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  • Counter :
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  • Date :
  • 1/2/2007

French Proverbs


Aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera.

Idiomatic translation: God helps those who help themselves.

Literal translation: Help yourself and the sky (heaven) will help you.

À chaque jour suffit sa peine.

English equivalent: Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.(New Testament, Matthew6:34)

À Cheval donné on ne regarde pas la bride. or les dents

Idiomatic translation: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

Literal translation: For a given horse one doesn't look at the reins.

Avoir une araignée au plafond.

Idiomatic translation: To have bats in the belfry.

Literal translation: To have a spider on the ceiling.

Avoir un chat dans la gorge.

Idiomatic translation: To have a frog in the throat.

Literal translation: To have a cat in the throat.

Avoir d'autres chats à fouetter.

Idiomatic translation: To have another fish to fry.

Literal translation: To have others cats to whip.


Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais.

Idiomatic translation: Ill-gotten gains seldom prosper.

Literal meaning: Goods badly acquired never profit.

Bon repas doit commencer par la faim.

Idiomatic translation: Hunger is the best spice.

Literal meaning: A good meal must begin with hunger.

Bon sang ne saurait mentir.

Idiomatic translation: Blood will out.

Literal meaning: Good blood cannot lie.

Bonne renommée vaut mieux que ceinture dorée.

Idiomatic translation: A good name is better than riches.

Literal meaning: Better a good name than a golden belt.


Ce qui est fait n'est plus à faire.

Idiomatic translation: Don't leave till tomorrow what can be finished today.

Literal translation: What is done no longer needs to be done.

Qui s’excuse, s’accuse.

He who excuses himself accuses himself.

C'est trop aimer quand on en meurt.

Idiomatic translation: They love too much who die for love.

Literal translation: It's loving too much when one dies of it.

C'est bonnet blanc et blanc bonnet.

Idiomatic translation 1: It's six of one and half a dozen of the other.

Literal translation: It's white hat and hat white.

C'est dans le besoin qu'on reconnaît ses vrais amis.

Idiomatic translation: A friend in need is a friend indeed.

Literal translation: It's when in need that one recognizes his friends.

C'est dans les vieilles marmites qu'on fait les meilleures soupes.

Idiomatic translation: The best broths are made in the oldest pots.

C'est en forgeant qu'on devient forgeron.

Literal meaning: By dint of forging one becomes a blacksmith.

Idiomatic translation: Practice makes perfect.

C'est la goutte d'eau qui fait déborder le vase.

Literal meaning: It's the drop of water that makes the jug overflow.

Idiomatic translation: It's the straw that breaks the camel's back.

C'est la paille et la poutre.

Literal meaning: It's the straw and the beam.

Idiomatic translation: It's the mote and the beam (or the pot calling the kettle black).

C'est la Pitié / l'hôpital qui se moque de la Charité.

Literal meaning: It's a pity / the hospital that mocks Charity.

Idiomatic translation: It's the pot calling the kettle black.

C'est la poule qui chante qui a fait l'oeuf.

Literal meaning: It is the chicken which sings which has laid the egg.

Idiomatic translation: The guilty dog barks the loudest.

C'est l'arroseur arrosé.

Literal meaning: It's the waterer getting drenched.

Idiomatic translation: It's the biter bit.

C'est le poêle qui se moque du chaudron.

Literal meaning: It's the stove looking down on the cauldron.

Idiomatic translation: It's the pot calling the kettle black.

C'est le ton qui fait la chanson.

Literal meaning: It's the melody that makes the song.

Idiomatic translation: It's not what you say but the way you say it.

C'est un prêté pour un rendu.

Translation 1: Tit for tat.

Translation 2: One good turn deserves another.

Literal meaning: It is one loaned for one returned.

Chacun pour soi et Dieu pour tous.

Translation 1: Every man for himself, and God for us all.

Translation 2: Every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost.

Chacun son métier, les vaches seront bien gardées.

Idiomatic translation: One should mind one's own business.

Literal meaning: Each to his craft and the cows will be well looked after.

Chacun voit midi à sa porte.

Idiomatic translation: To each his own.

Literal meaning: Everyone sees noon at his door.

Charbonnier est maître chez soi.

Translation (British): An Englishman's home is his castle.

Literal meaning: A coalman is master of his own house.

Charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-même.

Idiomatic translation: Charity begins at home.

Chassez le naturel, il revient au galop

.Idiomatic translation: A leopard cannot change its spots.

Literal meaning: Chase away the natural and it returns at a gallop.

Chat échaudé craint l'eau froide.

