Mettre le doigt

Mettre le doigt
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French Expressions

Literal meaning to put the finger
Register normal
Pronunciation [meh tr(eu) leu dwa]
IPA   [mɛ tʁə lə dwa]

Usage notes: Mettre le doigt can be used literally to talk about putting a finger over the hole of a musical instrument, such as a flute or trumpet, but it’s more commonly used in one of several idiomatic French expressions:

1) Mettre le doigt sur le problème / Mettre le doigt sur la difficulté

To put one’s finger on the problem / difficulty, to figure out a problem / difficulty

Nous avons enfin mis le doigt sur le problème.   We finally figured out the problem.

2) Mettre le doigt dans l’engrenage

To get involved. (Literally, "to put the finger in the gears")

Je ne veux pas mettre le doigt dans l’engrenage.   I don’t want to get involved.

3) Mettre le doigt sur la plaie

To touch/hit a (raw) nerve, to mention a sensitive subject. ("to put the finger on the wound")

Avec ma question innocente, j’ai mis le doigt sur la plaie par hasard.   With my innocent question, I inadvertently hit a nerve.

4) Se mettre le doigt dans l’œil (jusqu’au coude)

Informal: To be kidding oneself, to have another think coming. (“to put one’s finger in one’s eye [up to the elbow])

Elle se mettait le doigt dans l’œil.   She was kidding herself.

Variation: se fourrer le doigt dans l’œil

5) Entre l’arbre et l’écorce il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.

Proverb: Don’t meddle in other people’s business. ("Between the tree and the bark you mustn’t put your finger.")

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