Discover the French sentence "Passer du coq à l'âne"

We are going to explain you all the things you ever wanted to know about the basic idiom “Passer du coq à l’âne”.

To be clear, this includes a detailed explanation of what it is and how you can use it in a dialogue with an audio example. Along with the useful stuff we added like synonyms, dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio and more!

By the way, on this page you will find our others idioms pages plus the ultimate list of all our French words tutorials on this page. Enjoy!

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English translation

How to pronounce it

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?

Definition

  • Passer → To pass/go
  • Du coq → From the rooster
  • À l’âne → To the donkey

All right, this one won’t be easy to explain, brace yourself.

During the 14th century, French people used the expression “Saillir du coq à l’asne” (To copulate from the rooster to the duck). Because it happens sometimes that a rooster tries to copulate with ducks…

With time, people started to use this weird interracial fact as a comparison for people abruptly changing subject. Arguing that it’s as illogical as a rooster trying to “boom boom” a duck.

So, they said: “Passer du coq à l’asne” (To go from the rooster to the duck) to represent someone going from one subject to another completely unrelated one.

But wait, where is the donkey coming from?

First: “Asne” (Old word for “duck“) and “Âne” (Donkey) are pronounced exactly the same. Secondly, “Asne” is not used anymore (it’s now “Canard“) while “Âne” is still used.

Then, as a result for people using it for centuries: “Passer du coq à l’asne” slowly turned into “Passer du coq à l’âne” into people’s mind. Even if the donkey has nothing to do with this expression…

How to use

You are in the middle of a passionate debate, when the person you are talking with suddenly starts talking about the weather, out of nowhere…

You can say: “Wtf?” but also “Tu passes du coq à l’âne !” (You go from the rooster to the donkey!). If the person is doing that frequently, you can even say: “Arrête de passer du coq à l’âne !” (Stop going from the rooster to the donkey!).

Fun fact

We have an expression to make fun of this expression (Yes it’s crazy…). 

It’s “Passer du Coca Light“, which means absolutely nothing (literaly: “to go from light coke“) but sounds extremely similar to the original expression and with a sweet (but light) pun.

Synonyms and similarities

Sauter du coq à l’âne. (“To jump from the rooster to the donkey“)

Example in a story with French audio

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Une soirée avec une amie
An evening with a friend
___
Joe et Ellen ont décidé de se retrouver après une longue période sans s’être vus.
Joe and Ellen decided to meet after a long time without seeing each other.
Contrairement à Joe, Ellen venait souvent en France.
Unlike Joe, Ellen was frequently coming to France.
Elle travaillait pour une grande entreprise qui vendait des vêtements en France.
She worked for a big company that sold clothes in France.
Donc de temps en temps, elle se rendait en France pour travailler sur des projets.
So from time to time, she went to France to work on projects.
Pendant leur rencontre, Joe et Ellen ont beaucoup parlé de leur travail, leurs projets et leurs amis en commun.
During their meeting, Joe and Ellen talked a lot about their work, their projects and their common friends.
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