences you should understand, because you know all the words, but don’t?   The Everyday French Idioms series is designed to help you understand and learn the most common French idioms.

As a result, you’ll not only better understand French, but also speak it more naturally.

Today, you’ll discover common idioms built with the verb “prendre” (to take).

se prendre la tête French idiomSe Prendre la tête

Literal translation : to take one’s head
Meaning: to give yourself a headache, to bother someone

Mon voisin me prend la tête 
My neighbor bothers me

Ce livre explique comment apprendre le français sans se prendre la tête 
This book explains how to learn French without giving yourself a headache

Se prendre un râteau 

Literal translation: to hit a rake
Meaning: to get knocked back

Nathan est triste, parce qu’il s’est pris un râteau 
Nathan is sad, because he got knocked back

prendre le taureau par les cornesPrendre le taureau par les cornes

Literal translation: to take the bull by the horns
Meaning; to make a decision

Après plusieurs mois au chômage, il a décidé de prendre le taureau par les cornes et de chercher un boulot.

After several months of unemployment, he has decided to take the bull by the horns and look for a job.

En prendre de la graine

Literal translation: to take the seed from it
Meaning: to take the page from someone’s book, to follow an example

Ton frère a des bons résultats à l’école, j’espère que tu vas en prendre de la graine 
Your brother has good results at school, I hope you will follow his example

prendre ses cliques et ses claques French idiomPrendre ses cliques et ses claques

Literal translation: to take your shoes and your legs
Meaning: to pack up and go, to leave suddenly

Nowadays “une claque” is “a slap”. But it used to have another meaning. This makes this idiom hard to translate, because nobody is sure about the meaning of “clique” and “claque”.

Prends tes cliques et tes claques, je ne veux plus te voir  
Pack up and go, I don’t want to see you anymore

Prendre quelque chose au pied de la lettre

Literal translation: to take something to the letter
Meaning: to take something literally

Elle a pris tes instructions au pied de la lettre 
She took your instructions literally

prendre ses jambes à son couPrendre ses jambes à son cou 

Literal translation; to take one’s legs to one’s neck
Meaning: to run for one’s life

Quand il a vu le chien, il a pris ses jambes à son cou 
When he saw the dog, he started running for his life

Prendre son courage à deux mains

Literal translation; to take one’s courage with two hands
Meaning: to gather your courage

Elle a pris son courage a deux mains et a demandé une augmentation 
She gathered her courage and asked for a raise

prendre la mouche French idiomPrendre la mouche 

Literal translation: to take the fly
Meaning: to go ballistic

Il a pris la mouche quand il a appris la nouvelle 
He went ballistic when learned the news

Prendre quelqu’un la main dans le sac

Literal translation: to catch someone with the hand in the bag
Meaning: to catch red-handed

On l’a pris la main dans le sac alors qu’il était sur le point de partir 
We caught him red-handed as he was about to leave

Everyday French Idioms

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. You will also find him giving blogging advice on Grow With Less.

6 thoughts on “10 Funny French Idioms With “Prendre” (to Take)”

  1. Salut! Fantastic that you are sharing these great expressions. I teach French and I think that to ever stand a chance of having a genuine conversation or to ever hope to understand that couple arguing in the café next to you you have to learn idiomatic phrases and slang. Also if you love French films or some of the recent series on TV you have to know ‘real’ French to get it. Bravo Benjamin 🙂

  2. Bonjour 🙂 I recently learned that my family are moving to Bretagne because of work. I’m 17 and I’ve studied French for the last 2 years. My French is OK, but I’ve never particularly liked the language. (Sorry!) We’re moving there at the end of July. Do you have any advice for settling into life there/what school is like/ and how to get around with a very, very poor standard of French 🙂

    Merci, Jack

    • Bonjour Jack

      How dare you not like the French language? :p. Well, if you are lucky, you may end up in a part of Bretagne where they mainly speak breton.

      In all cases, studying there will force you to learn the language and you will end up mastering it since that will be the only way for you to succeed there. What you can do is start by spending lots of time listening to the language and find a conversation partner. Once you are there, finding a French girlfriend would help a lot too :p.

      The best advice I can give you is to speak French as much as you can from the beginning. Now you will probably make lots of mistakes at first and have to repeat often, but you will learn fast.

      Check out this article, it will give you lots of ideas to improve your understanding of spoken French (you will need it once in France)


      Bonne chance

      • Thank you! Sorry for the slow reply, I have been doing exams 🙂 We are moving to a rural town which does have some Breton I think! My native language is Gaeilge/Irish which appears to be quite similar to Breton so that might help 🙂
        Merci, Jack 🙂


Leave a Comment