The French phrase "Il n'y a pas le feu au lac" revealed

Get prepared to learn all the things you ever wanted to know about the basic idiom “Il n’y a pas le feu au lac”.

To be clear, this includes a full guide of what it is and how to use it in everyday life with an audio example. And that’s not all, we also sprinkled useful things like dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio, synonyms and more!

If you want, you will find our others idioms guides on this page and all our French words explained on this page. Wish you a good learning!

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French to English translation

How to pronounce it?

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?

Definition

It literally means:

  • Il n’y a pas → There is no
  • le feu→ (the) fire
  • au lac→ to/on the lake

 

In the middle of the 20th century, French people started to use this expression to express “There is no hurry /emergency“. Because if there is no fire, there is no reason to panic.

How to use it

Instead of saying the basic: “Ça ne presse pas”  (There is no hurry) you can use this expression to make it funnier.

It also good to know that in everyday French, we almost always end up saying “Ya pas l’feu” which is shorter and more informal.

Fun fact

The mention of “on the lake” is a way of making fun of the slowness of the Swiss, supposedly unable to hurry even in an emergency, according to the cliché. And the lake refers to the “Lac Léman” (Lake Geneva), the symbol of Switzerland.

And because it’s impossible to have a fire on a lake, it makes it even more ironic…

Synonyms and similarities

  • Il n’y a pas le feu → There is no fire
  • Ya pas l’feu → There is no fire (Informal pronunciation)
  • Ya pas l’feu au lac → There is no fire on the lake (Informal pronunciation)
  • Il n’y a pas de quoi paniquer → There is no reason to panic
  • Il n’y a pas de quoi fouetter un chat → That’s not a reason to whip a cat
  • Rien ne presse → There is no hurry
  • Ça ne presse pas → There is no hurry

 

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this expression in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Soirée cinéma
Movie night
___
Un jour, Philippe et Emily ont décidé d’aller au cinéma.
One day Philippe and Emily decided to go to the movie theater.
Philippe était prêt, mais Emily était encore occupée à s’habiller et à se maquiller.
Philippe was ready, but Emily was still busy dressing and doing her makeup.
Emily:   Chéri ? Est-ce qu’on va être à l’heure pour le film ?
Darling? Are we going to be on time for the movie?
Philippe:   Oui,
il n’y a pas le feuLiterally: There’s no fire
au lac, prends ton temps. Tu seras bientôt prête ?
Yes, there is no hurry, take your time. Will you be ready soon?
Emily:   D’accord. Oui, je serai prête dans trente minutes.
Okay. Yes, I’ll be ready in thirty minutes.
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