Home French Language 40+ French Sayings to Add Shade to Any Dialog

40+ French Sayings to Add Shade to Any Dialog

40+ French Sayings to Add Shade to Any Dialog


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Wish to astound native audio system together with your deep understanding of French?

Together with French slang and French idioms, utilizing fashionable French sayings in dialog is among the quickest methods to point out off your experience!

These 43 colourful and time-tested expressions are crammed with each imagery and knowledge, and can be utilized in all kinds of on a regular basis conditions.


The vestment does not make the monk

Literal translation: The vestment doesn’t make the monk.

That means: Simply because a monk is sporting a renunciate’s gown, it doesn’t imply that the monk is honest in his intentions.

Utilization: The phrase implies that appearances can generally mislead one’s higher judgment. The English equal could be, “Don’t choose a guide by its cowl.”

Literal translation: He/she who lives, shall see.

That means: One thing is unknown now, however will grow to be clear sooner or later; the one technique to discover out is to attend and see.

Utilization: Usually used when an end result is unpredictable or unsure, like within the English phrase, “The longer term will inform.”

Literal translation: Every individual sees midday at his/her door.

That means: Every individual prioritizes their very own pursuits, and their distinctive perspective on life guides how they work together with others, set objectives, work and reside. This saying may also consult with an individual’s selfishness, when the one factor that issues is his/her perspective.

Utilization: This saying is usually used as a retort to inform somebody to cease making comparisons between individuals as a result of everyone seems to be totally different. You can even use it if you discover it unimaginable to cause with somebody as a result of their self-interest reigns supreme.

It is better to prevent than to heal

Literal translation: It’s higher to stop than to heal.

That means: It’s higher to take the required precautions to stop a illness, than to need to deal with and heal this illness.

Utilization: That is one other broadly used proverb, understood by all French natives. The French are very hooked up to this saying, which isn’t stunning, since they have a tendency to view well being as a prime precedence—“Et d’abord, ne pas nuire !” (First, do no hurt!).

Literal translation: Who doesn’t transfer ahead, recedes.

That means: There will be no standstill in life, solely evolution or devolution. You possibly can both adapt, or grow to be stagnant and “recede.”

Utilization: This proverb can be utilized as encouragement in the necessity to persevere. It might be persistently employed, given its fact content material. “Count on poison from the standing water,” the English poet William Blake as soon as wrote.

Literal translation: One shouldn’t belief appearances.

That means: This saying is the English equal of “You possibly can’t choose a guide by its cowl,” or “Seems will be deceiving.” It implies that it is best to get to know somebody earlier than you make judgments about them. In brief: “Don’t make assumptions.”

Utilization: This saying is mostly used to consult with individuals whose look appears to be en décalage (mismatched) with their career. 

Little by little, the bird makes its nest

Literal translation: Little by little, the fowl makes its nest.

That means: This proverb designates endurance and perseverance.

Utilization: It may be utilized in many conditions, notably to consult with one thing substantial that has not but been completed, however will likely be with time and perseverance.

Literal translation: As quickly as mentioned, as quickly as completed.

That means: The equal English saying is, “It’s pretty much as good as completed.” It signifies that one thing is or will likely be completed nearly instantly upon request.

Utilization: This saying is used most frequently within the context of giving somebody a coup de primary (a serving to hand) or doing them a favor.

Literal translation: A badly acquired good by no means advantages.

That means: In English, the saying goes, “Ailing-gotten items seldom prosper,” or “Crime doesn’t pay,” that means it’s finest to be sincere as a result of dishonesty doesn’t get you wherever.

Utilization: Whereas this saying explicitly refers to theft, it may be prolonged to different dishonest conduct, equivalent to mendacity to get a promotion at work, or sabotaging an adversary’s progress.

Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none

Literal translation: Who runs after two hares on the identical time, catches none.

That means: We ought to focus on one job at a time with optimum consideration, as doing two issues directly makes it extra possible for every consequence to be unsatisfactory.

Utilization: This proverb affords an vital reminder to not let ambition flip into greed, so it may be correctly utilized to many conditions.

Literal translation: Eat nicely, giggle usually, love abundantly.

That means: This saying is analogous to “Reside life to the fullest” or carpe diem (seize the day)! Discover how mangez bien (eat nicely) is the very first thing on the checklist—simply another reason why cooking to be taught French is a superb thought. 

Utilization: This saying can be utilized to console that pal of yours (all of us have that pal) who worries obsessively concerning the future or dwells on the previous. It additionally works within the casual tu register. Reside within the current!

Literal translation: For the younger hunter, an outdated canine is required.

That means: An inexperienced individual wants somebody older and wiser to point out him/her the ropes.

Utilization: This saying can both be doled out as recommendation by an skilled individual to their apprentice or utilized by the apprentice themselves. Within the latter case, it’s often a praise and a show of respect.

After the rain, good weather

Literal translation: After the rain, good climate.

That means: This saying is a poetic manner of claiming “Grasp in there.” Even when issues are unhealthy in the meanwhile, they’ll get higher.

Utilization: This saying will be employed as a comfort to a pal who’s going by means of a little bit of a tough patch in his/her life.

