The French idiom "J'ai du pain sur la planche" explained

Get ready to discover all the things you have to know about the basic idiom “J’ai du pain sur la planche”.

To be more specific, this includes a full explanation of what it is and how you can use it in a dialogue with an audio example. As well as the useful stuff we added like slow pronunciation audio, literal meaning, dialogue example and more!

If you are interested, on this page you will find more of these idioms guides and all our French words pages on this page. Ready to learn? C’est parti ! (Let’s go!)

Table of Contents

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English translation

Audio pronunciation

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?


  • Avoir → To have
  • Du pain → Some bread
  • Sur la planche → On the board

Finally! A French idiom with bread! But where is it coming from and why does it mean: “To have a lot of work“?

Few centuries ago, it meant “To have a lot of resources” and it was a sign of prosperity/capacity to survive. 

But weirdly, with time it became a way to say “I have a lot to do“. Just like every morning, the baker sees all the uncooked bread on the board as a sign of the hard work he still has to accomplish.

How to use it

Whenever someone asks you if you are available for something, but you can’t because you have a lot of things to do. You can say: “Je ne peux pas, j’ai du pain sur la planche“. (I can’t, I have some bread on the board)

Funny stuff

No, you can’t say “J’ai des baguettes sur la planches” sorry.

Dialogue example with audio

Audio dialogue from French people

Dialogue audio

Dialogue script

” Tu viens au cinéma avec nous ? “
” Are you coming to the cinema with us? “
” Je ne peux pas, j’ai du pain sur la planche “
” I can’t, I have bread on the board “
” Pas de problème, je comprends “
” No problem, I understand “
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