"Nail" is defined, according to Urban Dictionary, as "to complete a task successfully or get something right". Since it's a slang word, most translation dictionaries such as Word Reference, Larousse, or Reverso don't list this specific sense of the word.

What caption would you use in French for this meme (or any of these, for that matter)1?

enter image description here

And more importantly, how could I say this in French:

As good as they may be, there's an aspect Londoners cannot quite nail.
Aussi doués qu'ils peuvent être, il y a un aspect ___

1: Nailed it! memes are well-known in the social media accompanying images where someone tries to do something but messes it up massively instead, or tries to imitate something someone else did but their efforts turn out terribly (as in the image above). Of course it can be used for when someone literally nails it, such as this meme, but the sarcastic use is far more common. I'm interested in both the sarcastic and the literal sense of the word.

  • 1
    According to the image, it looks like "nail" is a negative thing, like "you messed up", whereas in your description, you're saying it is positive. Is the meme ironic ? – Random Apr 25 '16 at 12:50
  • @Random Yes, it is ironic. I'll update the question. – Yay Apr 25 '16 at 12:53
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    for the cupcakes, pile-poil comes to mind. (meaning exactly, to the distance of a hair width) – njzk2 Apr 25 '16 at 21:09

12 Answers 12


To the extent that “nailed it” can mean “spot-on,” you could use “{être} En plein dans le mille” [here sarcastically] for the doughnut caption (from ‘Reverso’), but negating this for the Londoner example would be awkward, so for that you could consider “{être toujours} à côté de la plaque” (also from ‘Reverso’).

"Aussi doués qu'ils puissent être, il y a un aspect des Londoniens qui est toujours [un peu/légèrement] à côté de la plaque."


You cannot really use the same word to translate "to nail" in both "As good as they may be, there's an aspect Londoners cannot quite nail" and the picture, because they carrying different meaning.

In the sentence, it means "to understand something/to get the meaning of something right", and corresponding slang would be "capter" or "piger". Depending on the context, a colloquial translation would be:

Les Londoniens sont peut-être bons, mais il y a quelque chose qu'ils ne pigent/captent pas.

As for the picture caption, I agree with Papa Poule, I would use something like "(Bam !) Dans le mille !". Here "to nail" has the meaning of "to manage to do something".

  • +1 for “piger”! (if it weren’t for the quite in “cannot quite nail” the OP could even consider throwing in “que dalle” after “piger” for some added ‘slanginess’) – Papa Poule Apr 25 '16 at 15:02

For the last sentence, "saisir" carry the meaning, without the familiar register:

Aussi doués qu'ils soient, il y a un aspect que les londoniens ne saisiront jamais. (As good as they may be, there's an aspect Londoners will never truly succeed to understand/achieve)

The expression "avoir tout bon / avoir tout juste" is more familiar and is less linked with the meaning of "to understand". However it sounds weird in the Londoners sentence, but you can use it for the meme: "les cupcakes-canards en plastique ont tout bon !"

However finding a perfect translation for a meme seems impossible, as meme English isn't even correct English and full of double-subverted-meanings.


I can't think of a direct translation to "nailed it", but "trop fort" might be a close substitute. It also works in the negative, as in "les londoniens ne sont pas trop forts au ____". I'm not sure how common it may be in France, but in Quebec it'll work fairly similarly.

  • "trop fort" is really not "nailed it". – Nikko Apr 26 '16 at 8:52
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    @Nikko I think it is, in Quebec. In English one might say, "Too good", which I guess implies "Too good for words, words fail me, superlative." I think top fort means "unbeatable", like getting a perfect score or a super-human achievement. – ChrisW Apr 26 '16 at 9:53

Some further suggestions:

  • il y a un aspect qui échappe toujours aux londoniens
  • il y a un aspect qui reste hors de portée des londoniens
  • il y a un aspect que les londoniens ne maîtrisent pas

As for "nailed it, "parfait" might work, or "parfaite maîtrise".


If you're looking for slang/real life oral French, a close approximation to "I nailed it" would be "J'ai tout déchiré". It's the kind of thing one would answer to a friend (not to a superior) when asked "How did your exam/job interview go?".

For the meme specifically, I guess in French we'd rather use "Excellent", "Parfait", "Impeccable", or variants like "Absolument parfait".

As for the sentence, it quite depends on what the Londoners will never quite nail ; if you mean they don't understand something:

Aussi doués qu'ils puissent être, il a y a quelque chose que les Londoniens ne capteront/pigeront jamais vraiment.

