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‘Mettre la main à la pâte’ - a hardworking French expression

This French phrase has little to do with ‘pâte’ or dough and is useful when you need to ‘get stuck into' a task

Image showing a French flag design on a background of French newspaper headlines. Mettre la main à la pâte: A French expression you may hear today

If a baker does not 'put her hands in the dough', the bread does not get made Pic: Africa Studio / Shutterstock

Translated literally, 'mettre la main à la pâte' means to put your hands in the dough.

The expression, which dates back several centuries, normally refers to one of France’s most beloved professionals: the baker.

If the baker doesn’t get their hands in the bread dough to knead it again and again, there won’t be any bread to eat and the consequences would be dire.

Read more: Learn from the French: how to order the perfect baguette

Read more: Baguette, petits pains: Seven French expressions to do with bread

In this sense, mettre la main à la pâte means to participate in the work that has to be done, to get to work, or to get involved (often in a difficult or tedious task).

In English we might say ‘to roll your sleeves up’ or ‘get your hands dirty’.

Over the years, the expression has also taken on the meaning of showing support, or even helping others by getting something done especially if they have a heavy workload.

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