Literal meaning: A scalded cat fears cold water.

Translation 1: Once bitten, twice shy.

Translation 2: A burned child dreads the fire.

Chien qui aboie ne mord pas.

Idiomatic translation: Barking dogs seldom bite.

Translation 2: His bark is worse than his bite.

Chose promise, chose due.

Idiomatic translation: Promises are made to be kept.

Coeur qui soupire n'a pas ce qu'il désire.

Idiomatic translation: The heart that sighs does not have what it desires.

Comme on fait son lit on se couche.

Idiomatic translation: As you make your bed, so you are going to lie in it.

Comparaison n'est pas raison.

Idiomatic translation: Comparisons are misleading.

Contentement passe richesse.

Idiomatic translation: Happiness is worth more than riches.

Coucher de poule et lever de corbeau écartent l'homme du tombeau.

Idiomatic translation 1: Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Idiomatic translation 2: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Literal meaning: Going to bed with the hen and waking with the crow keeps the man from the grave.


Dans le doute, abstiens-toi.

Idiomatic translation: When in doubt, forbear.

De la discussion jaillit la lumière. or Du choc des idées jaillit la lumière

Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.

Literal meaning: Out of discussion springs forth the light.

Demain il fera jour.

Idiomatic translation: Tomorrow is another day.

Des goûts et des couleurs, il ne faut pas discuter. More often abbreviated: Des goûts et des couleurs..

Idiomatic translation: There's no accounting for tastes.

Literal meaning: One shouldn't argue about tastes or colors. (No need to argue about tastes and colors.)

Deux avis valent mieux qu'un.

Idiomatic translation: Two heads are better than one.

Literal meaning: Two opinions are better than one.

Dis-moi qui tu hantes, je te dirai qui tu es.

Idiomatic translation: A man is known by the company he keeps.

Literal meaning: Tell me whom you haunt and I will tell you who you are.

Douce parole n'écorche pas langue.

Idiomatic translation: Good words break no bones.

Literal meaning: Soft words don't scratch the tongue.


En avril, ne te découvre pas d'un fil ; en mai, fais ce qui te plaît.

Idiomatic translation: Never cast a clout till May is out.

Literal meaning: In April, do not shed a single thread; in May, do as you please.

En tout pays, il y a une lieue de mauvais chemins.

Idiomatic translation: There will be bumps on the smoothest roads.

Literal translation: In every country, there's a league of bad paths.

Entre deux maux, il faut choisir le moindre.

Translation: Of two evils one must choose the lesser.

Entre l'arbre et l'écorce, il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.

Idiomatic translation: Do not meddle in other people's family affairs.

Literal meaning: Don't poke your finger 'twixt the bark and the tree.


Fais ce que dois, advienne que pourra.

Idiomatic translation: Do your duty, come what may.

Fais ce que je dis, ne fais pas ce que je fais.

Idiomatic translation: Do as I say, not as I do.

Faute avouée est à moitié pardonnée.

Idiomatic translation: A fault confessed is a half redressed.

Faute de grives, on mange des merles.

Translation 1: Half a loaf is better than no bread.

Translation 2: You have to cut your coat according to your cloth.

Literal meaning: Eat blackbirds if you can't have thrushes.

Femme rit quand elle peut et pleure quand elle veut.

Idiomatic translation: A woman laughs when she can and weeps when she wants.

Filer à l'anglaise.

Idiomatic translation: To take French leave.

Literal translation: Let out the English way.

Force fait loi.

Idiomatic translation: Might makes right.


Hâtez-vous lentement.

Literal translation: Make haste slowly.

Idiomatic translation: More haste less speed

Latin: Festina lente.

Heureux au jeu, malheureux en amour.

Idiomatic translation: Lucky in cards, unlucky in love.

Homme mort ne fait guerre.

Idiomatic translation: A dead man deals no blows.

Literal meaning: A dead man cannot make war.

Honni soit qui mal y pense.

Idiomatic translation: Evil be to he who evil thinks.

Literal meaning: Shameful be they who thinks badly of it.


Il faut battre le fer pendant qu'il est chaud.

Translation 1: Strike while the iron is hot.

Translation 2: Make hay while the sun shines.

Literal Translation: It is necessary to strike the iron while it is hot.

Il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l'amande. "Il faut casser des oeufs pour faire une omelette".

Literal Translation: It is necessary to break the shell to have the almond.

Translation 1: He who would eat, crack the kernel.

Translation 2: No pain, no gain.

Translation 3: To make an omelet, you have to crack/break some eggs.

