Updated: Aug 5
Literally translated as, not being out of the inn, the expression means that one is tangled up in an unpleasant situation with still a ways to go, or a lot of work to do, before one can expect to be freed from it. It can be likened to the English idiom (not) being out of the woods, except that these woods often imply a precarious or dangerous situation, while the French auberge rather refers to one that’s burdensome and discouraging, but not necessarily unsafe. Other translations can be not seeing the light out of the tunnel, or still having a lot of ground to cover / a long road ahead of oneself.
It is a colloquial expression that can also be used in a mildly mocking tone, implying that the person who’s “not out of the inn” is in fact mishandling the situation, and somehow responsible for his/her own difficulties.
This idiom comes from the use of l’auberge (the inn) as a (now outdated) slang word for prison, in reference to the fact that prisoners are given room and board. Consequently, someone who isn’t out of the inn is someone who still has time to serve, i.e. tough times to go through.
From the Middle Ages to the 19th century, the expression sortir de l'auberge was jail jargon for getting out of jail. It then made its way through everyday French language to express getting out of a bad situation, and over time the negative form has prevailed. Today the expression is only used in the negative form.
Le correcteur pinaille sur chaque tournure de phrase; on n’est pas sorti(s) de l’auberge!
The copyeditor nitpicks about every turn of phrase, so we still have a long way to go! (= it’s going to take forever to go through the entire document.)
Si tu continues à faire des pauses toutes les dix minutes, on n'est pas sorti(s) de l'auberge!
If you keep taking breaks every 10 minutes, we'll never see the end of it!
Note: Agreement with on
In our expression du jour, sorti and sortis are both grammatically correct. If the subject refers to women, then sorti or sorties are equally accepted.