Whether you’re expressing anger, exasperation or simply asking for silence, there are plenty of expressions to get the message across in French. However, asking someone to be quiet without annoying them can be particularly difficult.
In this article, we’ll look at various ways of saying shut up in French, from the most polite to the rudest.
What Does Ta Gueule Mean in French?
“Ta gueule” is an injunction used to call for silence in a rude and brutal manner. It’s generally used to silence someone who’s talking too much, responding, challenging, demanding, and/or mocking.
Since the 20th century, the expression has become one of the most widely used French swear words, so much so that it has become the standard way of asking someone to shut up in a colloquial context.
A short form of “ferme ta gueule”, “ta gueule” is actually a metaphorical injunction. In French, the term “gueule” is traditionally used to refer to the mouths of carnivorous animals (dogs, wolves, wild beasts, etc.). So, when we tell someone to “fermer sa gueule”, we’re comparing them to an animal that can’t stop shouting, like a dog that never stops barking.
As you’ll see in the following lines, “ta gueule” (shut up in French) has given rise to numerous expressions that will vary according to context. Some will be more appropriate in a formal or professional situation, while others should be reserved for an informal or familiar context. Finally, these expressions can be differentiated not only by their degree of politeness, but also by their direct or indirect nature.
How Can be Translated Shut Up in French?
Shut up can be translated by (second-person singular / second-person plural):
- Tais-toi / Taisez-vous
- Ferme-la / Fermez-la
- Ta gueule / Vos gueules
The 15 Most Common Ways of Saying Shut Up in French
- Tais-toi (common)
English translation: Shut up
“Tais-toi” is the most common way of asking someone for silence in French. Far from being polite without being too vulgar, the degree of politeness of the expression will depend on how you use it.
So it’s perfectly normal to hear the expression coming out of a teacher’s mouth when he or she demands silence from the class, in which case he or she will use the plural: “taisez-vous”. Conversely, “tais-toi” can be particularly vulgar when said by a child to an authority figure such as a parent or teacher.
On the strength of its popularity, the expression has been used as the title of various works, including Francis Veber’s highly acclaimed comedy (Tais-toi! – 2003), starring such renowned French actors as Gérard Depardieu, Jean Reno and Richard Berry.
- Ferme ta gueule (colloquial)
Pronunciation: \fɛʁm ta ɡœl\
English translation: Shut your mouth
A long form of “ta gueule”, “ferme ta gueule” is both vulgar and very common in France. As we saw above, the term “gueule” refers to the mouths of carnivorous animals.
So commanding someone to “fermer sa gueule” is disrespecting them twice over. Not only are you asking them to shut up in French in a vulgar manner, but you’re also reducing them to the level of an animal. And if you’re particularly annoyed, you can even go one step further and tell someone to “ferme bien ta gueule !”.
- Taisez-vous, s’il vous plaît (common)
Pronunciation: \tɛ.ze.vu s‿il vu plɛ\
English translation: Please, be quiet
Followed by the polite “s’il vous plait”, “taisez-vous” is probably the most courteous way of asking someone to be quiet in French. Unlike the “taisez-vous” mentioned above, “vous” is used here to show the speaker that the request is being made with respect (if you consider it possible to ask someone to be quiet with respect).
- Écrase (colloquial)
English translation: Pipe down
The verb “écraser” has many meanings in French. In its most common usage, it means to injure, crush or break something by inflicting repeated pressure or shocks. Here, the meaning is quite different. It’s used to order someone to be small, not to insist, and/or to keep quiet in an intimidating and familiar way.
- Chut ! (common)
English translation: Shhh! / Shush!
“Chut” is one of the most frequently used French interjections. And with good reason: it’s the equivalent of the English “shhh” or “shush”. Although its origin is unclear, “chut” is thought to come from the verb “chuchoter”, with which it shares the same root.
Used to request quiet or to silence one or more people, “shush” is not generally considered impolite. It can therefore be heard in situations where general silence is required, such as in the library or cinema, when individuals are disturbing the ambient calm.
- Ferme ta bouche (colloquial)
Pronunciation: \fɛʁm ta buʃ\
English translation: Shut your mouth
“Ferme ta bouche” and its abbreviated form, “ta bouche”, are two fairly common ways of saying “ta gueule” in French. Although the expression may be considered a little less vulgar than “ferme ta gueule”, it is generally used in place of the latter and therefore remains rather discourteous.
- Ferme-la / La ferme (colloquial)
Pronunciation: \fɛʁm.la\ – \la fɛʁm\
English translation: Shut it / Shut the hell up
“Ferme-la” and “la ferme” are two fairly common variations on “ferme ta gueule”. The pronoun “la” refers to “la gueule” or “la bouche”. Like these two expressions, they remain rather vulgar and aggressive, and should therefore only be used in a colloquial context.
- Silence (common)
English translation: Quiet!
“Silence” is one of the most versatile ways of saying “ta gueule” in French. The term can be used politely to ask someone to be quiet, in which case it will be accompanied by a polite formula (“Silence, s’il vous plaît”), but also more vehemently, in which case it will be used without the polite formula and with a dry intonation (“Silence!”). The interjection is often used by teachers to silence an overly agitated class.
- Arrête de la ramener (colloquial)
Pronunciation: \a.ʁɛt də la ʁam.ne\
English translation: Quit talking / Quit sticking your oar in
In French, we generally use “arrête de la ramener” to shut up someone who keeps interjecting into a discussion in an unjustified, importunate, pretentious and/or uninvited way. The pronoun “la” refers to the mouth, as it were.
