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Dec 31, 2022 | Language Resources

Amazing French Sayings And Proverbs

In this blog, you will explore the most interesting, amazing, and popular French sayings. We will also see the meaning of the French sayings in English.

French is regarded as an international language of visual arts, cooking, fashion, theatre, dance, and architecture. Knowledge of the language lets you explore great French literary works, films, and songs.

The language of romance is described as smooth, elegant, flowing, and aesthetically pleasing. More than three hundred million people speak French on five major continents.

The French language is the second most widely learned foreign dialect and the fifth most widely spoken language globally.

French is the only language after English taught in almost every country of the globe. France operates as the most extensive network of the international network of cultural institutes. Also, French is the official language of olympics besides English.

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So, let’s explore some of the famous French expressions and sayings in French.

 General French Sayings

 General French Sayings<br />

So what is French saying? Saying is a short, pithy, and commonly used expression that provides wisdom and advice for life. French people know the importance of French proverbs and common French sayings.

The famous English expression is “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” That means the child poses similar qualities to the parents. And that’s the perfect example of saying.

Expressions in French are full of such witty insights like any other language. You must have heard these words often in your daily life. Let’s explore some of the most common French sayings.

  1. Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud
Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud<br />
Literal Meaning: “Strike the iron while it is hot.”

Actual Meaning: As we have the same expression in English so this is easy to understand. It literally means the blacksmith should strike the metal when it is red hot to change its shape easily. That means we need to take advantage of favorable conditions. 

  1. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire
Ce n’est pas la mer à boire<br />

Literal Meaning: “It’s not as if you have to drink the sea.”

Actual Meaning: “Something is not that difficult” or “it’s not a big deal.” We can use these French phrases about life when someone is complaining about doing something.

  1. La nuit porte conseil
La nuit porte conseil

Literal Meaning: “The night brings advice.”

Actual Meaning: Its English equivalent can be “sleep on it.” That means taking your time before making any decision.

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  1. Comme on fait son lit, on se couche
Comme on fait son lit, on se couche<br />

Literal Meaning: “You’ve made your bed; now lie on it.”

Actual Meaning:  There is a funny Italian phrase, Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala!” That means, “You wanted the bicycle? Now ride it!

And that’s exactly what in Italian is, Comme on fait son lit, on se couche. That’s really fascinating how different cultures have the same approach in similar situations.

  1. Vouloir, c’est pouvoir
Vouloir, c’est pouvoir<br />

Literal Meaning: “To want to is to be able to.”

Actual Meaning: This is also the most common French proverb. In the English language, it means, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”

This French saying is generally used to encourage someone to do or achieve something.

  1. Impossible n’est pas français
Impossible n'est pas français<br />

Literal Meaning: “Impossible isn’t French.”

Actual Meaning: This expression is attributed to Napoleon Bonaparte. It can be translated as “nothing is impossible.”

It may sound very patriotic; however, “francais” here does not mean French people but the French language. As impossible is not a French term.

  1. Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard
Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard<br />

Literal Meaning: “Nothing should be left to chance.”

Actual Meaning: It means, “Leave nothing on the chance,” or we need to plan ahead of time.

  1. L’habit ne fait pas le moine
L’habit ne fait pas le moine

Literal Meaning: “The outfit doesn’t make the monk.”

Actual Meaning: Its English equivalent can be, “don’t judge a book by its cover” or “don’t judge people by their appearance.”

As this expression is already popular in English, it’s not difficult to understand.

  1. Mieux vaut tard que jamais
Mieux vaut tard que jamais<br />

Literal Meaning: “Late is worth more than never.”

Actual Meaning: The English equivalent can be, “it’s better late than never.”  This is another French saying which is very popular and common in English.

  1. Aux innocents les mains pleines
Aux innocents les mains pleines

Literal Meaning: “Full hands for the innocents.”

Actual Meaning: The real meaning of this saying can be “beginner’s luck” or “fortune favors the fools.”

You can use this expression which your French friend while trying hands in new activities like bowling or karting.

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Famous French Sayings

Famous French Sayings<br />
Many famous French phrases and expressions have made their way into English. However, these phrases may not be pronounced in French properly.

Some of the fields offer more French expressions and phrases than others. The love for French music, French culture, art, and philosophy has made their way into everyday English. 

Let’s explore some of the popular French sayings.


Food, Cooking, And Eating Phrases

Food, Cooking, And Eating Phrases
  •     Bon appétit: There is no equivalent English phrase for this term. It is used as it is in the English language.
  •     Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup: It means, “Eat well, laugh well, and love abundantly.”
  •     Mangez bien: The French people say, “eat well” instead of “live well.”
  •     La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin: It literal translation is, “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” This is the most common saying, and French people enjoy consuming small amounts of wine with their meals.    

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Dining French Phrases

Dining French Phrases
  • À la carte: The term literally means “on the menu.” However, its meaning is to order the individual items on the menu. Rather than ordering a fixed-price 3-4 course menu. 
  • À la mode: The French equivalent of this term is “in style.” In English, it means service ice cream on the top of the pie. 
  • Amuse-bouche: Its literal translation is something amusing or pleasing to the mouth.
  • Au gratin: The meaning of this term in English is a dish topped with cheese and then melted in the oven. 
  • Au jus: If you observe a steak served “au jus” in a restaurant, that means it will be served with juice, gravy, or sauce. 
  • Crème de la crème: It just means “the best of the best.” Its literal translation is “the cream of the cream.”
  • Haute cuisine: It means “high cooking” and comes as a compliment to the chef who prepared it.
  • Hors d’œuvre: It’s an appetizer, and the literal translation is “outside of the masterpiece”; that’s the main course.