Il faut de tout pour faire un monde.

Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.

Il faut laver son linge sale en famille.

Idiomatic translation: Don't air your dirty laundry in public.

Literal translations: One doesn't have to wash one's dirty laundry with family around.

Il faut manger pour vivre, et non vivre pour manger.

Idiomatic translation: Eat to live, don't live to eat.

Il faut ménager la chèvre et le chou.

Idiomatic translation: One must run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Literal meaning: One must consider both the cabbage and the goat.

Il faut prendre le taureau par les cornes.

Idiomatic translation: Take the bull by the horns.

Il faut que jeunesse se passe.

Translation: Boys will be boys.

Literal translation: Youth must happen.

Il faut qu'une porte soit ouverte ou fermée.

Idiomatic translation: There can be no middle ground.

Literal meaning: A door must be either open or shut.

Il faut savoir obéir avant que de commander.

Idiomatic translation: Obedience comes before leadership.

Il faut tourner sa langue sept fois dans sa bouche avant de parler.

Idiomatic translation: Think before you speak.

Literal meaning: One must turn the tongue seven times in the mouth before speaking.

Il ne faut jamais dire « Fontaine je ne boirai pas de ton eau ».Most often said Il ne faut jamais dire Fontaine.

Idiomatic translation: Never say never.

Literal meaning: Never say, "Fountain, I shall not drink of your water."

Il ne faut jamais remettre au lendemain ce qu'on peut faire le jour même.

Translation 1: Never put off to tomorrow what you can do today.

Translation 2: One of these days is none of these days.

Il ne faut pas chercher midi à quatorze heures.

Idiomatic translation: Don't complicate the issue.

Literal meaning: Don't look for noon at two o'clock.

Il ne faut pas confondre vitesse et précipitation.

Idiomatic translation: More haste, less speed.

Literal meaning: One must not confuse speed with haste.

Il ne faut pas déshabiller Pierre pour habiller Paul.

Idiomatic translation: Don't rob Peter to pay Paul.

Literal meaning: Don't undress Peter to dress Paul.

Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs.

Idiomatic translation: Don't put the cart before the horse.

Literal meaning: Don't put the plough before the oxen.

Il ne faut pas mettre tous les œufs dans le même panier.

Idiomatic translation: Don't put all your eggs in one basket.

Il ne faut pas réveiller le chat qui dort.

Idiomatic translation: Let sleeping dogs lie.

Literal meaning: Don't wake a cat who sleeps.

Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué.

Idiomatic translation: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

Literal meaning: Don't sell the bearskin before you've killed the bear.

Il n'est jamais trop tard pour bien faire.

Idiomatic translation: It is never too late to mend.

Literal meaning: It is never too late to do well.

Il n'est pire aveugle que celui qui ne veut pas voir.

Idiomatic translation: There are none so blind as they who will not see.

Il n'est pire eau que celle qui dort.

Idiomatic translation: Still waters run deep.

Literal meaning: There is no worse water than the water which sleeps.

Il n'est pire sourd que celui qui ne veut pas entendre.

Idiomatic translation: There is none so deaf as he who will not hear.

Il n'y a pas d'ânesse qui ne trouve son âne.

Idiomatic translation: Every Jack has his Jill.

Literal meaning: There is no jenny who does not find her donkey.

Il n'y a pas de fumée sans feu.

Literal translation: There's no smoke without fire.

Idiomatic translation: Where there's smoke, there's fire.

Il n'y a pas de petit chez soi.

Idiomatic translation: There's no place like home.

Il n'y a pas de petit profit.

Idiomatic translation: A penny saved is a penny earned.

Literal meaning: There is no small profit.

Il n'y a pas de sot métier.

Idiomatic translation: Every trade has its value.

Il n'y a que la vérité qui blesse.

Idiomatic translation: Truth hurts.

Il n'y a que les montagnes qui ne se rencontrent jamais.

Idiomatic translation: There are none so distant that fate cannot bring together.

Literal meaning: Only mountains never meet.

Il y a loin de la coupe aux lèvres.

Idiomatic translation: There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip.

Il y a plus d'un âne à la foire qui s'appelle Martin.

Idiomatic translation 1: If one will not, another will.

Idiomatic translation 2: There's plenty more fish in the sea

Literal meaning: There is more than one donkey at the fair called Martin.

Impossible n'est pas français.

Idiomatic translation: There is no such word as "can't".

Literal meaning: Impossible is not French. OR French do not consider things impossible.


Jamais deux sans trois.

Literal translation: Never twice without thrice.