In fact, the phrase derives from “ramener sa fraise”, a twentieth-century French slang expression used to describe someone who never stopped grumbling. The strawberry is a metaphor for the head, as are many other fruits in French (poire, pomme, citron…).
- Boucle-la (colloquial)
English translation: Zip it
The verb “boucler” is synonymous with “fermer” and “clôturer” in French. Like the expression “ferme-la”, the pronoun “la” refers to the mouth or maw. So it’s not surprising that “boucle-la” is used as a synonym for “ferme ta gueule”, although the expression is considered a hair more courteous than the latter.
- Je ne veux plus t’entendre (common)
Pronunciation: \ʒə nə vø ply t.ɑ̃.tɑ̃dʁ\
English translation: I don’t want to hear it anymore
“Je ne veux plus t’entendre” (I don’t want to hear you anymore) is a slightly different way of asking someone to shut up in French. Generally used by authority figures (parents, teachers), the formula is perfectly acceptable, although it implies that the person is fed up. It implies that the interlocutor is constantly answering, demanding, or challenging the authority figure’s power.
- Ferme ton clapet (colloquial)
English translation: Shut your trap / Shut your face
If we refer to the original definition of a clapet, a clapet is a valve that opens and closes and is used to obstruct the passage of a fluid in a pump, motor, or musical instrument. “Ferme ton clapet” is therefore a metaphor in which the valve represents the mouth used to stop the flow of a person’s speech. Although common, the expression remains rather old-fashioned and is therefore rarely used by new generations.
- Calmez-vous (common)
English translation: Calm down
Asking for silence is above all a call for calm. So it’s not uncommon to ask someone to be quiet by telling them to calm down. In this sense, “calmez-vous” will be used in the same circumstances as “taisez-vous”. You can also add a polite phrase to make it sound less direct. It’s a much more courteous and respectable alternative to “fermez vos gueules”.
- Motus (et bouche cousue) (common)
Pronunciation: \mɔ.ty.s\ (\‿e buʃ ku.zy\)
English translation: Stay quiet
Despite what you might think, the term “motus” doesn’t come from Latin, but from Old French. In the 15th century, the expression was used as a synonym for “pas un mot !” (not a word!). That’s why it has the root “mot”.
Over the centuries, the phrase “motus” has been joined by another expression: “bouche cousue” (“sewn mouth”). The latter is a metaphor for the difficulty someone would have in pronouncing a word if their lips were embroidered.
Today, it’s still quite common to hear the term “motus” used on its own, although the full expression has become the standard in France.
- TG / FTG (colloquial)
English translation: SU / STFU
“TG” and “FTG” are two Internet acronyms. Short for “ta gueule” and “ferme ta gueule”, the two acronyms appeared at the dawn of the 2000s, when the SMS language was king. But where “FTG” was confined to the written word, today it’s not uncommon to hear “TG” used in conversation between young people. In this situation, the expression is most often used in a joking, good-natured tone.
- Bonus : Clouer le bec à quelqu’un (common)
Pronunciation: \klu.e lə bɛk a kɛl.k‿œ̃\
English translation: Nail someone’s beak (literal) / Shut someone up
Although not directly used to say “ta gueule” in French, “clouer le bec à quelqu’un” means to silence someone. The expression is a metaphor where the beak represents the mouth.
But contrary to what you might think, the verb “clouer” here doesn’t mean “assembler à l’aide de clous” (to assemble with nails). It’s simply a transformation of the verb “clore” (fermer), which was used a few centuries ago in France. There’s no doubt, however, that part of the expression’s popularity lies in the image it conjures up of a bird with a nailed beak.
What’s the Difference between “Tais-toi” and “Ta gueule” in French?
Particularly rude and vulgar, “ta gueule” is generally considered an insult. Generally speaking, the expression denotes anger and exasperation on the part of the individual. However, it’s also possible to hear the expression used in a humorous tone in a discussion between friends, where one party is gently mocking the other.
- Discussions between people who don’t like each other: “Ta gueule ! J’en ai assez de t’entendre te la ramener à longueur de journée.” (Shut up! I’m tired of hearing you talk about it all day long.)
- Discussion between friends: “Il est toujours en retard celui-là, c’est pas vrai !” *rire* (“He’s always late, that one, it’s not true!” *laughs*) > “Oh, ta gueule !” *rire* (Oh, shut up! *laughs*)
Conversely, “tais-toi” is a more common, courteous expression that can be used in both informal and formal contexts. For example, it can be heard used by a parent to silence an agitated child, or by a teacher to demand silence from his or her class.
- From a parent to a child: ““Tais-toi ! Tu vas nous faire remarquer.” (Be quiet! You’ll get us noticed.)
- From a teacher to a student: “Il y en a marre de ce brouhaha. Alors maintenant tais-toi et finis ton exercice.” (I’ve had enough of this hubbub. So now be quiet and finish your exercise.)
Ultimately, the two expressions have very different connotations and, although they are both used to ask someone to be quiet, they are not really interchangeable.
Whether you choose a common or vulgar formula, keep in mind that, just like in English, telling someone to shut up in French is never really polite. So, if you don’t want to appear disrespectful, pay close attention to the intonation of your voice and add a polite phrase. If, on the other hand, your interlocutor has crossed the line, a good old French “ta gueule” will always do the trick.
Finally, if you’ve enjoyed this article and would like to learn more about the different ways of saying your favorite expressions in French, take a look at our articles on the synonyms for “I don’t care in French” and “drunk in French“.
Translated into English by Sacha