From A to Z, Twenty-Six Funny, Weird, Vivid French Expressions





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From the French noun ‘barre,’ which in the nautical field means helm, wheel, tiller.


Best equivalent: Not standing a chance


The expression used in two sentences:

Je suis mal barré(e): I’m off to a bad start

C’est mal barré : It’s got off to a bad start


See you tomorrow for the letter F, part of the A to Z Challenge!


  1. Well, you’re certainly off to a good start with this challenge, Evelyne. I think I like the sense of this expression more than one I frequently use “this is not going to end well” in that it leaves a small amount of room for hope,

    • Thank you, Dan. What I love most is sharing my affection for the two countries I call home. So this challenge is a fun way to introduce French expressions to my American readers, but also to seek an equivalent, which is my own challenge.
      This one is very popular in France and you’re right: It’s very vivid and illustrates quite well these moments when we know it’s not going well. I thought of starting on the wrong foot, but we have the exact equivalent in French.
      Also, I’m sure the tech guy you are noticed, but you can practice your French skills if you listen to the short recording of my own voice 🙂

      • I have been listening to you recordings. I’ve also been listening to Liu Min’s Mandarin Chinese words and phrases. Hearing people say the expressions helps to understand them.

        I have to tell you that this post has given me an idea for a post. I might try it for SoCS if I can make it work.

  2. I’d say that you are off to a bad start when you lose your sense of direction at the helm. or in life! 🙂 –Curt

  3. Before you gave the definition, I was trying to work it out for myself. I got close … but not exactly a bullseye 🙂

  4. Ooh, this is a good one! Is this very “courant” ?


  1. […] Thursday, Evelyne shared the expression: “ÊTRE MAL BARRÉ” for which she offered the best equivalent English expression: “Not […]

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