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Tirer une carotte

French expressions analyzed and explained

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Tirer la carotte
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Expression: Tirer une carotte (à quelqu'un)

Pronunciation: [tee ray oon ka ruht]

Meaning: To swindle, trick (someone)

Literal translation: To pull a carrot (on/from someone)

Register: informal

Notes: In this expression, carotte is a swindle or trick, and tirer means to pull (that swindle) on someone.

Unlike most French expressions, tirer une carotte is not fixed - you can vary the word between the verb and noun: tirer la carotte, tirer des carottes, tirer quelques carottes, etc. Regardless of which form of the expression you hear, the meaning is the same: to swindle or trick someone, to take someone for a ride, to "get" someone.

Example

   Pierre déteste sa sœur ; elle lui a tiré une carotte il y a dix ans
   Pierre hates his sister; she swindled him ten years ago

It's interesting that carotte refers to something bad in this expression, because just about everywhere else, in both French and English, it's a good thing:
  • tendre une carotte à quelqu'un - to offer someone a carrot, dangle a carrot in front of someone
  • la politique de la carotte et du bâton, la carotte ou le bâton - carrot and stick policy
  • marcher à la carotte - to follow the carrot
  • une carotte fiscale - tax incentive
Please note that I'm not suggesting the meaning behind all of these expressions is positive; clearly it's not. But the carotte itself represents something good, even if its purpose within the phrase is nefarious.

And of course there is one completely negative expression: les carottes sont cuites ! - it's all over! we/they/you've had it!


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