Part of being a traveler means spending money.
And if you’re thinking about visiting France anytime soon, be prepared to make a dent in your wallet.
When you’re a tourist, it’s a lot easier to get arnaqué (scammed, cheated), so your chances of saving any money have just dwindled.
And to top it all off, the euro is worth more than most currencies—great!
Let’s face it, France, Belgium and Holland are considered pricer countries. So more times than not, I guarantee you’ll be whispering, “Whoa, that was expensive.”
But I just like to look at it as a language learning investment!
So instead of stress and shame, go for style and flare with these ten sayings. But first, let’s take it back to the basics.
Saying “That’s Expensive!” in French: The Basics
In case you don’t remember, there are three normal ways to say something is “expensive” in French:
As you might know, cher is the most common. Other emphasized versions include:
- trop cher (very expensive)
- très, très cher (very, very expensive)
Note: Cher has two meanings. The first is “expensive,” but it can also translate to “dear,” as in, mon cher, particularly when you write a letter and address a person as “dear.” The feminine version of cher is chère.
This second one is very popular too, but is said within a different context, can you guess?
It means, “costly.” It’s not the same as “costs” though, because like in English, the word “costs” is distinct from “costly”—don’t forget that!
Ce vol pour Bruxelles est coûteux.
(This flight for Brussels is costly.)
Our third, normal way to express expensiveness in French is literally translated as “elevated price.” Since we would never say it like that in English, I’d translate it as “high price.”
Cette télévision a un prix élevé !
(This television has a high price!)
You may now be wondering how to say that something is “cheap” French.
Saying the Opposite: “Cheap” in French
The first thing to know is, there is no word in French that directly translates to “cheap.” They have only come up with ways to beat around the bush! Here are most of them:
- bon marché — good buy
- pas cher — not expensive (most commonly used)
- moins cher — less expensive
- peu cher — not so expensive
- à prix bas — low price
- au rabais — discounted
All of these, in essence, mean cheap, but none actually mean the word itself.
A popular French idiom that expresses cheapness?
Cela ne mange pas de pain.
“It’s not eating bread,” is the literal translation. What it means is that something is so cheap that it’s not eating up their “bread.”
In English we have an idiom that goes, “bread and butter,” or, “cheddar,” which means money.
If something doesn’t eat up your money (so cheap), then remember the French expression, cela ne mange pas de pain !
Okay, now we can get to the juicy parts!
Note: I am going to do my best to give you English equivalents for each of these French expressions, but please keep in mind that nothing is literal when it comes to idioms. They are easier to understand when you see them used in context, which is exactly what FluentU accomplishes in their content.
10 Chic Ways to Say “That’s Expensive” in French
1. Ça coûte une blinde !
Coûte is the French word for “cost,” and as you’ll notice, a lot of these expressions will begin with it.
Ça coûte un blinde is difficult to literally translate because there is no English word for blinde.
Blinde can describe anything that is excessively good or bad. Either way, it’s anything in excess.
I would say that it’s our English version of “wicked expensive,” “mad expensive,” “very expensive,” “crazy expensive,” “a fortune,” etc.
In French, the word blinde is also used among other idioms, not just when something is extremely expensive. Here are a few other sayings that involve either blinde or the adjective blindé:
- Aller à toute blinde — to go flat out, to go all the way
- Être blindé de thune — to be filthy rich
- Être blindé — (of transport) to be chock-full
Here’s an example of blinde expressing expensiveness:
Ça coûte une blinde d’appeler à l’international !
(It’s wicked expensive calling international!)
2. Ça coûte un bras !
This one should be easy because we have an English version that’s quite similar.
Ça m’a coûté un bras literally means “It cost me an arm!” I know, I know, our English idiom actually goes like this: “It cost me an arm and a leg,” but still—almost close!
Hier soir, le dîner m’a coûté un bras !
(Yesterday, dinner cost me an arm and a leg!)
3. Ça coûte les yeux de la tête !
This one’s pretty easy too, and I’m sure you already know what it means. And yep—we also have a similar English idiom to go with it, kind of.
So what’s it saying? Well, it literally translates to, “It cost the eyes from the head.” But, “It cost me an eye” sounds about right, don’t you agree?
Well guess what, the French have an exact equivalent for that one too: ça coûte un œil !
Tout ce tourisme m’a coûté les yeux de la tête !
(All of this tourism has cost me an eye!)
