"Cette voiture coûte un bras."

Translation:That car costs an arm and a leg.

December 19, 2013

125 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/judithscott

Interesting explanation of the english phrase "an arm and a leg" was given to me by a tour guide. In the old days if you wanted to have a portrait painted you were charged depending on how much of your body was included. Obviously if your portrait showed your arms and legs then it cost a lot. I wonder if it has the same roots in France?

January 14, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Phrontistery

Salut. Well, I heard that in some Middle Eastern countries, if you take something you can't quite afford (steal), it will cost you an arm and a leg...or a hand, two hands, a head...sigh.

April 24, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mosenazad

It's just hand, not arm or leg

June 26, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andrey872035

Not sure about Middle East, maybe cars are cheaper there and cost you only a hand, but in this French saying we talk about arm <=> bras, not hand <=> main. Still, this car is cheaper in French compared to English, just an arm, not an arm and a leg...

June 26, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/liveforcookies42

Woah. Cool. Did not know that! My class were taught what it meant, not where it came from.

March 10, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HermoineGr8

But the noun here is car, not a portrait..... Does it still mean the same?

October 15, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/n6zs
  • 1779

It is just an expression to say that something (anything) is extremely expensive. The opposite expression is "trois fois rien" (literally "three times nothing"). It is translated with similar colorful expressions in English: small potatoes, next to nothing, peanuts, dirt cheap, no big deal, etc.

November 9, 2017

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kubi119759

"Trois fois rien" est vraiment un virelangue pour moi.

November 17, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/whitegiraf1

My folks used to say 'Small Potatoes'. They were from New England

April 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/liveforcookies42

Small potatoes is not used. Not even by my mum OR my dad.

March 10, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/WhyYesIAmThor

Your parents aren't everyone in the world.

September 22, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/benedict164750

yes they are. What are you, stupid?

September 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raphael356283

Maybe

January 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Raphael356283

You look like if you come from Harry Potter

January 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/stuggin

There's no mention of any legs here!!

December 19, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/obitow

cars are cheaper in France. lol

December 31, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/gagarski

In Russia it would cost a kidney

March 20, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/agape1327

In Portugal it costs the eyes from the face( os olhos da cara)

September 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ph516503

Don't even ask what it costs in Spanish!

Not to be too delicate, most men have two of them and aren't keen to lose one.

April 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OsoGegenHest

No.

The correct Spanish idiom is Me costó un ojo de la cara — "It cost an eye out of my face".

You can make vulgar versions: Me costó un huevo — "It cost me one ❤❤❤❤❤❤❤". For extra comic effect one can add ...y la mitad del otro — "... and half of the other one".

November 20, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/liveforcookies42

What?

March 10, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Nathalie270964

Definitely in french we would say more "Ça coûte les yeux de la tête· Like in spanish or italian or portuguese..... Coûte un bras, I have never heard, sorry....

February 3, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TmaraMorae1

I believe they have the same idiom in French. Les yeux de la tête or something. Not too sure

October 13, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/CarolynnFrenchie

Exactly. The skin of the part of your body where you sit too :/

August 28, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ilmolleggi

almost the same in italian: costa un occhio della testa it costs one head's eye

December 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ericbrunoz

In Brazil, it also costs the eyeballs from the face or we say that we're being stabbing by a sharp knife.

June 2, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Michaela529273

I didn't know that and I'm from Brazil...

November 30, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/EuanWorth

as far as i know as a year 9 (English 9th grade) french student, this should be the phrase in french as well, but that may just be my brain making stuff up

May 2, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/eimaiviktoria

Brazil too!

October 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Andrey872035

Not so. Actually, it would be quite close to French: "it would cost me a kopeck" ("обойдется в копеечку")

December 21, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/mentalearner

Why "arms and legs"? Only arms were mentioned in the sentence.

September 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NathanRCS

Because it's an idiom, meaning an expression whose generally understood meaning is different from its literal meaning. They generally don't translate literally, unless the other language happens to share the same idiom. Instead, you pick a saying in the target language with the same meaning and a similar flavour. In this case, the saying in English is "costs an arm and a leg," which likely has the same origin.

November 12, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Vic_H82

Agreed it would have to say et un jambes no?

April 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"une jambe".

This is an idiom which does not mention "une jambe" in the French version.

April 23, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TheGamingC10

True

February 27, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Alternative: Cette voiture coûte la peau du dos (polite version).

December 19, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

First time I (native speaker) hear this polite version. ;)

December 19, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/maggimunro

Ok, so what is the impolite version, or is it too rude for Duo?