Je ne suis ni pour, ni contre, bien au contraire.'

Literal translation: On the contrary, I am neither for it or against it.


La bave du crapaud n'atteint pas la blanche colombe.

Idiomatic translation: Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Literal meaning: The spit of the toad doesn't reach the white dove.

La caque sent toujours le hareng.

Idiomatic translation: What's bred in the bone will come out in the flesh.

Literal meaning: A herring barrel will always smell of herring.

La chance sourit aux audacieux.

Idiomatic translation: Fortune favors the brave.

Literal meaning: Luck smiles at the bold.

La culture c'est comme la confiture, moins on en a plus on l'étale.

Literal meaning: Culture is like jam, the less we have the more we spread it.

La curiosité est un vilain défaut.

Idiomatic translation: Curiosity killed the cat.

Literal meaning: Curiosity is a wicked fault.

La faim chasse le loup hors du bois.

Idiomatic translation: Hunger drives the wolf out of the wood.

La fête passée, adieu le saint.

Idiomatic translation: The river passed, and God forgotten.

Translation: The festival has passed, goodbye to the saint.

La fin justifie les moyens.

Idiomatic translation: The ends justify the means.

La nuit porte conseil.

Translation 1: Take advice of your pillow.

Translation 2: Sleep on it.

Literal meaning: The night brings advice.

La nuit tous les chats sont gris.

Translation: At night all cats are grey.

La parole est d'argent, mais le silence est d'or.

Idiomatic translation: Silence is golden.

Literal meaning: Talk is silver, silence is golden.

L'appétit vient en mangeant.

Idiomatic translation: The more you have, the more you want.

Literal meaning: Eating whets the appetite. OR Appetite arrives while eating.

La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure.

Idiomatic translation: Might is always right.

Literal meaning: The motive of the strongest is always the best.

L'argent n'a pas d'odeur.

Idiomatic translation: Money is money (wherever it comes from).

Literal meaning: Money has no smell.

L'argent ne fait pas le bonheur.

Idiomatic translation: Money can't buy happiness.

Literal meaning: Money doesn't make happiness.

L'argent ne se trouve pas sous le pas / le sabot d'un cheval.

Idiomatic translation: Money doesn't grow on trees.

Literal meaning: Money is not found under a horse's hoof.

L'herbe est toujours plus verte chez le voisin.

Idiomatic translation: The grass is always greener on the other side.

Literal translation: The grass is always greener round the neighbors.

L'homme est un loup pour l'homme.

Idiomatic translation: Brother will turn on brother. /'dog eat dog'.

Latin: Homo homini lupus

Literal meaning: Mankind is a wolf for mankind.

La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid.

Idiomatic translation: Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Literal: Vengeance is a dish that is eaten cold.

La vérité sort de la bouche des enfants.

Idiomatic translation: Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings comes forth truth.

Latin: Ex ore parvulorum veritas

Literal meaning: The truth comes from the mouth of children.

Le crime ne paie pas.

Translation: Crime does not pay.

Le malheur des uns fait le bonheur des autres.

Idiomatic translation: One man's meat is another man's poison. OR One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Literal meaning: The troubles of some make the joy of others.

Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien.

Idiomatic translation: Let well alone.

Literal meaning: Better is the enemy of good.

Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.

Idiomatic translation: The early bird catches the worm.

Literal meaning: The world belongs to those who rise early.

Le roi est mort, vive le roi!

Translation: "The King is Dead, Long live the king!"

L'enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions.

Idiomatic translation: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Literal meaning: Hell is paved with good intentions.

L'erreur est humaine.'

Translation: To err is human.

Latin: Errare humanum est.

Les absents ont toujours tort.

Idiomatic translation: The absent are always in the wrong.

Literal meaning: Absentees are always wrong.

Les affaires sont les affaires.

Translation: Business is business.

Les amis de nos amis sont nos amis or alternative: les ennemis de mes ennemis sont mes amis.

Idiomatic translation: A friend of yours is a friend of mine.

Literal meaning: Friends of our friends are our friends.

Les apparences sont trompeuses.

Idiomatic translation: All that glitters is not gold.

Literal meaning: Appearances are deceptive.

Les bons comptes font les bons amis.

Translation 1: Short reckonings make long friends.

Translation 2: Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Literal meaning: Good accounts make good friends.

Les bons outils font les bons ouvriers.

Translation: Good tools make good workers.

Les bonheurs n'arrivant jamais seuls alternative : le malheur n'arrive jamais seul

Translation: Happiness does not arrive alone.

Les chiens aboient, la caravane passe.

