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

You are going to discover everything you want to know about the basic expression “J’ai du pain sur la planche”.

To be more precise, it includes a detailed definition of what it is and how you can use it in a normal conversation with an audio example. As well as the useful stuff we sprinkled like literal meaning, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!

In addition, you will also find more of these expressions explained on this page plus all our French words guides on this page. Ready to learn? C’est parti ! (Let’s go!)

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French to English

How to pronounce

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

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)

Fun fact

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

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Invité à une soirée
Invited to a party
Marc:   Léa, tu es libre ce vendredi soir ?
Léa, are you free this Friday night?
Léa:   Euh, pas vraiment… pourquoi ?
Hmm, not really… why?
Marc:   Ah… pour rien, je demandais juste.
Ah… nothing, I was just asking.
Léa:   Allez ! Je sais que tu as quelque chose en tête !
Come one! I know you have something in mind!
Marc:   Peu importe.
It doesn’t matter.
Léa:   S’il te plait, dis-moi !
Please, tell me!
Marc:   Ok… je voulais t’inviter à une fête.
Ok… I wanted to invite you to a party.
Léa:   C’est gentil ! Mais tu sais,
j’ai du pain sur la plancheLiterally: I have bread on the board
That’s nice! But you know, I’ve a lot to do…
Marc:   Oui, je sais. Mais je pensais que tu aurais peut-être un peu de temps libre après le travail…
Yes, I know. But I thought you might have some free time after work…
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