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French Proverbs





French proverbs offer insight into French culture, history, and society, and are often used in speech and writing. There is no substitute for knowing them, and if you can use them in yourself, so much the better. Below are all the standard proverbs used in French, along with English translations and explanations. Use the Search Box at left if you cant't navigate your way to what you want.

A B C D E F G H I J L M N O P Q R S T U V


dans le doute, abstiens-toi
when in doubt, don’t (lit.: when in doubt, remove yourself [from the situation])

de deux maux, il fault choisir le moindre
choose the lesser of two evils (lit.: given two evils, one must choose the lesser)

de la discussion jaillit la lumière
truth is reached through discussion (lit.: from discussion leaps light)

défiance est mere de sûreté
mistrust is the mother of security (i.e.: trust but verify)

des goûts et des couleurs il ne faut pas discuter
there’s no accounting for taste; to each his/her own (lit.: of tastes and colors one must not argue)

deux avis valent mieux qu’un
two heads are better than one (lit.: two opinions are worth more than one)

dis-moi qui tu hantes, je te dirai qui tu es
a man is known by the company he keeps (lit.: tell me who you spend time with, and I will tell you who you are)

donne au chien l’os pour qu’il ne convoite pas ta viande
give some to keep the rest (lit.: give the dog the bone so that he doesn’t try to get your meat)

donner un œuf pour avoir un bœuf
give a little to get a lot (lit.: one has to know when to give an egg to get an ox)


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