Idiomatic translation: Let the world say what it will.

Literal meaning: The dogs bark, the caravan passes by.

Les chiens ne font pas des chats.

Idiomatic translation: Like breeds like.

Literal meaning: Dogs don't make cats.

Phrase for Phrase Translation: The apple does not fall far from the tree.

Les conseillers ne sont pas les payeurs.

Idiomatic translation: Advice is cheap.

Literal meaning: Advisors aren't the ones who pay.

Les cordonniers sont les plus mal chaussés.

Idiomatic translation: The cobbler's children go barefoot.

Literal translation: The cobbler's children have the worst shoes.

Les fruits défendus sont les meilleurs.

Idiomatic translation: Forbidden fruits are the sweetest.

Literal meaning: Forbidden fruits are the best.

Les grands diseurs ne sont pas les grands faiseurs.

Idiomatic translation: Talkers are not doers.

Literal meaning: Big talkers are not big doers.

Les grands esprits se rencontrent.

Idiomatic translation: Great minds think alike.

Literal meaning: Great spirits meet one another.

Les jours se suivent et ne se ressemblent pas.

Translation 1: After Christmas comes Lent.

Translation 2: Time changes and we with time.

Literal meaning: The days follow one another and do not look alike.

Les loups ne se mangent pas entre eux.

Translation 1: Dog does not eat dog.

Translation 2: There is honor among thieves.

Literal translation: Wolves don't eat each other.

Les murs ont des oreilles.

Translation: Walls have ears.

Le soleil luit pour tout le monde.

Idiomatic translation: The sun shines for one and all.

Literal meaning: The sun shines for everybody.

Les petits ruisseaux font les grandes rivières.

Idiomatic translation: Tall oaks from little acorns grow.

Literal meaning: Little streams make big rivers.

Les plaisanteries les plus courtes sont les meilleures.

Idiomatic translation: Brevity is the soul of wit.

Literal meaning: The shortest jokes are the best ones.

L'espoir fait vivre.

Idiomatic translation: Where there's life, there's hope.

Literal meaning: Hope makes living or hope lives.

Les voyages forment la jeunesse.

Idiomatic translation: Travel broadens the mind.

Literal meaning: Travels make youth.

Le temps c'est de l'argent.

Translation: Time is money.

L'exactitude est la politesse des rois.

Translation: Punctuality is the politeness of kings.

L'exception confirme la règle.

Idiomatic translation: It's the exception that proves the rule.

L'excès en tout est un défaut.

Idiomatic translation: Too much is too much.

Literal meaning: Excess in anything is a fault.

L'habit ne fait pas le moine.

Idiomatic translation: Don't judge the book by its cover.

Literal meaning: The cowl does not make the friar.

L'occasion fait le larron.

Idiomatic translation: Opportunity makes the thief.

Loin des yeux, loin du coeur.

Idiomatic translation: Out of sight, out of mind.

Literal translation: Far from the eyes, far from the heart.

L'oisiveté est la mère de tous les vices.

Translation 1: Idleness is the root of all evils.

Translation 2: An idle mind is the devil's workshop.

L'union fait la force.

Idiomatic translation: United we stand, divided we fall.

Literal meaning: Unity makes strength.


Mars venteux et avril pluvieux font mai gai et gracieux.

Idiomatic translation: March winds and April showers bring forth May flowers.

Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.

Idiomatic translation: Better be alone than in bad company.

Mieux vaut faire que dire.

Translation 1: Well done is better than well said.

Translation 2: Actions speak louder than words.

Mieux vaut plier que rompre.

Idiomatic translation: Adapt and survive.

Literal meaning: Better bend than break.

Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir.

Idiomatic translation: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Mieux vaut rire que pleurer.

Idiomatic translation: Laughter is the best medicine.

Literal meaning: Better to laugh than to weep.

Mieux vaut s'adresser à Dieu qu'à ses saints.

Idiomatic translation: It is better to talk to the organ-grinder than to his monkey.

Literal meaning: It is better to appeal to God than to His saints.

Mieux vaut tard que jamais.

Idiomatic translation: Better late than never.

Mieux vaut tenir que courir.

Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.

Literal meaning: Better hold than run.

Moineau à la main vaut mieux que grue qui vole.

Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.

Literal meaning: Better a sparrow in hand than a crane in flight.

Morte la bête, mort le venin.

Idiomatic translation: Dead dogs don't bite.

Literal meaning: Dead is the beast, dead is the venom.


Nécessité fait loi.

Idiomatic translation: Beggars can't be choosers.

