se tenir à carreau

  • LV4-26

    Senior Member
    There's probably an english equivalent but I don't know it.
    To me, it means to be careful not to do anything wrong, not to make any wrong move, specially when one is afraid of being punished.


    Senior Member
    This is what I've found in Harrap's slang :

    carreau : (....)
    se tenir à carreau, to take every precaution/to be on one's guard; to lie low

    Nowadays, you can see it used most frequently in a situation where you've already been punished for something and you don't want this to happen again so you "watch your steps".


    Senior Member
    Inuktitut! - Canada
    Bonjour, se tenir à carreau is translated idiomatically to 'to watch one's step'. But what does it literally mean? Verb se tenir is very versatile that I can't find a meaning that fits the phrase. Perhaps 'stick to the road'?



    Senior Member
    US - American English
    According the Robert it's a bit confused. It's supposed to derive from an expression associated with card games: qui se garde à carreau n'est jamais capot ... on the other hand it may have something to do with an association of the word carreau with carrée, seen as a place of safety.

    Not much, sorry.


    Senior Member
    Inuktitut! - Canada
    Thank you. My attempt "to keep/stick to the road" is based on these 2 meanings of the verb se tenir (WR):

    s'en tenir à: to keep to;
    s'en tenir aux ordres: to stick to orders;


    Senior Member
    French from France

    À toutes fins utiles, voici un supplément d'information sur l'expression "se tenir à carreau" aimablement offerte par l'expert CNTRL.;)
    b) Expr. et loc. fig.
    Se garder, se tenir à carreau. Être sur ses gardes; rester sur la réserve, se tenir coi. J'ai été extrêmement prudent, j'ai pas raconté d'histoire, je voulais me tenir à carreau (Céline, Mort à crédit, 1936, p. 200).

    Hope it helps.:)

    Je demande que le modérateur ou la modératrice, qui est si prompte(e) à manier les ciseaux d'Anastasie, veuille bien me faire une explication de texte sur l'extrait de la règle 4 ci-dessous, à seule fin que je comprenne où et en quoi je l'ai enfreinte.
    Si je dois me coucher moins sot ce soir, merci par avance.

    4. Respectez la propriété intellectuelle.
    • De courts extraits de dictionnaires tels qu'une ou deux définitions/traductions sont autorisés. Citez toujours vos sources.
    • Les citations de quatre phrases ou moins sont permises pour fournir un contexte précis.
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    Moderando ma non troppo (French-English, CC Mod)
    Another expression for se tenir à carreau English also has a somewhat unknown origin: to mind one's Ps and Qs

    John hadn't been very punctual getting to work but since the boss talked to him he's minding his Ps and Qs.

    It originally referred to keeping track of how many pints and quarts of ale someone drank in a pub.


    Senior Member
    Inuktitut! - Canada
    Before it was shortened, jierbe31's comment indicated the term might have originated in card games.
    Wildan1, I never heard the expression, tho I know of "cross your t's and dot your i's" which has a different meaning.

    Merci beaucoup.


    Senior Member
    US - American English
    Well the Robert defines the idiom as être sur ses gardes, which can be expressed in terms of card-gaming as "to play one's cards close to one's chest." (Or "vest" if you prefer.)

    They cite Genet, "Si l'on se fréquente entre potes, il faut toujours se tenir à carreau, aux questions répondre vaguement ... " ... which could well translate "If you're gonna be out with the boys, you always need to play your cards close to your chest, to give only vague answers to questions ... "
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