French Idioms

There are quantities of French idioms, which could be used to illustrate just about any idea. Here are a few of those that I deemed most interesting for the purpose of this article. Some of them don’t exist in English, others just sound funny in English, and finally, some are just contradictory! Have a look by yourself!

  • Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.
    The world belongs to those who get up early. (The early bird catches the worm)
  • Au royaume des aveugles, les borgnes sont rois.
    In the land of the blind, the one-eyed men are kings.
  • Un bouillon de chou fait perdre au médecin cinq sous.
    A cabbage soup a day makes the doctor lose five pence. (An apple a day keeps the doctor away)
  • C’est dans les vieux pots qu’on fait les meilleures confitures.
    It’s in the oldest jars that you make the best jams. (Experience always wins the day.)
  • C’est la goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase.
    It’s the drop of water that makes the jar overflow. (It’s the last straw)
  • Entre l’arbre et l’écorce il ne faut pas mettre le doigt.
    Between the tree and the bark, one should not put his finger. (One shouldn’t get involved in other people’s family quarrels)
  • Être bête à manger du foin.
    To be stupid enough to eat hay.
  • Filler à l’anglaise.
    Take the English leave. (Take the French leave)
  • Il ne faut pas dire fontaine je ne boirai jamais de ton eau.
    You must not say ‘fountain I will never drink your water.’ (Never say never)
  • La bave du crapaud n’atteint pas la blanche colombe.
    The slaver of the toad can’t reach the white dove. (Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me)
  • L’enfer est pavé de bonnes intentions.
    Hell is paved with good intentions. (Hell is full of good meanings and wishes)
  • L’habit ne fait pas le moine.
    The cowl does not make the monk. (Don’t judge the book by its cover)
  • On apprend pas à un vieux singe à faire des grimaces.
    You can’t teach an old monkey how to grimace. (You can’t teach an old dog new tricks)
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2 thoughts on “French Idioms”

  1. Love these, but in American English, we do say The Road to hell is paved with good intentions!

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