15 French Proverbs and Their Meanings

Imagine saying “Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid” (little by little, the bird builds its nest) to your friend mid-convo, there will be no arguing your way out that you don’t understand the French language. 

As a Nigerian living in Nigeria, it’s probably the only international language you’ll come close to learning. If you’re tired of Duolingo streaks or struggled with French classes in school, you should probably turn to proverbs. They’re fully formed sentences that can improve your knowledge of the language

We took the trouble of compiling 15 French proverbs and their meanings. 

On n’est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même

Translation: You are never served better than by yourself.

Meaning: No one handles your situation better than yourself.

On ne change pas une équipe qui gagne

Translation: One does not change a winning team.

Meaning: There’s no need to fix what isn’t broken.

Il vaut mieux prévenir que guérir

Translation: It is better to prevent than to heal.

Meaning: Better to take precautions than unnecessary risks.

Les chiens ne font pas des chats

Translation: Dogs don’t breed cats.

Meaning: Kids are mostly like their parents.

Il n’y a que celui qui ne fait rien qui ne se trompe jamais

Translation: Only those who do nothing never fail.

Meaning: Success comes with a lot of failures.

Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide.

Translation: A scalded cat fears cold water.

Meaning: Experience is the best teacher. 

Après la pluie, le beau temps

Translation: After the rain, the good weather.

Meaning: Bad times don’t last; things will eventually get better.

La vengeance est un plat qui se mange froid

Translation: Revenge is a dish best-served cold.

Meaning: Don’t plan vengeance in the heat of anger or hurt.

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Il n’y a que la vérité qui blesse

Translation: Only the truth hurts.

Meaning:  You’ll only feel hurt if what’s been said is true.

A cheval donné, on ne regarde pas les dents

Translation: When given a horse, don’t look at its teeth.

Meaning: Never refuse an offer or gift given out to you with goodwill.

Vouloir, c’est pouvoir

Translation: To want is to be able to.

Meaning: If you want something bad enough, you’ll do everything possible to get it.

Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire

Translation: When the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.

Meaning: There’s no going back after you’ve made a decision.

Il n’y a pas de fumée sans feu

Translation: There is no smoke without fire.

Meaning: There’s always an explanation for everything.

Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre

Translation: All comes on time to the one who knows how to wait.

Meaning: Basically, be patient. Your time will come.

En tout pays, il y a une lieue de mauvais chemin

Translation: In every country, there is an area of bad roads.

Meaning: Even the best things in life come with their challenges.

If you loved learning about French proverbs and their meanings, you should read this: 14 Nigerian Proverbs That Are Both Wise And Silly At The Same Time



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