December 20, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

peau du c*l, I let those who want to know looking for the *. ;)

December 20, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Buddhafly13

Maybe you can explain this to me in a personal message so as to not get yourself in "trouble"? =p

December 24, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

... la peau des fesses / ... la peau du cul

of course, this is just for you to understand it when you hear it, not for you to actually use it! ;-)

December 25, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ilmolleggi

which is pronounced without the L

December 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/K333222

I've heard also "ça coûte les yeux de la tête". Do French people still use that one too?

September 21, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Not younger generations though, but yes.

September 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/NickC172

What exactly does the polite version mean?

March 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

It means that the thing costs a lot more than what you are prepared to pay for it (as if you had to give one of your arms).

March 29, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/sa_mills

What's worse, it's probably a lemon (citroen)

February 3, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Remy
  • 1105

That's punny ;-)

March 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Ah ah!

February 3, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/protocactus_PC

For anyone confused, Citroën is the name of a French car manufacturer.

December 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Pronunciation: SI-TRO-ENN

December 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Odiin

The English idiom is in the past tense no? 'Cost' an arm and a leg. At least it can be. I know the French is technically in the present tense, but it added the idiomatic 'and a leg' in English. I say Ouch!

January 16, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/helenvee

Actually I've rarely heard the English version as anything but "cost" so that's what I used and there went my last heart.

January 22, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TobyBartels

In English, I use it either way, depending on the natural tense.

August 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Perseph1955

To include future tense, as well: "I'm buying that car even though it will cost an arm and a leg."

September 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

No, "costs" is singular present. In preterit, no 's' at the end for 3rd person singular.

January 17, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/b_adger

'Cost' would imply the car has already been bought, costs implies the car is for sale. I note that the hover hint for 'coute' is "cost an arm and a leg' but using this was marked wrong...

February 15, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philipo79

I came on here for this exact reason. Can someone clarify that it can only mean a car that hasn't been bought?

March 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Remy
  • 1105

"costs" is the present, so it just means that it is something expensive (either you want to buy it, or you already own it: it does not change the fact that it is expensive).

March 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RICHA_GARG

"This car costs" is present tense. Past version will b "this car costed" . "this car cost" is wrong usage in english because car is singular so its verb will take an 's' at the end. In plural case it will be "these cars cost" (present) and " these cars costed" (past).

July 3, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"to cost" is an irregular verb.

  • present: it costs
  • preterit: it cost
  • present perfect: it has cost
July 3, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philipo79

Your present examples are OK but I'm pretty sure that "costed" doesn't exist in English and that the past for to cost is always cost.

e.g. PAST SIMPLE "this car cost me £1000" PAST PERFECT "this car had cost me £1000"

July 4, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/philipo79

"cette voiture a coûté un bras" = "that car cost an arm and a leg"

March 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JordanMowat

I see you go on and on about being true to the idiom. In English, it is predominantly "cost".

June 29, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John787925

Even an idiom can still vary to reflect tense. "Have you bought that car you wanted yet?" "No, it costs an arm and a leg." You're probably more likely to USE the idiom to talk about something you've already bought, and thus use the past tense, but that doesn't mean it doesn't make sense in the present.

December 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/liveforcookies42

No English version is present tense.

March 10, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/saragclopes

you can substitute "voiture" for other words and still is an idiom or this idiom itself only works with the word voiture?

February 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Anything you buy for money can replace "voiture"

February 28, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/duttagupta35504

Is 'coûte' only present tense?

January 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

coûte is the conjugated form of:
- 1st person (sing.) of indicative present
- 3rd person (sing.) of indicative present
- 1st person (sing.) of subjunctive present
- 3rd person (sing.) of subjunctive present
- 2nd person (sing.) of imperative present

In this sentence it's 3rd person (sing.) of indicative present.

January 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Have you ever used that verb at 2nd person (sing.) of imperative? ;-)

January 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

No, not up to now... ;)

January 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/hlorrithi

Now i wonder if the french also say they'd give their right arm for this and that :)

July 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

"je donnerais un bras pour avoir ça" (not necessarily the right one)

July 7, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TrishLearner

C'est toujours le bras droit en anglais. I guess our left arm has no value in English. :(

October 27, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Owlspotting

How about "That car costs a pretty penny."

May 24, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/OsoGegenHest

Not as exact, but well done on remembering that one anyway.

November 21, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DylanHepworth

This car costs an arm should be accepted. It's literal but it's still correct.

