In English, when you are completely immersed/engrossed in an activity, to the point of being oblivious to everything else, you say "He can't tear/pull himself away from the TV", "He is glued to the TV", "He is locked/rooted in front of the TV" etc.

For what it's worth, we say in Japanese "釘付け {kugi-zuke}" with the literal meaning of "being fixed with nails to something" to express the idea of "your temporary excessive immersion in something".

I wonder, how would you express the same idea in French? For instance:

"When not locked in front of a computer, she's glued to the viewfinder of her camera."

"I finally managed to tear/pull my son away from the TV."

"The book is so engagingly written it is hard to put it down."

Il se trouve que l'on emploie le verbe « riveted (by) » en anglais aussi pour désigner le fait de « se plonger complètement dans une activité ». On peut donc utiliser les verbes « river / rivet / 釘付け » de la même façon, qui proviennent tous du nom « clou » en trois langues différentes. Voici une coïncidence intéressante.

  • About nails, French has il est cloué à son bureau / au lit, but I wouldn't say cloué à sa console de jeu (but it would be understood). Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 20:29
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    Docteur! Ma femme est clouée au lit! J'aimerais que vous la vissiez! Commented Dec 6, 2017 at 23:57

2 Answers 2


tl;dr : Just translate the expression literally, French has the same figurative meanings as English.

French has the same glue and metalwork ideas, in the form of scotch tape and rivets :

 Il est scotché à la télé
Elle est rivée à son ordinateur (she's riveted)

These are maybe the most idiomatic expressions (but won't work with all things, e.g. I don't think you can be *rivée à la TV). There are other variations based on glue (« il passe son temps le nez collé à son écran »).

Most importantly maybe, I find it hard to build a litteral translation from english figurative expressions that wouldn't be understood in french. For instance, you can translate "tear/pull away" straightforwardly as « arracher », and it'll have the same figurative meaning in french.

When not locked in front of a computer, she's glued to the viewfinder of her camera.
Quand elle n'est pas coincée sur un ordinateur, on ne la décolle pas de son camescope.
Quand elle n'est pas verrouillée à son ordinateur -- a bit strange, but will be understood

I finally managed to tear/pull my son away from the TV.
J'ai enfin réussi à l'arracher de la TV.

The book is so engagingly written it is hard to put it down.
Ce livre est tellement bien écrit qu'il est difficile à déposer.

Except "locked", all are very litteral translations, and they sound right in french to express the same idea. Admittedly I, as a native speaker, choose the "right" translations (e.g. « elle est verrouillée à son ordinateur » is not idiomatic, if straightforward to understand), but mostly they all seem to work, and everyone may prefer their own pet sayings.

  • Merci pour l'éclaircissement. Do you use "extirper" in any of these examples? Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 20:41
  • You could, in that "extirper" is synonym with "arracher". "J'ai eu un mal fou à l'extirper de devant la TV." = I had a hard time pulling him away from the TV. Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 21:09
  • @NikanaReklawyks Very good answer, I disagree a bit about that I find idiomatic : the usage of "coller" ("Il a passé la journée collé à son ordi.") and adding some example in another answer.
    – Yohann V.
    Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 6:41
  • I would better say "J'ai enfin réussi à l'arracher à la TV" or "l'arracher de devant la TV", and "verrouillée à son ordinateur" doesn't sound French at all. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 13:41
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    @YohannV. I'm glad you don't find the exact same expressions idiomatic. That's precisely the point of my answer. There are no standard ways of saying this, so everyone has his pet expression, and others that he's not used to hearing (IMO). Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 19:33

Adding to @NikanaReklawyks good answer, you can use

  • river (être rivé[e]) = put together metal pieces with rivets, and figuratively to keep eyes on.

    When not locked in front of a computer, she's glued to the viewfinder of her camera.
    Quand elle n'est pas rivée à son ordinateur, elle est collée à son camescope.

  • immerger = submerge in liquid or plonger = plunge into a liquid, both will have figuratively the sense of being immersed in an activity.
    With a more neutral meaning than those with lock or glue.

    Je me suis immergé dans ce livre et je n'ai pas vu le temps passer !
    Quand on est plongé dans un film, on peut s'évader dans un nouveau monde.

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    +1 for "river", that one is quite idiomatic. That would be the best translation akin to the japanese nail expression OP mentions. Actually it's so good that I'm including it in my answer. Commented Oct 27, 2016 at 20:03

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