Ils m’ont coupé l’herbe sous les pieds.
eel maw koo-pay lairb soo lay peeYAY. Click below to hear this.
They pulled the rug out from under my feet.
Let’s say I’ve been working on a project, and they’ve pulled the funding. Or I was expecting a promotion, and instead I got transferred to the mailroom in the basement. I feel as if I’ve fallen on my backside! They pulled the rug out from under my feet.
There’s no rug in the French, just grass (l’herbe), and they’ve cut it under my feet. I suppose that means I have to pick up both feet at once to avoid being mowed down, so the effect is the same: I take a tumble.
Watch the grammar here. The dictionary form of the expression is couper l’herbe sous les pieds de quelqu’un, to cut the grass under the feet of someone. You can say sous les pieds de Pierre, but you can’t say sous les pieds de moi.
But in French we also don’t talk about mes pieds. So you have to say sous les pieds . But now we don’t know whose pieds we are talking about, do we? So we add an indirect object before the verb: me, te, lui, and so on. That conveys the idea that something was done to me. The full sentence, Ils m’ont coupé l’herbe sous les pieds, sounds convoluted to the ears of an English speaker (does it really say They cut to me the grass under the feet?), but it’s just the normal way the French express these things.
Make sense? I didn’t think so. Just keep repeating it. It will sound better eventually!