Il ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard

Il ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard
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Informal French Expression

Meaning he’s not that great/special, he’s nothing to write home about
Literally he doesn’t break a duck’s three feet
Register informal
Pronunciation [eel neu kas pah trwah pah tah oo(n) kah nar]
IPA   [il nə kas pɑ trwa pat a œ̃ ka naʀ]

Usage notes: Since ducks only have two feet, it would take someone or something truly exceptional to break three – or at least that’s the idea behind the French idiom il ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.

Par exemple…

Pierre est sympa, mais il ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.   Pierre is nice, but he’s not that special / nothing to write home about.
J’ai vu le film – ça ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.   I saw the movie – it’s nothing special.

The base expression is ne pas casser trois pattes à un canard, so obviously it can be used with other (mediocre) subjects.

Gaëlle ne casse pas trois pattes à un canard.   Gaëlle isn’t that great.
Ils ne cassent pas trois pattes à un canard.   They’re not that great.
Tu ne casses pas trois pattes à un canard.   You’re not that great.

  Informally, ne is dropped and this expression is pronounced il casse pas trois pattes à un canardlearn more

Synonymous expressions (all informal)

  • ça ne casse pas des briques – literally, "it doesn’t break bricks"
  • ça ne casse rien – "it doesn’t break anything"
  • ça ne pisse pas loin –  "it doesn’t pee far"
  • ce n’est pas la gloire – "it’s not glory"
  • ce n’est pas terrible – "it’s not that great"
  • ce n’est pas transcendant – "it’s not transcendent"
  • il n’y a pas de quoi pavoiser – "there’s no reason to put out flags"

 Related lessons

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2 Responses

  1. Paul 9 December 2018 / 20:44

    Just a nitpick on pronunciation – “oo(n)” is not a very close transcription for un. I know it is not easy to transcribe that sound for English speakers, but it would be something closer to “ah(n)” or “uh(n).