Updated: Jul 19
Literally translated as, putting one’s hand to the dough, mettre la main à la pâte means being willing to participate in an activity that has to be done, as opposed to waiting for someone else to do it. The activity in question is often manual work that requires some effort and, most importantly, is best performed by a team.
Depending on the context, it can translate as, putting one’s shoulder to the wheel, rolling up one's sleeves and getting the work done, or simply helping out.
This idiom has been in use since the 13th century and draws upon the image of the bread baker who has no choice but to knead the dough if he wants the job done. The meaning slightly changed over the centuries from just getting the job done, to joining efforts in order to get the job done.
Si nous voulons finir à temps, nous devons tous mettre la main à la pâte.
If we want to finish on time, we all have to contribute.
La grande industrie va devoir mettre la main à la pâte pour réduire les émissions.
Big industry will have to get aboard and do its part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.