Seven ways to complain like a French person

The language has many ways to express displeasure - which locals have a reputation of using frequently

Find out how to sigh and complain as if you were brought up in France

French people have a reputation for being râleurs (moaners, whingers). For some, this stereotype does not apply but for many it is quite apt.

And true to the stereotype, the French language indeed has a wide variety of ways to express displeasure, annoyance, or to grumble and complain about things.

Below, we list some of the most common ways to do this, ranging from discontent to anger to being totally fed up, and give you the appropriate context in which to use them.

J’en ai marre

A close translation in English of j’en ai marre is ‘I cannot stand it anymore’. It is a common, informal expression, with its intensity largely dependent on tone of voice.

If you are sick of the current elections, you could say j’en ai marre de ces élections - ‘I cannot stand these elections anymore’.

J’en ai ras-le-bol

This is the French version of being ‘fed up’.

There are different hypotheses on the origin of this expression. A glass that is à ras bord refers to a glass that is full to the brim. Therefore, the image of avoir ras-le-bol (bol meaning bowl) is someone who cannot take anymore.

However, there is a hypothesis relating to hair. A coupe au bol is a bowl cut, so avoir ras-le-bol possibly meant someone who needed a haircut, and then came to mean someone who is fed up.

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There are other variants of this expression, such as j’en ai ras la casquette, meaning cap.

If you are sick of someone being late, you could say J’en ai ras-le-bol que tu sois au retard (I am fed up with you being late).

J’ai le seum 

This expression is slang from the younger generation, although it has fallen into general use with the wider public. 

Like a lot of slang, it originates from Arabic and the word sèmm which literally means venom. Having the venom therefore means that you feel angry and bitter, although it can also be used to describe annoyance or sadness.

A person might say j’ai trop le seum when finding out a piece of bad news. A variant of this expression is j’ai le mort which literally means ‘I have the death’. 

Read more: Ways to apologise in French and how to say ‘pardon, I didn’t hear you?’

Ca me saoule/soûle

This expression, which can be spelt different ways, can be translated to ‘I am sick of it’. Se saouler means to get drunk.

If someone is annoying you, you can also say tu me saoules. This expression is informal.

J’en ai plein les bottes

This translates to ‘my boots are full’ and a close English equivalent is ‘I have had it up to here’ or ‘I cannot take it anymore’. It is less commonly used than some other expressions on this list and it is also informal.

A variant of this expression is en avoir par-dessus la tête, which means having had it above your head, or like in English ‘I’ve had it up to here’.

Read more: 9 ‘English’ words in French that do not exist in English

Ca me gonfle

This expression translates to ‘it annoys me’ or ‘it gets on my nerves’. It is informal and quite vivid, with gonfler literally meaning ‘to inflate’. Therefore, it conjures an image of someone becoming puffed up with irritation.

This expression can be used to express less strong annoyance than some other terms on this list. 

For example, if you ask someone if they are enjoying the TV show they are watching (l’émission te plaît ?), they might answer non, ça me gonfle.

A variant of this expression is ça me gave. Gaver means to force feed, for example what is done with geese to make foie gras.

Je suis dégouté

This phrase translates to ‘I’m disgusted’. Just as in English, it is used to express a strong sense of displeasure or disenchantment.

In slang, it is shortened to just ‘je suis dég’.