Literal meaning: Need makes law.

Ne vendez pas la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué.

Idiomatic translation: Don't count your chickens before they're hatched.

Literal meaning: Do not sell the skin of the bear before you have killed it.

Noël au balcon, Pâques au tison.

Idiomatic translation: A warm Christmas means a cold Easter.

Literal meaning: Christmas on the balcony, Easter by the fireside.


On n'apprend pas à un vieux singe à faire des grimaces.

Idiomatic translation: You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

Literal meaning: You can't teach an old monkey how to make faces.

On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne.

Literal meaning: One doesn't change a team that wins.

Idiomatic translation: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.

On ne fait pas boire un âne qui n'a pas soif.

Idiomatic translation: You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.

On ne fait pas d'omelette sans casser des œufs.

Idiomatic translation: You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs.

On ne marie pas les poules avec les renards.

Idiomatic translation: Different strokes for different folks.

Literal meaning: You can't marry a hen and a fox.

On ne peut avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.

Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.

Literal meaning: You can't have both the butter and the butter money.

On ne peut avoir le lard et le cochon.

Idiomatic translation: You can't have your cake and eat it.

Literal meaning: You can't have the bacon and the pig.

On ne peut être à la ville et aux champs.

Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.

Literal meaning: You can't be in town and in the fields.

On ne peut être au four et au moulin.

Idiomatic translation: You can't be in two places at once.

Literal meaning: You can't be at the oven and in the mill.

On ne peut faire d'une buse un épervier.

Idiomatic translation: You can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

Literal meaning: You can't turn a buzzard / a dolt into a sparrowhawk.

On ne prend pas les mouches avec du vinaigre.

Idiomatic translation: Honey catches more flies than vinegar.

Literal meaning: You don't catch flies with vinegar.

On ne prête qu'aux riches.

Translation 1: Reputations shape reactions.

Translation 2: Only the rich get richer.

Literal meaning: One lends only to the rich.

On n'est jamais si bien servi que par soi-même.

Idiomatic translation: If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Literal meaning: One is never so well served as by oneself.

On revient toujours à ses premiers amours.

Literal meaning: One always returns to his first loves.

Où la vache / la chèvre est attachée, il faut qu'elle broute.

Idiomatic translation: The cow / goat must browse where she is tethered.


Paris / Rome ne s'est pas fait / faite en un jour.

Idiomatic translation: Rome wasn't built in a day.

Pas de nouvelle, bonne nouvelle.

Idiomatic translation: No news is good news.

Petit à petit l'oiseau fait son nid.

Translation 1: Many a mickle makes a muckle.

Translation 2: Little strokes fell great oaks.

Literal meaning: Little by little the bird builds its nest.

Petite pluie abat grand vent.

Idiomatic translation: Little rain lays great dust.

Literal meaning: Little rain overcomes great wind.

Petit poisson deviendra grand.

Translation 1: Tall oaks from little acorns grow.

Translation 2: Boys will be men one day.

Literal meaning: The little fish will grow.

Pierre qui roule n'amasse pas mousse.

Idiomatic translation: A rolling stone gathers no moss.

Plaie d'argent n'est pas mortelle.

Idiomatic translation: Money isn't everything.

Literal meaning: A money worry isn't a mortal wound.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. or Plus ça change, plus c'est pareil.

Idiomatic translation: The more things change, the more they're the same.

Plus fait douceur que violence.

Idiomatic translation: Kindness succeeds where force will fail.

Literal meaning: Gentleness accomplishes more than violence.

Plus on est de fous, plus on rit.

Idiomatic translation: The more the merrier.

Promettre et tenir sont deux.

Idiomatic translation: It's one thing to promise and another to perform.

Proverbe ne peut mentir.

Literal translation: Proverbs cannot lie.

Prudence est mère de sûreté.

Idiomatic translation: Discretion is the better part of valor.

Literal meaning: Caution is the mother of safety.


Quand le chat n'est pas là les souris dansent.

Idiomatic translation: While the cat's away the mice will play.

Literal meaning: While the cat's away the mice will dance.

Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.

Idiomatic translation: In for a penny, in for a pound.

Literal meaning: Once the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.

Quand on parle du loup on en voit la queue.

Idiomatic translation: Talk of the Devil and he will appear.

Literal meaning: Talk of the wolf and you'll see his tail.

Quand on veut, on peut.

Literal translation: When we want, we can.

Idiomatic meaning: Where there's a will, there's a way.

Qu'est-ce que l'ennemi du bien ?Le mieux.