March 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LICA98

yeah marked me wrong for that too - -

March 13, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/whitegiraf1

But, it would not be correct to say to an English speaker. They would think you would left off the other part of the expression

April 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Egouno

What is this nonsense

September 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/benedict164750

amen

September 14, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Goran12

What exactly does it mean? That it was very expensive, but does worth it, or that it is simply too expensive?

December 24, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

Just that it's very expensive (there is no idea about being worth it or not).
Does the English sentence have a different meaning (being worth it)? I thought it was the same as in French.

December 24, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoyceA

jrikhal, the English "It costs an arm and a leg" just means that it is very expensive. It says nothing about whether it is worth the expense. So it is the same as the French.

December 30, 2013

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jrikhal

Thanks for the answer!

January 2, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Perseph1955

"My Mercedes cost me an arm and a leg, but it was worth every penny." OR: "I paid an arm and a leg for that car, but it wasn't worth a toenail." No value in the expression itself, as you see.

September 5, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/icundell

"This car cost an arm and a leg" should be accepted. Past singular - the correct IDIOMATIC translation.

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

No, because the French tense is simple present and nothing would be wrong with a present in English as well.

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/icundell

Except, as I said, this is idiom - it is invariably used after you have been put in a position of buying something expensive or over-priced. "Did you buy a new car?" "Yeah, and it cost an arm and a leg". It may be used before the event, but would much more commonly be used after being stiffed.

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoyceA

Dear icundell:

At the risk of being downvoted or pelted with negative lingots (if there were negative lingots), I'm going to join in here. I couldn't understand why this question kept popping up despite the excellent explanations given by Sitesurf, jrikhal, and Remy:

Third person singular present coûte = costs

The idiom in English is "to cost an arm and a leg."

It can occur in the future: [I'll think of an example, but it will cost you an arm and a leg.]

It can occur in the past: [Did you buy that? I did, and it cost me an arm and a leg.]

It can occur in the present: [It costs me an arm and a leg every time I have to feed the troll to cross the bridge.]

In English, the cluster -sts- as in "costs" is quite challenging to pronounce and very difficult to differentiate from -st as in "cost." Ask any of us to say it in isolation and it's easy: It C O S T S vs. It C O S T. But listen to someone say the words in real conversation: It costs a lot of lingots vs. It cost a lot of lingots. No difference, right?

It doesn't matter. What we're looking at here is the way things are written (which may or may not be exactly what they sound like in rapid speech).

I believe that is the source of the confusion. Now fire away.

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/icundell

Hi Joyce,

No worries. No reason to feel defensive at all, discussion is good. But, to quote you "What we're looking at here is the way things are written ":

But this isn't what the community guides say (point 1): http://duolingo.wikia.com/wiki/Immersion_Community_Guidelines_(Unofficial)

Now, obviously, that refers to Immersion, but it is eminently sensible. I'm in the mid range of the French tree and am getting increasingly bemused by some of the very poor English caused by excessive literalism, so it's lucky I'm learning in the other direction (and this isn't a US vs UK thing - that doesn't bother me). I should be clear in that by "poor" I mean English that no native speaker would use.

But in this idiom lesson specifically, I'd suggest the immersion guides are massively useful. - I've seen the French equivalent of "It's raining cats and dogs" in it and, although I don't have it to hand. it certainly isn't "Il pleut des chats et des chiens".

I get the literal translation of this example, I really do, but to me we should be exploring the idiomatic translation in this lesson. There's a difference between being difficult and challenging (which is good) and being fussy and pedantic which, when it comes to idiom, borders on the useless.

If I were to suggest to Duo to put "Pull the other leg, it's has bells on" into this lesson, I wouldn't expect it to be translated as "Tirez l'autre jambe il a des cloches", but the French equivalent of "Who are you trying to kid?" or "Do I look like a rube?" or whatever. I'm not saying 'costs' is wrong - simple that 'cost' is also acceptable as a result of common usage in idiomatic English. Any other approach would, logically, demand that the "legs" get added to the French version since one can't be only half virgin - but that would be silly.

I've seen a few discussions about correct French translation, which I am not even close to being qualified to comment on (but which I enjoy greatly). But on English usage I'm pretty damned comfortable - and "right" is surprisingly rarely synonymous with "literal". (Pardon the adverb rash there - I will sacrifice something at Mark Twain's graveside by way of atonement.)

Bloody hell - that went on a bit. All over a single word. No wonder there's trouble in Ukraine.

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/John787925

There's a difference between fixed aspects of an idiom and variable aspects. In this case, the fixed aspect is the adverbial [an arm and a leg] and the preferred verb [to cost]. You can use other verbs ("it's worth an arm and a leg", "I paid an arm and a leg", "he charged an arm and a leg"). And you must inflect those verbs with the correct tense.

