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No. 122: Ten French Proverbs Relevant to this almost 50-year-old


  • Rien ne sert de courir, il faut partir à point.
    • Slow and steady wins the race.
    • “There’s no point in running, you have to leave on time.”
  • C’est en forgeant qu’on devient forgeron.
    • Practice makes perfect.
    • “It’s by forging that one becomes a blacksmith.”
  • Ce n’est pas à un vieux singe qu’on apprend à faire la grimace.
    • There’s no substitute for experience.
    • “It’s not an old monkey that one teaches to make faces.”
  • Si jeunesse savait, si vieillesse pouvait.
    • Youth is wasted on the young.
    • “If youth knew, if old age could.”
  • Un chien vivant vaut mieux qu’un lion mort.
    • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
    • “A live dog is worth more than a dead lion.”
  • Il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l’amande.
    • No pain no gain.
    • “You need to break the shell to have the almond.”
  • Il ne faut jamais dire « Fontaine, je ne boirai pas de ton eau ! 
    • Never say never.
    • “You should never say, ‘Fountain, I will never drink your water!'”
  • Tourner sept fois sa langue dans sa bouche.
    • Think long and hard before speaking.
    • “To turn one’s tongue in one’s mouth seven times.”
  • L’habit ne fait pas le moine.
    • Clothes don’t make the person.
    • “The habit doesn’t make the monk.”
  • Qui vivra verra.
    • What will be will be.
    • “He who lives will see.”

And one extra that I wish was true…

  • Impossible n’est pas français…hmmmmm…Imposible isn’t French….mais, we all know, ce ne pas possible, non 
13 Comments Post a comment
  1. Good idioms to build one’s language skills!

    January 27, 2014
  2. loved the quotes! I think I too can rhyme with them all!

    January 27, 2014
  3. Love these
    May share them with my French class if that’s OK and perhaps learn a few more
    Some of the French “sayings” for being drunk are pretty hilarious

    PS- fifty is OK. I am probably happier here in MY fifties than any other decade!

    January 27, 2014
    • I’d love to hear the French sayings for when you have had too much to drink…re: turning 50, I still have 11 more months, but am feeling like I really need to mentally prepare for it.

      January 28, 2014
  4. I like ‘occupe-toi de tes oignons’. Not exactly a proverb but one I remember!

    January 30, 2014
  5. J’adore ca! The first one took me a long time to learn… and I’m still practicing! The third one made me laugh. And second to last seemed JUST right! Qui vivra verra!
    Thanks for this post!

    January 30, 2014
    • I’m glad you enjoyed them. It’s interesting how the French convey the same sentiment but with different images, huh? Many days “qui vivra verra” seems like the best way to live as une étrangère en France.

      January 30, 2014
  6. I liked the last one that we all wish was true 🙂 But I have learned that when the French tell me “c’est pas possible” what they really mean is “that’s a bit difficult and I don’t want to do it – unless you convince me otherwise”. At least that’s been my experience. I find that, when faced with an “impossible” situation, If I just stay calm and continue to ask for their suggestions (their expertise), they will eventually do the “impossible” for me. But it sure took me a long time to figure that one out. Thanks for a great post!

    February 18, 2014
    • Great way to explain “ce n’est pas possible”. I think just like in any other culture it’s always good to kill them with kindness and make them believe it’s their idea to want to help you.

      February 24, 2014

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