‘Train de sénateur’ and other French expressions you may hear

To celebrate 40 years of the TGV, we explain some French idioms related to trains

17 September 2021

Learn French words and expressions you may hear in the news today Pic: Connexion France

Next week (September 22) marks 40 years since the first TGV journey between Paris and Lyon, which took a record time of 2 hours and 40 minutes.

Since then, the TGV (train à grande vitesse) has revolutionised train travel.

Today (September 17), President Macron is attending the celebration service at the Gare de Lyon, Paris. 

There, a life-size model of the engine of the TGV M, the “train of the future” anticipated to run in 2024, is being unveiled.

In honour of this anniversary, we look at some train-related expressions you may hear.

‘Train de sénateur’

‘Prendre le train de sénateur’ or ‘aller son train de sénateur’ (‘to take/go in the senator’s train’) means to move slowly, often with a proud or dignified demeanour.

The word ‘senator’ evolved from the Latin ‘senex’, meaning ‘old’ or ‘old man’. It also, however, had the implication of ‘senior’.

A senator, being typically of older age and high social standing, would have moved around in a slow and noble manner.

The expression ‘train de sénateur’ was popularised in French writer Jean de La Fontaine’s 1668 fable, ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’.

‘Un train peut en cacher un autre’

The saying ‘one train can hide another’ was initially a warning given by the SNCF to be careful when crossing train tracks – you can still find this written on signs at train stations and near railways around France.

However, the phrase has evolved to mean ‘looks can be deceiving’ and is used commonly in this context today.

‘Le diable et son train’

The phrase ‘the devil and his train’ is used to describe a series of long, difficult and often painful events.

Just like carriages on a train, each negative event is succeeded by another.

This expression is used less and less nowadays so you are more likely to hear it among the older generations.

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