I'm living in Belgium, near the French border, and there just was a car, parking just behind me. It came so close that I thought he would bump into my car. Luckily, it didn't.

I thought by myself: if that driver hits my car, I would like to say to him "You need to open your eyes and close the breaks, not the other way around.", but how to say this in French?

Tu dois ouvrir tes yeux et fermer (ou serrer) les freins, et ne pas ...

Can anyone finish that sentence? I know you can't say "inversé" ou "le contraire" (both have different meanings or are even complete bogus here), but how to say "not the other way around"?

Thanks in advance

  • Does closing the breaks mean break ? I don't think you can translate it word for word, since in french "closing the breaks" doesn't mean anything. You could say something meaning the driver should open his eyes and use the breaks but there wouldn't be the nice phrasing you wanted.
    – LouisB
    Nov 24, 2020 at 17:01
  • I understand "closing the breaks" as "breaking".. as when you break, some "jaws" are closing on your disks to slow the car.
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 24, 2020 at 17:08
  • Regarde ce que tu fais et ralentis, l'ami... ; Un haut niveau d'attention et une basse vitesse...?? je trouve plutôt bizarre. cc @LaurentS. Nov 24, 2020 at 22:31
  • 1
    It's "brake", not "break". You don't want your brakes to break. Nov 25, 2020 at 6:55
  • @AmiralPatate > As I was writing it yesterday I figured out there was something wrong... obviously :-)
    – Laurent S.
    Nov 25, 2020 at 7:27

2 Answers 2


That joke doesn't translate well into French because "fermer les freins" is not idiomatic in Belgium French (nor France for what I know...). So, while you probably would be understood, it will definitely sound weird and therefore something you intent as a funny remark could be misinterpreted and judged agressive.

As much as I like puns, I can't think right now of a funny remark you could have done.

To answer more generally to your question, assuming "fermer les freins" would be idiomatic, a correct way of saying this would be:

Tu dois/Vous devez ouvrir les yeux et fermer les freins, et pas le contraire !


Tu dois/Vous devez ouvrir les yeux et fermer les freins, et pas l'inverse !

While logic fans out there might argue that "inverse" and "contraire" are not exactly the same, both sentences will be understood equally from where I see it (we're not in some math demonstration...)

  • -x is not the same as 1/x, I see what you mean :-)
    – Dominique
    Nov 25, 2020 at 9:40
  • "close the brakes" isn't really idiomatic in English either, or at least I've never heard the phrase before. It's obvious enough what it means, I've just never heard anyone say it like that. Nov 25, 2020 at 14:11

As already mentioned in Laurent S.'s answer, "fermer les freins" does not exist in French. And I cannot find an equivalent to make the pun work.

The correct verbs for the brakes are "utiliser" or "appuyer sur". Or more simply and more commonly, the verb "freiner". For instance, the following sentences have the same meaning:

  • "Tu dois freiner."
  • "Tu dois utiliser les freins."
  • "Tu dois appuyer sur les freins." (This last one sounds less correct.)

Sometimes you can also find "serrer les freins", which can be used as "to brake strongly", but this is uncommon and slang. Same remark for "planter les freins" or "être debout sur les freins".

If you really REALLY want to keep your intended pun, you could try the following: "On ne peut pas conduire en économisant ses yeux et ses freins..." (one cannot drive while saving his eyes and brakes...)

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