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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


œil pour œil, dent pour dent
an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth (lit.: eye for eye, tooth for tooth)

on n'est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même
you are never better served than by yourself

on ne fait pas d’omelette sans casser des œufs
you cannot make an omelete without breaking some eggs (i.e.: nothing is achieved without pain and sacrifice)

on ne marie pas les poules avec les renards
different strokes for different folks; to each his or her own (lit.: one does not marry hens to foxes)

on ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l’argent du beurre
you cannot have your cake and eat it too (lit.: one cannot have the butter and the money from the butter)

on ne peut pas être à la fois au four et au moulin
you cannot be in two places at once (lit.: you cannot at the same time be at the oven and at the mill)

on ne prend pas les mouches avec du vinaigre
one doesn’t attract flies with vinegar

on ne prête qu’aux riches
only the rich get richer (lit.: one lends only to the wealthy)

on récolte ce qu’on a semé
as you sow, so shall you reap

on reconnaît l’arbre à ses fruits
a tree is known by its fruit

ou il y a du poisson il y a de l'eau
where there is smoke, there is fire (lit.: where there are fish, there is water)


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