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 Russian? (Not a literal translation of the phrase)

  • I think, “не успев” could do it. “Не успев сказать ‘Уф!’ он повалился на кровать как мешок кирпичей.”
    – Ainar-G
    Jun 14, 2019 at 11:11

3 Answers 3


I think the closest will be:

Не успеешь глазом моргнуть

or (in the past tense)

Не успел глазом моргнуть


If you demand someone to do something fast you can say "одна нога здесь, другая там", but this expression means to go somewhere. For example:

Срочно сходи в магазин за колбасой. Быстро, одна нога здесь, другая там.


Consider also a literal equivalent он и охнуть не успел. However, it is usually applied for events which you have not caused (week passing - yes, falling asleep - no).

For falling asleep, there is a special form заснул раньше, чем голова коснулась подушки.

  • Maybe not [охнуть], but [ахнуть]? I personally never heard [и охнуть не успел], always [и ахнуть не успел]. But it is possible that in some regions of Russia they say [и охнуть не успел].
    – Tchibi-kun
    Jun 14, 2019 at 15:39
  • @Tchibi-kun Google shows comparable number of hits on both, of course you can always check ruscorpora.
    – alamar
    Jun 17, 2019 at 10:10
  • [охнуть] means to say [Ох!] [ахнуть] means to say [Ах!] [эхнуть] means to say [Эх!] [ойкнуть] means to say [Ой!] If in your [он и охнуть не успел] you've ment [он не успел даже «Ой!» сказать] then you are correct on using [охнуть].
    – Tchibi-kun
    Jun 17, 2019 at 18:44
  • ох is as close to ouf from question as possible, hence the choice. You can basically use either one.
    – alamar
    Jun 18, 2019 at 9:15

Russian has two similar analogs for "in the twinkling of an eye".

В мгновение ока он, как подкошенный, повалился на кровать.

works better for the former, while the one proposed by @Dmitriy:

Неделя пролетает быстро. Глазом моргнуть не успеешь, как уже выходные.

works better for the latter.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.