The most common sayings in France

Published on 24/07/2023

Famous sayings and quotes can have a profound impact on the way we think and act. They provide inspiration, motivation and guidance in difficult times. They can help keep us focused on our goals or remind us of the importance of living life to the fullest. Famous sayings can also help bring people together by giving them a shared language or common understanding. By sharing these words of wisdom, we can connect with others on an emotional level and build stronger relationships.

It is very important to work with a translation agency when it comes to giving meaning to sayings. Regardless of the source or target language, whether from English to Spanish or German, the right context is needed to give the right meaning. A translation company entrusted with translating a proverb from Italian into Portuguese cannot do so literally, but must take into account that translation is much more than changing one word for another.

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  1. These are the most common sayings in France
  2. The essence of authenticity

These are the most common sayings in France

Here is a sample of sayings from the City of Light. For example, "La nuit porte conseil" which literally translates as "The night brings advice". Or, in other words, take your time before making a decision. In English this is the equivalent of "Sleep on it".

"Vouloir, c’est pouvoir" is a very common saying that literally translates as "To want to is to be able to". The actual meaning is "Where there’s a will, there’s a way". You can use this saying to encourage someone who doubts themselves. 

"Pierre qui roule n’amasse pas mousse" has the particularity of being the same in both languages. Effectively, the translation is "A rolling stone gathers no moss" referring to the fact that when we are active, we are much more productive. 

"Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard" is translated in English as "Leave nothing to chance" or, in other words, plan ahead.

"Mieux vaut tard que jamais" requires almost no translation. You've guessed it, "Better late than never".

"Ce n’est pas la mer à boire" literally translates as "It’s not as if you have to drink the sea". Indeed, in English we use the expression "It’s no big deal" or "It’s not that difficult". It can be used when someone complains about doing something.

When a French person exclaims "L'habit ne fait pas le moine", it can be literally translated as "The clothing doesn't make the monk". In English it means: "You can't judge a book by its cover". The proverb is wise in any language.

To finish, we have left a very common saying used by our neighbours. "Tout vient à point à qui sait attendre", which translates as "Good things come to those who wait".

The essence of authenticity

Proverbs are a collection of popular wisdom and are passed down from generation to generation. They contain many lessons and never go out of fashion.

Thanks to proverbs, it is possible to understand many situations and to be able to apply the corresponding proverb to each one of them. When learning a language, it is always very important to memorise a proverb, as it is a sign of adaptation to the new language we are learning.

Moreover, proverbs from other countries, in this case France, allow us to learn how certain expressions are used to mean the same thing. In truth, we are not so different either. Proverbs and popular sayings serve the same function in any language, and are phrases loaded with knowledge. In order to understand the importance of proverbs, it should be emphasised that schools are already starting to introduce some easy-to-understand proverbs so that pupils can incorporate them into their vocabulary.

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Virginia Pacheco's picture
Virginia Pacheco

Blog writer and Community Manager interested in multiculturality and linguistic diversity. From her native Venuzuela, she has travelled and lived for many years in France, Germany, Cameroon and Spain, passing on her passion for writing and her intercultural experiences.

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