Or more idiomatic (and less correct):

Ils ont beau être doués, il y a un truc que les Londoniens ne pigeront jamais complètement.

On the other hand, if it's something they can't do correctly (cooking, let's say...):

Aussi doués soient-ils, il y a quelque chose que les Londoniens n'arriveront jamais à faire correctement.

Hope it helps,


Considering the most up-voted definition available in the Urban Dictionary "you completed a task successfully or got something right . ie :You nailed it to the cross", the closest translation would be réussi / nickel / parfait ! with "to nail" = réussir.

Aussi doués qu'ils puissent être, il y a quelque chose que les londoniens ne peuvent pas réussir.

  • I think "réussir" alone lacks an idea of perfection, that "nail" provides. I am not a native English speaker though, so my thoughts are to be taken with a grain of salt... – Thomas Francois Apr 25 '16 at 14:38
  • Réussir means "succeed". You can add maybe "parfaitement réussi" or just "parfait" or "nickel". But I wouldn't translate the sentence with londoners with "réussir" though. – Nikko Apr 26 '16 at 8:52
  • @Nikko Réussir un gateau doesn't translate well to Succeed a cake though. TBH, I'm just translating the most up-voted definition available in the Urban Dictionary. Agreed about the parfait or nickel suggestions, added to my reply, thanks! – jlliagre Apr 26 '16 at 9:11

I can also thing of another way, in the same manner as duck cake pic, saying 'Nickel !', like the metal, is a short way of expressing a spotless victory, something done without errors.


For what seems to be your main question, cerner” (D. 2) comes very close in terms of figurative and literal meaning alike.

Aussi doués qu'ils peuvent être, il y a un aspect que les Londoniens n’arriveront jamais vraiment à cerner.

Concerning the sarcastic use, I would go for “ça c'est fait”, a well-known meme-ish locution which would be identically sarcastic in this context. The implied is “let's quickly move on to the next thing”.


The answers I have seen so far are good, however "Nailed it" is slang, so I would suggest something of the same language level, such as: "Trop bien géré", which also includes the touch of irony.

  • C'est géré dans le sens de gérer une situation, avec l'ironie ? – user3177 Apr 29 '16 at 10:38

"Mettre le doigt sur quelque chose" could be used for "getting something right".

Aussi doués qu'ils puissent être, il y a un aspect sur lequel les londoniens n'arrivent pas vraiment à mettre le doigt.

You also keep the figurative meaning of "pinning something somewhere".

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    "sur ... dessus" the repetition sounds strange to me. – Marc Glisse Apr 26 '16 at 21:02
  • It does sound strange indeed, but I cannot remove or replace either "sur lequel" or "dessus" without it sounding off. I'm not quite knowledgeable enough in french grammar to explain it, but I think this is a valid sentence. – Mart1 Apr 27 '16 at 7:03
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    @MarcGlisse I totally agree. And sure the sentence is perfectly correct when merely removing "dessus". (native-french speaking) – cFreed Apr 28 '16 at 19:31
  • Fair enough. It still does sound a little off to me, but I will gladly admit that I may be in the wrong. – Mart1 Apr 29 '16 at 9:56
  • Ouais, en effet on dirait que le dessus, c'est le doigt qui n'est pas sur lequel aspect dont on parle. +1 – user3177 Apr 29 '16 at 10:37

"Ne pas manquer [qqch]" me vient en tête (ex. "je l'ai pas manqué"), qui a une signification particulière au-delà de la négation de "manquer". À mon avis ça s'assemble avec le registre informel de dire "nailed it".

La phrase donnée "an aspect they cannot quite nail" utilise la négation de "nail it" soit "cannot nail", qui ne s'accorde pas vraiment avec l'expression. On pourrait cependant dire au contraire que "les Londoniens ne manquent pas leur coup sur cet aspect," ou encore peut-être qu'ils "manquent un peu leur coup," même si ça change un peu le sens original.

  • @L'aditdabenlà La phrase donnée utilise la négation de "nail it" soit "cannot nail", qui ne s'accorde pas avec l'expression. On pourrait cependant dire au contraire que "les Londoniens ne manquent pas leur coup sur cet aspect." – Jonathan Allard May 2 '16 at 18:40
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    Exact. On entre un peu dans le concept logique que de ne pas être parfait ne veut pas dire que de tout manquer, mais on pourrait peut être dire qu'ils "manquent un peu leur coup" – Jonathan Allard May 2 '16 at 18:52

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