Art And Architecture Phrases

Art And Architecture Phrases

France is globally famous for its art and architecture. Many French proverbs are used related to art and architecture, as given below:

  • Art nouveau: The term means the style of the late 19th and 20th centuries.
  • Avant-garde: It represents something that’s on the cutting edge, especially in terms of art.
  • Avant la lettre: It’s so much at the cutting edge that the new trend has not yet earned the name.
  • Beaux-Arts: It refers to something from the 20th century period.
  • Trompe l’œil: It means something that tricks the eyes.  

French Saying About Life

French Saying About Life

Let’s explore some of the famous life philosophy expressions:

  • Bon voyage: It means “have a good trip.” This French expression is as common as its equivalent English expression. 
  • C’est la vie: It means, “That’s life.” This expression indicates accepting the circumstances as they happen. 
  • Chef d’œuvre: It simply means “the masterpiece.”
  • Comme il faut: It means “As it should be.”
  • Déjà-vu: This term indicates the experience that you may have undergone before.
  • Entre-nous: It means “Something between us.”
  • Fait accompli: The expression suggests something that is complete or irreversible.
  • Faux pas: It means “A false step.” This French phrase is used to describe when someone deviates from the norm.
  • Je ne sais quoi: It signals something essential, however un-namable characteristic.
  • Joie de vivre: It means the joy or happiness derived from life.
  • Par excellence: It simply means “quintessential.”
  • Raison d’être: It means the “reason for being or living.”
  • Savoir-faire: The meaning of this is “to know what to do.”

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Funny French Phrases

Funny French Phrases<br />

The French language also has got some hilarious phrases and terms. Here are the top 10 common French sayings used in daily conversation.

  1. “Ah, la vache!”

Translation: Oh, my cow

Translation: Oh, my cow<br />

Don’t worry; no cow is wildly running away. The French phrase “Ah, la vache” expresses surprise and excitement. Its closest English equivalent is “Oh my God.”

  1. “Casser les oreilles”

Translation: Break your ears

Translation: Break your ears<br />

What will happen when your neighbor is having a late-night electro party? And, imagine they want everyone to know about it by loud volume. That’s the meaning of “break your ears.

  1. “Devenir chêvre”

Translation: To become a goat

Translation: To become a goat<br />

The Americans like to utter, “To be driven mad” however, the French people like to make it clear that anger is not the right state of mind.

That’s why they use one of the famous French sayings, “to become a goat.” In case you are not good at French, then you may surely turn into a goat while trying to understand an angry French person.

  1. “Arrête ton char!”

Translation: Stop your chariot

Translation: Stop your chariot

Initially, this French saying was used to slow down something. However, the real meaning of the expression is “to stop bluffing.”

  1. “Se prendre/prendre un râteau”

Translation: Gives you the rake

Translation: Gives you the rake<br />

This happens when a man arrives late to go out for dinner with a lovely date. She will leave the place with the note “adieu.” Of course! French women are known for their temper.

In case a French person gives you the rake, that means they refuse to go out with you.

  1. “Faire l’andouille”

Translation: To make the sausage

Translation: To make the sausage<br />

That’s what the French sayings we are talking about. This expression has nothing to do with the food. Then what does it actually means?

It simply means to do something ridiculous.

  1. “Chercher la petite bête”

Translation: Look for the little beast

Translation: Look for the little beast<br />

The time when the French person feels really looking hard for a reason to complain about something, they will utter, “looking for the little beast.”

The most suitable English equivalent for this phrase is “splitting hairs.”

  1. “Être our son 31” 

Translation: Be on their 31

Translation: Be on their 31<br />

On big occasions, the French people will “Être sur son 31.” 

That means they will be wearing beautiful and elegant clothes. You must have seen the Cannes Festival red carpet Events.

This is what typically “be on their 31” entails.

  1. “Tomber dans les pommes” 

Translation: Fall in apples

Translation: Fall in apples<br />

The French people fall on the apples when they faint and not on the perfumed bed of roses. So we can understand it easily “Fall in apples” means the loss of consciousness.

  1. “Il y a quelque chose qui cloche”

English Translation: There is something ringing

English Translation: There is something ringing<br />

Imagine there is something wrong. In French you will say, “Il y a quelque chose qui cloche.” In English, that means “there is something ringing.”

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French is one of the popular languages in the world and is regarded as a language of romance. The French people have their own way of saying things. And like language, French sayings and phrases are also popular.

Many French expressions like “le beau temps” have a different literal meaning in English. However, they mean more than that.

We hope you have enjoyed the 50+ French sayings and phrases given in this blog. Always be connected for more such interesting blogs.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What are some cool French words?

French is sometimes referred to as the language of love. For many people, it is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. The language contains some very unique and cool words. Some of them are – Feuilleter, Éphémère, Onirique, Dépaysement, Un je-ne-sais-quoi, Un exutoire, Être à l’Ouest, L’appel du vide, Juilletistes, Aoûtiens, and more.

2. What are some simple phrases in French?

Some of the top ten phrases used by the native speakers are:

  • Je suis désolé: I am sorry
  • Excusez-moi: Excuse me
  • S’il vous plaît: Please
  • Bonsoir: Good evening
  • Non, pas du tout: No not at all
  • Merci: Thank you
  • Madame/Monsieur/Mademoiselle: Mrs. /Mr. /Miss
  • Je voudrais…: I would like…
  • Je ne comprends pas: I don’t understand

3. What are cute French words?

  • Some of the cute French words and expressions are given below:
  • Un Bisou: Kiss, Remember that in French Québec, this word can be shortened to be with your children.
  • Des bijoux: Jewelry
  • Ma belle/mon beau: My beautiful or My handsome
  • Ma joie: My joy
  • Un câlin: Hug or cuddle
  • Un canard: Duck
  • Sa suce: Pacifier or binky
  • Mon chat: Cat
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