Il va à un train d’enfer.
eel vah ah uh TRAA dah-FAIR. Click below to hear this pronounced!
He’s going flat out. He’s going at the speed of light.
You like fast? Then this is for you.
There’s no exact translation for this expression, but you can probably toss one together (something like cooking without a recipe!) when you know the words involved. Il va is easy: he goes, he is going. Un train means a train, but it also refers to a rate of speed, known in scientific circles as velocity. But unlike velocity, un train is not a precise measure, but a generality. It leaves you wide open for hyperbole. And l’enfer means hell (I’m not swearing; it’s Biblical…).
So Il va à un train d’enfer means something like He’s going at hell-speed. It implies not just going fast, but being reckless in the process. So it is appropriate that Marie, Jason Bourne’s at-first-unwilling accomplice and eventually girlfriend in the movie The Bourne Identity, wears a t-shirt emblazoned with the words train d’enfer–which, without the verb to introduce the phrase, could also mean train from hell.
If you want to see some speed, check out this eleven-second video taken by our friend Terry while visiting Paris. You’ll hear the French announcer say the letters TGV (tay zhay vay). That’s French for Train à Grande Vitesse, or High-Speed Train. They’re not kidding! Terry says it scared the dickens out of him the first time he wasn’t paying attention.