Literal meaning: What's the enemy of good?Better.

Qui a bon voisin a bon matin.

Idiomatic translation: Good neighbors give good days.

Qui a bu boira.

Idiomatic translation: Once a drunkard, always a drunkard.

Literal meaning: Who has drunk, will drink.

Qui aime bien châtie bien.

Idiomatic translation: Spare the rod and spoil the child.

Literal meaning: Who loves well, chastises well.

Latin: Qui bene amat, bene castigat.

Qui casse les verres les paie.

Idiomatic translation: Who breaks, pays.

Literal meaning: Who breaks the glasses, pays for them.

Qui cherche trouve.

Idiomatic translation: Seek and ye shall find.

Literal meaning: Who seeks, finds.

Qui donne aux pauvres prête à Dieu.

Idiomatic translation: Charity will be rewarded in heaven.

Literal meaning: Who gives to the poor, lends to God.

Qui dort dîne.

Idiomatic translation: He who sleeps forgets his hunger.

Literal meaning: Who sleeps, dines.

Historical origin: Travelers staying overnight at hostels were required to also purchase meals.

Qui m'aime aime mon chien.

Idiomatic translation: Love me, love my dog.

Compare in Latin,

Qui me amat, amat et canem meum.

Who loves me, also loves my dog.

Qui ne dit mot consent.

Idiomatic translation: Silence gives consent.

Literal meaning: Who says no word, consents.

Qui n'entend qu'une cloche n'entend qu'un son.

Idiomatic translation: Hear the other side and believe little.

Literal meaning: Who hears naught but one bell, hears naught but one sound.

Qui ne risque rien n'a rien.

Idiomatic translation: Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Literal meaning: Who risks nothing, gets nothing.

Qui ne veut rien n'a rien.

Idiomatic translation: Where there's a will there's a way.

Literal meaning: Who wants nothing, gets nothing.

Qui paye ses dettes s'enrichit.

Idiomatic translation: The rich man is the one who pays his debts.

Literal meaning: Who pays his debts, gets rich.

Qui peut le plus peut le moins.

Idiomatic translation: He who can do more can do less.

Qui plus sait, plus se tait.

Idiomatic translation: He who knows most, says least.

Qui se couche avec les chiens se lève avec des puces.

Idiomatic translation: Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.

Qui se fait brebis le loup le mange.

Idiomatic translation: Who will needs be sheep, the wolf devours.

Qui sème le vent récolte la tempête.

Translation 1: As you sow, so you shall reap.

Translation 2: He who sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind.

Qui se ressemble s'assemble.

Translation 1: Birds of a feather flock together.

Translation 2: Like attracts like.

Qui s'y frotte s'y pique.

Idiomatic translation: Gather thistles, expect prickles.

Qui trop embrasse mal étreint.

Idiomatic translation: Grasp all, lose all.

Qui va à la chasse perd sa place.

Idiomatic translation: He who leaves his place, loses it.

Literal meaning: Who goes hunting, loses his place.

Qui veut la fin veut les moyens.

Idiomatic translation: He who wills the end wills the means.

Qui veut noyer son chien l'accuse de rage.

Idiomatic translation: Give a dog a bad name and hang him.

Literal meaning: He who wants to drown his dog says it has rabies.

Qui veut voyager loin, ménage sa monture.

Idiomatic translation: He who wishes to ride far spares his horse.

Qui vivra verra.

Idiomatic translation: Time will tell.

Literal meaning: Who shall live, shall see.

Qui vole un œuf vole un bœuf.

Idiomatic translation: He that will steal an egg will steal an ox.


Remuer le couteau dans la plaie.

Idiomatic translation: To rub it in.

Literal meaning: To twist the knife in the wound.

Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.

Idiomatic translation: Slow and steady wins the race.

Literal meaning: It is useless to run, one must leave in time.

Rira bien qui rira le dernier.

Idiomatic translation: He who laughs last laughs best.

Rouge soir et blanc matin, c'est la journée du pèlerin.

Idiomatic translation: Evening red and morning grey will set the traveler on his way.

Literal Meaning: Red evening and white morning, such is the pilgrim's day.


Secret de deux, secret de Dieu; secret de trois, secret de tous.

Idiomatic translation: When three people know, the whole world knows.

Literal meaning: A secret shared by two is shared with God; a secret shared by three is shared with everybody.

Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.

Idiomatic translation: Youth is wasted on the young.

Literal meaning: If youth but knew, if old age but could.

Si tu veux la paix, prépare la guerre.

Literal meaning: "If you want peace prepare for war."

