10 very useful French expressions for your meetings

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Idiomatic expressions are an integral part of daily communication. Native speakers of a language use them very frequently! Given their cultural and linguistic specificities, they are not to be neglected when learning a foreign language. It is therefore essential to know some of them in order to be able to understand them or use them in various situations.

In this article, we will focus on one particular area: the world of work. More specifically, we will introduce you to ten French expressions that will help you shine in meetings! This is only a non-exhaustive list, as there are many others!

You will discover what they mean and, above all, how to use them during your business meetings.

10 French expressions to use during a meeting

1. Renvoyer l’ascenseur

Renvoyer l'ascenseur

Meaning of Expression: Returning a favor

In what context should it be used?

You can use this expression when a colleague has done you a favour and you in turn want to do him or her a favour to thank him or her for the gesture.

Example: At the end of a meeting: “Paul, thank you for your intervention during my presentation, you saved me! I will return the elevator to you one day, for sure”!

2. Porter ses fruits

Porter ses fruits

Meaning of expression: To have positive effects, to produce useful, interesting results.

In what context should it be used?

You can use this expression:

  • when you have obtained conclusive results from work that you have provided
  • following a discussion for which you expected an effect, a positive change

Examples :

“Congratulations to all! All of your hard work over the past month has paid off! We got the contract!”
“He finally understood what I wanted from him! Our conversation this morning has paid off!”

3. Jeter l’éponge

Expressions françaises

Meaning of the expression: To give up, to give up a project.

In what context should it be used?

In the work world, you usually use this expression when you no longer see the usefulness of the work you were doing, the purpose of a project, or when a project becomes too complicated for you.

Here are some examples:

“We have to abandon this project, it’s not feasible! Sometimes you have to throw in the towel. It is useless to persevere if you feel that this project will not succeed!”

“I’m done! Throw in the towel! This project is too complicated! I’ll never make it!”

French expressions represent the richness of the French language. Thousands of expressions are used by French speakers in different registers, orally, in writing, in various situations such as at work!

4. Avoir du pain sur la planche

Avoir du pain sur la planche

Meaning of expression: Having a lot of work to do

In what context should it be used?

When you find yourself, within the company, with a lot of tasks to accomplish in a short period of time, you can use this expression.

Here is an example:

At the beginning of a meeting: “We don’t waste time, we start the meeting! There are a lot of points to be discussed. We’ve got a lot of work to do today!”

5. Donner un coup de main

Donner un coup de main

Meaning of expression: To help

In what context should it be used?

If one of your colleagues is at a dead end, in a complicated situation, in difficulty, you can offer your help. Between colleagues, you have to know how to stick together (help each other).

For example :

During a meeting, Marion finds herself in difficulty to deal with one of her files. She is dealing with a complex file and tells her colleagues about it.

Marion: “I can’t finish this file which is very complex. I don’t know how to do it. Besides, I have a lot of other files going on and I don’t have enough time.”

One of his colleagues: “I have some time today. If you want, we can see this together, I know a little bit about this file. I’d be happy to help you.”

6. En connaître un rayon

En connaître un rayon

Meaning of the expression: To be very knowledgeable on a subject, to be competent in a field.

In what context should it be used?

You can use this expression when you are impressed by the extensive knowledge that one of your colleagues may have on a subject or in a field.

For example:

During a meeting, a problem is raised that has no immediate solution. One person intervenes:

“We can talk to Alex, I’m sure he can help us, he knows a lot about this subject! He has a lot of experience.”

French expressions are sometimes difficult to understand and use, but don’t be discouraged! The more you use them, the more you will master them!

7. Mettre la clé sous la porte

Mettre la clé sous la porte

Meaning of the expression: To close down the company permanently.

In what context should it be used?

If the company is in great difficulty and if it cannot get back on its feet, it will have to close its doors, stop its activity completely.


During a meeting, the boss presents the figures achieved and announces major changes to increase the output necessary to maintain the company’s activity.

“The figures of the last few years are not improving despite our efforts. We have to make big changes and innovate to face the competition. If we don’t do this immediately, we will be forced to close down.”

8. Battre le fer tant qu’il est chaud

Battre le fer tant qu'il est chaud

Meaning of the expression: Exploiting a situation without waiting, taking advantage of an opportunity when it arises, acting at the right time.

In what context should it be used?

You feel it’s time to take action, show up! Show your colleagues that the opportunity is unexpected and must be seized immediately.


“We can no longer wait and think for too long. Let’s take risks! I promise you that this decision will not be regretted. This is the perfect opportunity right now! We must strike while the iron is hot!”

9. Avoir plusieurs cordes à son arc

Avoir plusieurs cordes à son arc

Meaning: Having multiple resources to achieve one’s goal.

In what context should it be used?

You can use this expression:

to show that you have many ways to get to your goal, to achieve your ends.
to make sure that you will be able to present a project no matter what: if one of the projects fails or looks bad, you will have another solution to propose.

For example: ;

After the presentation of a new project:

The boss is sceptical about the realization of this project. The project manager reassures him:

“Indeed, this project seems to be large but don’t worry! I have several strings to my bow! I have other projects on the side. I will be able to bounce back and offer you other alternatives if this project doesn’t succeed”.

10. Retourner sa veste

Expressions françaises

Meaning of expression: To change one’s opinion abruptly in order to seize an opportunity or to change sides for the sake of an opportunity.

In what context should it be used?

This term is used when someone suddenly changes his or her opinion or side after a previously established agreement within a group.

For example:

During a discussion between colleagues after a meeting:

“I don’t understand Sophie! She turned her jacket around after we had all agreed before the meeting. That’s not what we agreed to!”

Now it’s your turn! Test these French expressions in context and make a good impression on your colleagues!

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