Literal translation: When one doesn’t have the issues that one loves, one should love what one has.

That means: It displays the saying, “Need what you have got and also you’ll have what you need,” highlighting the worth of being content material with the best way issues are actually. Avoiding the burden of wanting what’s out of attain may help us grow to be grateful for the issues we do have.

Utilization: For those who use this fantastically worded, but wise proverb on the acceptable time, the French will certainly be intrigued by your knowledge.

Literal translation: Do nicely and let (them) communicate.

That means: Do what you consider is correct and don’t take note of what others need to say about it.

Utilization: This saying can be utilized within the context of labor or morally- or politically-charged conditions to inform somebody to do what they consider in, no matter disapproval from naysayers or critics. You do you!

No one is as deaf as the one who does not want to listen

Literal translation: Nobody is as deaf because the one who doesn’t need to pay attention.

That means: People who find themselves too cussed or caught up in their very own self-assertions pay no consideration to others’ recommendation or opinions.

Utilization: It is a proverb qui courtroom les rues (that runs the streets, that means it’s broadly used). In Paris, debating is sort of a sport. When a debate leads nowhere due to both sides’s tenacity, this saying is probably going for use by both get together (if each consider they’re proper).

Literal translation: To undergo like a letter within the mail.

That means: Passer is an fascinating verb as a result of it could both imply “to move” (as in “to go by”) or “to be accepted.”

Utilization: Passer comme une lettre à la poste is used to consult with one thing, often an occasion, that’s straightforward, runs easily and is hassle-free.

Literal translation: If youth knew, if age might.

That means: This saying is a French equal of “Youth is wasted on the younger.”

Utilization: You need to use this phrase every time younger individuals are taking some great benefits of their youth as a right.

It doesn't break bricks

Literal translation: It doesn’t break bricks.

That means: Mainly, that is the French model of “It’s nothing to write down house about.”

Utilization: It is a informal manner of referring to one thing you weren’t impressed by, like that new tv sequence that you just fell asleep watching on the sofa or that tacky rom com you noticed on the airplane on the best way to France.

Literal translation: Pulled by the hair.

That means: This phrase implies that one thing is “far-fetched” or unlikely.

Utilization: The equal English expression is, “It’s a stretch.”

Literal translation: The evening brings recommendation.

That means: This saying is the equal of the English saying “Sleep on it,” which refers to taking one’s time to make an knowledgeable determination.

Utilization: Say your pal has an vital determination to make and is wavering between the obtainable choices. As an alternative of claiming YOLO—or quite, On ne vit qu’une seule fois (You solely reside as soon as)—you could possibly give the extra tempered response of, La nuit porte conseil.

It's the end of the green beans

Literal translation: It’s the tip of the (inexperienced) beans.

That means: These days, it’s synonymous with Il n’y a plus rien ! (“There’s nothing left!”).

Utilization: This saying dates again to the 18th century and is a manner of expressing despair over financial troubles, very like the English phrase, “Occasions are powerful.”

Literal translation: Strike the iron whereas it’s sizzling.

That means: This widespread saying, which is similar in English and French, means to benefit from favorable situations. It refers to a blacksmith forging iron, which requires that the metallic be red-hot earlier than its form will be modified by means of a sequence of hammer strikes. 

Utilization: Use this saying if you’ve received a very good momentum going and will proceed to do no matter you’re doing.

Literal translation: A door have to be open or closed.

That means: Pure and easy: “You possibly can’t have it each methods.”

Utilization: This saying is used to dole out powerful like to those that need to “have his/her cake and eat it, too” (as a result of they’re having hassle selecting between two good choices).

To see someone coming with his/her big clogs

Literal translation: To see somebody coming along with his/her large clogs.

That means: To have the ability to clearly and simply decipher somebody’s intentions.

Utilization: The subtext is that this “somebody” lacks subtlety and/or tact. The English equal of this saying is “to see one thing coming from a mile away.”

Literal translation: One ought to depart nothing to likelihood.

That means: This one merely means, “Plan forward.”

Utilization: This saying is often employed as a way of giving recommendation. Certain, there’s a time and a spot for a porte-bonheur (fortunate attraction), however it’s not all the time to be relied upon.

Literal translation: The partitions have ears.

That means: One ought to take note of what they are saying, as a result of there’s an opportunity they may very well be overheard (and have their phrases used in opposition to them).

Utilization: This saying is used to induce one’s interlocutor to be discreet when discussing private issues.

It’s nothing to whip a cat about

Literal translation: It’s nothing to whip a cat about.

That means: It’s a full of life manner of claiming, C’est pas grave ! (It’s no large deal!)—in different phrases, there’s nothing to make a fuss about.

Utilization: You need to use this expression to reassure individuals to not fear about one thing which may have appeared like a big situation.

Literal translation: All’s nicely that ends nicely.

That means: Though we could expertise hardship and battle within the issues we do, so long as the ultimate outcomes are profitable, such experiences must be thought of optimistic total.

Utilization: It is a glass-half-full type of saying. Use it after a day by which a sequence of unlucky occasions occurred, if you’ve nonetheless managed to make it house secure and sound.

