À peine le temps de dire ouf qu’il est tombé comme une brique sur le lit...

  • Literally: (He must have been dead tired.) No sooner / Hardly had he said phew than he fell onto the bed like a bag of bricks...

  • Or, more naturally: He fell onto the bed like a bag of bricks in the twinkling of an eye -- {Implicit: almost as soon as X}

In practice, this hyperbolic expression is used to refer to the extraordinary swiftness of some action. As indicated by the exaggerated "dire ouf {say phew}", the construction "À peine X que Y {Hardly X than Y}" is used purely for hyperbole here (as opposed to its usual usage where you compare two actions having actually taken place, almost one after another).

As another example, to express the idea of "how time flies by", you can say:

Les semaines filent à toute allure. À peine le temps de dire ouf qu'on se retrouve à la fin de la semaine !

  • A whole week flies by in no time. You find yourself at the end of the week before you know it.

How is this idea commonly/idiomatically expressed in German? (Not a literal translation of the phrase)


4 Answers 4


The idiom for your second example (mostly used in written language):

Ehe man sichs versieht, ist es schon Wochenende.

The meaning is »faster as expected« and would (with the meaning »instantly«) also be suitable for your first example.

Ehe man sichs versah, fiel er wie ein Stein ins Bett.


… when someone has done something in a surprisingly swift, direct manner without doing anything else in between.

But, you are aware Germans and Swiss aren't surprised at all when someone acts all straightforward? And at least to French people, Austrians cannot be considered different in this regard.

Nevertheless, there is a way to express this idea. It's using the word kaum.

Kaum zuhause, schmiss er sich ins Bett.

Er war kaum im Bett, da klingelte das Telefon.

Both kaum are used in a temporal fashion. He had hardly reached the described state when something else happened.

Kaum gestohlen, schon in Polen.

Very common saying. Not nice.

  • I would say "A peine le temps de dire ouf", is MUCH MUCH faster. Kaum is indeed translated "A peine" in French. But, there's a notion of extremely fast sequence at a moment when a pause is indeed expected. Jun 14, 2019 at 12:35
  • 1
    Pollitzer's answer is it then.
    – Janka
    Jun 14, 2019 at 14:56

Off the top of my head:

Er ist nach Hause gekommen und ins Bett gefallen, so schnell kannst du nicht gucken.

lit.: He came home and fell into bed, you can't look that quickly.

Or, if you suddenly find yourself (or someone else) in a surprising situation:

Dreh ich mich um, liegt er im Bett.

"I turn around, he's in bed."


Es ging so schnell, er konnte nicht mal "piep" sagen

is used to "something happens so fast that it doesn't even leave time to say "piep".

This is close to the French expression, but would probably not be used in a context of being very tired. Why should someone want to say "Piep" when he actually wants to sleep?

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