(Original in Latin by Scipio Africanus: "Si vis pacem para bellum.")

Souris qui n'a qu'un trou est bientôt prise.

Idiomatic translation: Better safe than sorry.

Literal meaning: A mouse that has only one hole is soon caught.

Suffisance vaut abondance.

Idiomatic translation: Enough is as good as a feast.

Literal meaning: Enough is worth plenty.


Tant crie-t-on Noël qu'il vient.

Idiomatic translation: A constant importunity at length prevails.

Literal meaning: So much does one shout 'Christmas' that it comes.

Tant dort le chat qu'il se réveille.

Idiomatic translation: The sleeping cat at length awakes.

Tant va la cruche à l'eau qu'à la fin elle se brise.

Literal meaning: The jug goes to water so often that at the end it breaks.

Idiomatic translation: Things break with repeated use.

Tel est pris qui croyait prendre.

Idiomatic translation: It's the biter bit.

Literal meaning: He is caught who thought to catch.

Tel maître, tel valet.

Idiomatic translation: Like master, like man.

Tel père, tel fils.

Idiomatic translation: Like father, like son.

Tel qui rit vendredi, dimanche pleurera.

Idiomatic translation: Sing before breakfast, cry before night.

Literal meaning: Laugh on Friday, cry on Sunday.

Tous les chemins mènent à Rome.

Idiomatic translation: All roads lead to Rome.

Tous les goûts sont dans la nature.

Idiomatic translation: It takes all sorts to make a world.

Literal meaning: Nature is made up of all tastes.

Toute médaille a son revers.

Translation 1: Every rose has its thorn.

Translation 2: Every path has its puddle.

Literal meaning: Every medal has its back.

Toute peine mérite salaire.

Idiomatic translation: The laborer is worthy of his hire.

Literal meaning: Every job deserves a wage.

Toute vérité n'est pas bonne à dire.

Idiomatic translation: The truth is sometimes best left unsaid.

Tout est poison. Rien n'est poison. Le poison c'est la dose.

Literal meaning: Everything is poison. Nothing is poison. The poison is the dose.

Attributed to Paracelsus.

Tout nouveau, tout beau.

Translation 1: Anything for a change.

Translation 2: New brooms sweep clean.

Literal meaning: All new, all beautiful.

Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre.

Translation 1: All things come to those who wait.

Idiomatic translation: Every dog has his day.

Trop de hâte nuit.

Idiomatic translation: Haste makes waste.

Literal meaning: Too much haste is harmful.

Trop gratter cuit, trop parler nuit.

Idiomatic translation: Too much scratching pains, too much talking plagues.


Un bienfait n'est jamais perdu.

Idiomatic translation: A favor is never lost.

Un clou chasse l'autre.

Idiomatic translation: One man goes and another steps in.

Literal meaning: One nail drives out the other.

Un(e) de perdu(e), dix de trouvé(e)s.

Idiomatic translation: There are plenty more fish in the sea.

Literal meaning: One lost, ten found.

Une fois n'est pas coutume.

Translation 1: Just this once will not hurt.

Translation 2: Once in a while does no harm.

Literal meaning: Once does not make a habit.

Une hirondelle ne fait pas le printemps.

Literal meaning: One swallow doesn't make spring.

Un petit dessin vaut mieux qu'un long discours.

Idiomatic translation: A picture is worth a thousand words.

Literal meaning: A small drawing is worth more than a long speech.

Une place pour chaque chose et chaque chose a sa place.

Idiomatic translation: A place for everything and everything in its place.

Un homme averti en vaut deux.

Translation 1: Forewarned is forearmed.

Translation 2: Better the devil you know than the devil you don't.

Literal meaning: A forewarned man is worth two.

Un sou est un sou.

Idiomatic translation: Every little helps.

Literal meaning: A penny is a penny.

Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras.

Idiomatic translation: A bird in hand is worth two in a bush.

Literal meaning: One which is yours is worth better than two that you will have.


Vache de loin a lait assez.

Idiomatic translation: Blue are the hills that are far away.

Literal meaning: From afar, the cow has milk aplenty.

Ventre affamé n'a pas d'oreilles.

Idiomatic translation: Words are wasted on a starving man.

Literal meaning: The hungry belly has no ears.

Vive la différence.

Idiomatic translation: Hooray for the difference!

Literal meaning: Long live the difference.

Voir, c'est croire

Idiomatic translation: Seeing is believing.

Vouloir, c'est pouvoir.

Idiomatic translation: Where there's a will there's a way.

Literal meaning: To want to is to be able to.

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