Literal translation: Good accounts make good pals.

That means: In English we are saying, “A debt paid is a pal saved.” Whereas the expression explicitly references monetary debt, it conveys extra broadly the significance of preserving relationships equal.

Utilization: You need to use it to softly remind somebody that friendships contain “give and take,” quite than simply “take.”

To be well-behaved like a picture

Literal translation: To be well-behaved like an image.

That means: In English, an equal saying is “to be good as gold.”

Utilization: This expression is often used with kids as a manner of telling them to be on their finest conduct.

Literal translation: Youth is the time to review knowledge, outdated age the time to follow it.

That means: This saying was first utilized by Swiss thinker Jean-Jacques Rousseau. It implies that nothing must be taken as a right, as a result of La vie est courte (Life is brief)!

Utilization: Adults usually use this saying as a manner of reminding youthful individuals (often moody youngsters) that they gained’t be younger perpetually, so that they’d higher cease grumbling and begin being appreciative of all the advantages of youth.

Literal translation: There’s no level in operating; you must set out in due time.

That means: This one is from the primary strains of “Le lièvre et la tortue” (“The Tortoise and the Hare”) by Jean de la Fontaine, and it’s the French model of “Sluggish and regular wins the race.” There’s no level in beginning one thing with gusto solely to putter out in the long run.

Utilization: This saying extols the advantage of endurance. By the way, this can be a good one for French learners of all ranges to bear in mind in the course of the journey that’s studying French.

Woman sitting on her couch in a bad mood

Literal translation: To be of unhealthy (strand of) hair.

That means: To be in a nasty temper.

Utilization: Use this phrase to precise common discomfort and malaise.

Literal translation: When chickens have tooth.

That means: That is the French equal of the English expression, “When pigs can fly.”

Utilization: It’s a sarcastic or ironic manner of claiming jamais (by no means).

Literal translation: (He) who goes looking loses his place.

That means: This playful, commonly-used saying conveys the truth that it is best to count on your home to be taken when you transfer away from it.

Utilization: This one doesn’t have a very fashionable English equal, however the saying “Transfer your ft, lose your seat” will get the identical common thought throughout.

All suffering merits salary

Literal translation: All struggling deserves wage.

That means: All work deserves recognition or compensation, it doesn’t matter what.

Utilization: This encouraging saying is used most frequently in reference to work that could be thought of by some to be insignificant or menial.

Literal translation: To say all and its reverse.

That means: To precise contradictory viewpoints.

Utilization: This expression is beneficial for referring to that one who all the time says “I instructed you so!” however could have really completed the alternative.

Literal translation: The reasoning of the strongest is all the time the perfect.

That means: In “Le loup et l’agneau” (“The Wolf and the Lamb”), from “Fables de la Fontaine” (La Fontaine’s Fables), a wolf comes up with more and more unbelievable causes to justify consuming a lamb for dinner. Earlier than dying, the lamb says, La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure. It refers to individuals who all the time make excuses for his or her wrongdoings.

Utilization: This saying is used to precise dismay at all types of injustice, notably when there’s a big energy differential between opposing forces. 

To not make a long fire

Literal translation: To not make an extended hearth.

That means: Making an extended hearth means one thing will take a very long time, so selecting to not make one implies that little time will likely be wanted.

Utilization: This expression can be utilized to speak about something that isn’t anticipated to final very lengthy.

Literal translation: A misfortune by no means comes alone.

That means: When one unhealthy factor occurs, a sequence of different misfortunes appear to pile up on prime of it.

Utilization: In English we are saying, “Misfortunes by no means come singly” or “When it rains, it pours.”

Literal translation: To need to is to have the ability to.

That means: That is the French equal of “The place there’s a will, there’s a manner.” It implies that you are able to do something you place your thoughts to.  

Utilization: Use this saying to inspire somebody who doubts his/her capabilities. You can even use it to encourage your self if you come throughout troublesome French sentences!

There's no smoke without fire

Literal translation: There’s no smoke with out hearth.

That means: In each rumor, there appears to be a touch of fact.

Utilization: The English model of this saying goes, “The place there’s smoke, there’s hearth.”


Any of those sayings may help refine and provides aptitude to your use of the French language!

To ensure they keep in your repertoire intellectuel (mental repertoire), it’s useful to listen to and browse French expressions being utilized in totally different media. To do that you could possibly try movies on YouTube, and even use immersion applications like FluentU.

FluentU takes genuine French TV exhibits, motion pictures, information segments and different video clips, then provides interactive captioning to make clear the way to use every time period.

Everytime you need to be taught extra a couple of French phrase or saying, you possibly can hover over it within the subtitles to see its that means. Clicking on the time period offers you additional examples in context and share different movies that use it the identical manner.

This system can be obtainable as an iOS and Android app, so you possibly can examine on the go. 


Since these 43 expressions will be utilized in so many alternative methods, chances are you’ll discover many alternatives to slide one into informal dialog. Working towards till you perceive the nuances of those fashionable, versatile sayings is a good way to rapidly impress a French native.

It’s all about being affected person!

Because the French say, petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid (little by little, the fowl makes its nest).