To Send to Pasture or a Month of French Idioms From A to Z

Hope you all spent a great weekend and are ready for a long week of French idioms. From Monday to Saturday, I will provide an expression, covering the alphabet from E to J. As always, thank you for your comments and for adding your own idioms to mine. I’m glad if you learn something you didn’t know, but I’m as glad to learn from you, too.





Go to Hell remains somehow controversial in the USA and yet widely used, especially in the movie industry.


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Envoyer paître is a French expression from the middle of the 15th century, when the verb paître had a religious connotation. People’s salvation was associated with God’s pastures where the soul was fed.

In later years, the expression evolved, based on the tradition to send cows to graze in far away pastures, and took then a negative meaning.

Envoyer paître simply means to get rid of someone in a sudden way.

There are, as often in the French language, some variants to the expression.

For the French here or anyone who speaks some French: envoyer aux pelotes, envoyer ballader, envoyer bouler. Vous en connaissez d’autres?


A to Z Challenge

See you tomorrow!




  1. Sisyphus47 says:

    C’est vraiment gentil “envoyer paître”! 😉

  2. I’ve heard “put to pasture” to mean something like “to retire”… Where as “go to hell” has a much more negative connotation. Also, from my understanding, “put to pasture” refers to something done to someone, whereas “go to hell” is what you tell someone that you want to tell off.

    • Thank you for the great input and for putting the accent on the fact that similar words like “pasture” can have such different meanings when used with a different verb. Hope to see you for letter F! Thanks again.

  3. Evelyne, thanks for another wonderful idiom, I’m really enjoying the series. We have the saying ‘put out to pasture’, which means to retire, but usually after they’ve made their contribution to life – so it’s similar but not quite the same.

    • I’m glad that you are enjoying the series, Andrea.It was on my mind since a while. “Put out to pasture” means indeed something completely different. Thank you for stopping by.

  4. It’s always interesting how language evolves isn’t it? 🙂

  5. I am looking forward to the US “to be put out to pasture” Hopefully not being told to “go to Hell.” Now I’m wondering if our expression would seem negative if mentioned in France… I am enjoying the series Evelyne.

    • That’s funny! You know, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear some French people say Go to Hell as well. There are more and more American words and expressions used in contemporary France, it’s amazing. Envoyer paître is the polite version of less polite French expressions but that would be for another kind of blog!

  6. Isn’t that remarkable to start out meaning religious salvation and end up being used in an opposing connotation! Yes, i a gree with the meanings in eclecticalli’s comment. Neither being ‘put out to pasture’ nor being told to ‘go to hell’ is desireable (unless it’s in beautifully accented French!)

  7. I have been reading more about French idioms since I started this series, Sammy. I picked the expressions based on the alphabet of course but also on popularity and origins. I know that Americans love old things and French things too, so I try to find some idioms that were used a long time ago and are still used nowdays. As for the accent, there was a time when I would have done anything to speak like an American but alas, I quickly understood that I was cursed and would end up with my French accent. Glad to read that you find this kind of accent beautiful. I melt when an American speaks French! I guess all things foreign intrigue us. See you, Sammy.

  8. This is great – go to the pasture, a good way of clearing out unneeded baggage (so to speak!), I so get this Evelyne.

    • Thank you, Mary. It’s fun to read the comments from non native speakers. I made so many mistakes when I translated in a very literal way my beloved French expressions! This one is very explicit for me. See you soon!

  9. C’est une très bonne idée ces billets, et c’est vrai que quand on y réfléchit….qu’est ce que c’est drôle !

    • Oh je suis contente de te voir, Mary. Tu as raison: quand on a grandi avec ces expressions on n’y pense pas. Ce n’est qu’en les lisant que l’on réalise comme elles sont représentatrices d’une culture. En ce qui concerne la France on a la chance d’avoir une longue histoire de la langue. Je viens de terminer la série avec l’aide de notre chère lectrice en campagne et aussi de mon mari qui s’amuse bien en me lisant ces derniers jours. A plus sur ton blog ou ici.

  10. I like that…sending someone to graze!

    • We have a few that are not as polite, Sherri, but this one is cute and says it well. I’m glad to see you here and if you know of a typical equivalent in English, go ahead. I focused on the American English, since this is the language I speak now. But I’m sure the Brits have great expressions too!

  11. In English, to be put out to pasture is to be (forcibly) retired. It can mean to retire without force, depending on context. That’s pretty close.

    • I knew of “put out to pasture,” but “envoyer paître” is really the polite way to say “Go to Hell.” The French idea of the pasture is not so peaceful anymore! See you, Marilyn.

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