French Expression: mettre la puce à l’oreille de quelqu’un

Literal Translation: to put the flea in somebody’s ear

Meaning: to put an idea in somebody’s head, to set somebody thinking, to arouse somebody’s suspicions


Explanation: the French idiom mettre la puce à l’oreille de quelqu’un is generally used when somebody says or does something that arouses your suspicions. It can be used to refer to both positive and negative things. Here’s a couple of examples to demonstrate this:

Le comportement bizarre de ma femme m’a mis la puce à l’oreille ; aurait-elle une liaison ?

My wife’s strange behaviour made me suspicious; might she be having an affair?

Le comportement bizarre de ma femme m’a mis la puce à l’oreille ; organiserait-elle un anniversaire surprise pour moi ?

My wife’s strange behaviour got me thinking; might she be organising a surprise party for me?


Mettre la puce à l’oreille de quelqu’un is just one of a practically infinite number of idioms in the French language. If you’d like to familiarise yourself with more, then check out my recently published e-book (exclusive to Amazon) The Little Book of French Idioms, which introduces you to over 100 of the most commonly used idioms in French. Each of these expressions is given with its literal translation, meaning, and an example of how you might use it in context.