December 6, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JoyceA

As you say, icundell, no worries. (T'as d'beaux yeux tu sais) :D

March 8, 2014

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AlessandrinhoXXX

Interesting... In Mexico we used to say "costó un huevo"

April 27, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/benedict164750

They should specify whether they want the literal translation or the figurative.

June 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/tainarajansen

how come 'a leg and an arm' be wrong?

July 31, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/shuhanli

The translation is wrong. What that really means is "That car costs an arm". The real way to say it is: "Cette voiture coûte un bras et jambe".

August 1, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

The French don't use "et une jambe", but "un bras" only.

August 3, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JosCabral12

The sentence in this exercise is incomplete, it reads "This car will cost you an arm" the sentence in French is missing "And a leg".

August 10, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ari_____

Does anybody knows why there is the circumflex accent on the u?

April 9, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

It replaces an 's' that was there in old French: "couster" has become "coûter"

April 9, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/PugLove888

Arianna, it's just like Sitesurf explained. An example that is easy for English speakers to remember is the French word «hôtel» was once spelled «hostel»; it is also where English gets the words "hotel" and "hostel"! :~D Also remember that the French delicacy «pâte» was once just "paste". ;-)

May 3, 2016

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BartLoesle

So it literally says it costs an arm. Not and a leg. Shouldn't an arm alone be correct?

January 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/whitegiraf1

No, because it's an idiomatic expression which does not translate exactly.

April 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kdillard242

Cette voiture me coûte les yeux de la tête.

March 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Twinkle_M

And that iPhone costs a kidney

August 24, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/TrishOut

And a leg?

August 28, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChelleTruman

So, since this only applies to the present tense, how can we use this sentiment in the past tense in French? Is there another idiom that applies or are we supposed to change the tense of the verb coûter? There has been a lot of complaining about it one way or another but no one has answered this question as far as I can see.

December 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Any tense could do.

"cette voiture m'a coûté un bras" = that car cost me an arm and a leg

"cette voiture m'aurait coûté un bras" = that car would have cost me an arm and a leg

etc...

December 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ChelleTruman

Thank you!

December 22, 2015

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/RbenBoas1

I think in case of proverbs, the literal translation should also be accepted. Leg isn't anywhere shown in the English version.

February 10, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/jades16

Its is saying that something is so expensive that you will need to sell you arm and your leg to be able to afford it. Also, interesting note, the french version just talks about an arm, not both an arm and a leg.

March 7, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ClioFe2

I want to know what's the matter with this sentence? I have translated into English, That car costs an arm and a leg and you, Duo has considered it completely wrong. I've changed the position of the word in the sentence and even so, it continues wrong. What's up my friend?

March 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Sitesurf

Unfortunately, I can't tell you because I checked this and "that car costs an arm and a leg" is an accepted translation.

March 26, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/xX5642cjXx

"Arm and a leg, eh?"

April 5, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Arancaytar

At least you get to keep your leg in French.

June 11, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MasterChief555

Doulingo is incorrect, the correct form is, “That car cost an arm”

August 1, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/BinkyOuiOui

No, the point of translating an idiom is not to translate it literally, but to translate it idiomatically. You would struggle to get the answers correct in this section if you try to translate the phrases word-for-word... "An idiom is an expression whose meaning cannot be directly derived from the meanings of the words it contains". So in the 'proverbs and idioms' section of duolingo, the correct answers will be the phrases that are accepted, used and understood in the native speaker's language. In France the saying doesn't refer to a leg (in this example) and in English speaking countries, it does. Each language has it's own version of the phrase and that's what will be accepted as being correct.

September 23, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/A.J.26

Just by reasons of information and curiosity, in Portuguese I know three kinds of idioms that would convey the same meaning, taking advantage of the sentence above: Esse carro custa os olhos da cara or Esse carro é uma facada or also Esse carro está bastante salgado, which could be translated word-by-word so: That car costs the eyes of the face/ That car costs a stab (I love that one 'cause it sounds like you unavoidably should be stabbed if you really mean to get it, I use it a lot )/ That car tastes salty (It's weird because it's like everybody hates salty food. Let me know if I made any mistake. Brasilian Portuguese native speaker

October 14, 2018

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/kdillard242

The French say cost the eyes out of your head

March 19, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/AlessandrinhoXXX

Interesting... In Mexico we use to say "costó un huevo"

April 27, 2019
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