Common French Sayings - French Use All The Time

Updated: May 18, 2020

One of the best way of learning a new language is to discover its sayings.  Phrases that usually contain some sort of lesson or advice, like It’s better to be alone than to be with someone who isn’t good company.”

1. Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.

What it means: It’s better to be alone than to be with someone who isn’t good company. 

Literal translation: “Better to be alone than accompanied badly.”

This beautiful saying apply to friendships, romantic relationships or family etc.

2. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire.

What it means: It’s not that difficult/It’s not that hard/It’s not so bad/It’s not the end of the world.

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

It can be used as an answer to a sentence. For example:

You: J’ai trop de boulot demain matin.  (I have too much work to do tomorrow morning.)

Your friend : Oh, ce n’est pas la mer à boire ! (Come on, it’s not the end of the world!)

Can be also be used as a statement. For example:

Ce n’est pas la mer à boire de faire une demie-heure de l'exercise.(It’s not that hard to do half an hour of exercise.)

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

What it means: Think before you speak.

Literal translation: “You should turn your tongue around in your mouth seven times before you speak.”

4. Les chiens ne font pas des chats.

What it means:  The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree./ Like mother/father, like daughter/son.

Literal translation: “Dogs don’t make cats.”

Basically, this saying is used when you see how someone takes after one or both of their parents. For the example below, I’ll use something people often say about my four-year-old daughter:

How to use it: 

One person: Il aime bien parler !  (He really likes to talk!)

Me: Les chiens ne font pas des chats ! (The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree!)

5. L’habit ne fait pas le moine.

What it means: Don’t judge a person by their appearance. / Don’t judge a book by its cover.

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

Important note: Don’t confuse this with the English expression “The clothes make the man,” which means the opposite thing.

6. Impossible n’est pas français.

What it means: There’s no such thing as “impossible.”

Literal translation: Impossible isn’t French.

How to use it:

Je n’arriverai jamais à gagner le concours d'ART !  …Mais non, ça va aller, car après tout, impossible n’est pas français ! (I’ll never be able to win the art competition! …No, it’s going to be okay, because after all, “impossible” doesn’t exist!)

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