4. Ce n’est pas donné !
This phrase literally means “It’s not given,” and a great English equivalent would be “nothing’s free.”
Although it’s not technically conveying expensiveness, it is sort of a response to someone who would be blurting out one of these expressions due to expensiveness, because they go hand in hand, like this:
Oh là là, mes vacances en France m’ont coûté un oeil !
(My oh my, my vacation in France has cost me and eye!)
Ce n’est pas donné mon ami !
(Nothing’s free my friend!)
5. Ça coûte la peau de cul !
Okay, so this is where it gets a little wacky, but let’s not forget that the French love creativity and comedy, and like to use the word “butt” in a lot of their expressions!
Apparently, to the French, the skin on one’s bum is precious, pricey and coûteux !
Ça coûte la peau de cul literally means “It’s costs the skin of a butt!”
I am lying though, because to be honest, cul is tad bit more vulgar than “butt.” And if you know your French well, then you might know what this phrase it actually saying.
Just remember to save it for friends and family in comfortable settings. You certainly don’t want to be shouting this in the middle of a restaurant. And don’t say this in the Notre Dame either!
Ce billet de train coûte la peau de cul !
(This train ticket costs a fortune!)
6. Ça coûte la peau des fesses !
Although you might not exactly know what this one means at first glance, it’s basically the same as the aforementioned.
I would say that fesses is a better translation of “butt” than cul is, but it can also mean “behind.”
So literally the phrase means “It costs the skins of a behind!” We don’t really have a perfect English equivalent for either of these, but this one can be as blunt as, “I had to pay through the nose for it!”
Have fun with it, and take it lightly.
7. Ça coûte/vaut bonbon !
Bonbon is one of those fun, French words! It’s reminds of me Bam Bam, from the Flinstones. And if it helps, I’ll give you a hint: It’s a word which is wholly associated with kids: “candy.”
Ça vaut bonbon, literally translates to “It’s worth candy.” Sweets are a high held piece of luxury in France, and possibly every country, so I can see why it’s a figure of speech.
Tous ces produits ça coûte bonbon !
(All of these products cost a pretty penny!)
8. Ça coûte un saladier !
The French love their salads; it’s a staple in their cuisine. No dinner goes fed without a salade—period. And though we’re used to eating salads before our entreés (another French word we use in English!), their salads tend to be eaten after the main course. This is only practiced in French households though. At restaurants, it’s served the typical way, beforehand, which may be due to tourism and globalization.
So what’s that got to do with a saladier?
Well, a saladier is a bowl, a “salad bowl.” You know, those big ones placed at the center of tables. You won’t be eating any cereal out of this one, because that would then be a bol.
J’ai besoin d’un spécialiste, peu importe si ça coûte un saladier !
(I need a specialist, I don’t care if it costs me a fortune!)
9. Ça coûte un pont !
Kind of like bowls, “bridges” are also high held commodities in France.
Oops! I gave it away. If you already knew, then good for you—a pont is a “bridge.”
And ça coûte un pont is another French way to say, “That’s extremely expensive!”
Un appartement comme ça, avec une vue sur la ville doit coûter un pont, non !
(An apartment like that, with a view of the city must cost the earth, don’t you think!)
10. Je ne suis pas Rothschild !
“I’m not Vanderbilt!”
I think you know who the Rothchilds are too, but if you’re not European, then maybe you’re more of a Vanderbilt fan.
But the Rothchilds and Vanderbilts are one in the same. Filthy rich, blindé de thune.
To not be a Rothchild means to not be rich. So when someone expects you to lay out 200 euros on a simple dinner in France—or any other French speaking nation—but you truly can’t afford it, just shout, “Je ne suis pas Rothschild !”
They’ll take it as a clue, laugh and love you just that much more!
So there you have it. The first or next time you’re in France, don’t shy away from expensive, chic life. Appreciate it with style and grace (like the French), because after all, you only live once.
And one more thing...
If you like learning French on your own time and from the comfort of your smart device, then I'd be remiss to not tell you about FluentU.
FluentU has a wide variety of great content, like interviews, documentary excerpts and web series, as you can see here:
FluentU brings native French videos with reach. With interactive captions, you can tap on any word to see an image, definition and useful examples.
For example, if you tap on the word "crois," you'll see this:
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All throughout, FluentU tracks the vocabulary that you’re learning and uses this information to give you a totally personalized experience. It gives you extra practice with difficult words—and reminds you when it’s time to review what you’ve learned.
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