Ten Classic French Proverbs

"La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure"


Proverbs may sometimes feel a little old-fashioned; but their conciseness, wit and wisdom qualities endure nonetheless, thus remaining deeply embedded in the country’s culture. In France, proverbs can occasionally be heard in daily life. Below are ten of the more famous French along with their literal translation and English equivalents:

1. Qui sème le vent, récolte la tempête. Translation: He who sows the wind shall reap the tempest. (As you sow, so you shall reap.)

2. C’est l’exception qui confirme la règle. Translation: It’s the exception that proves the rule.

3. La raison du plus fort est toujours la meilleure. (Jean de La Fontaine – Fables) Translation: The motive of the strongest is always the best. (Might is always right.)

4. Il faut manger pour vivre, et non pas vivre pour manger. (Molière – L’Avare) Translation: One must eat to live, and not live to eat.

5. Revenons à nos moutons. Translation: “Let us get back to our sheep. (Let’s get back to what we were saying/ doing.)

6. Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir. Translation: Better to prevent than to cure. (An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.)

7. Il ne faut pas se fier aux apparences. Translation: One must not trust appearances. (Things are not always as they look like.)

8. Petit poisson deviendra grand. Translation: The little fish will grow big. (Tall oaks from little acorns grow/Boys will be men one day.)

9. Les bons comptes font les bons amis. Translation: Good accounts make good friends. (Short reckonings make long friends/Neither a borrower nor a lender be.)

10. La nuit porte conseil. Translation: The night brings advice. (Sleep on it/Take advice of your pillow.)