15 Interesting Expressions and French Proverbs

Here you will learn 15 French expressions and proverbs that are among the most used by native speakers of the language. Remember that the translation is not literal, but the meaning is corresponding.

Understanding and employing these proverbs appropriately is the key to the correct use of language. Let’s take a look!

Le mensonge n’a pas de pieds

This proverb can be translated as “a lie has no legs”.

L’habit ne fait pas le moine

“The clothes do not make the man,” that is, reality does not always correspond to appearances when it comes to a person.

À l’impossible nul n’est tenu

The exact translation would be “no one can achieve the impossible”. Use it to express that no one can give what he does not have.

Ne pas avoir inventé l’eau chaude

It is used to say that someone is not very intelligent. The closest meaning would be to “didn’t reinvent the wheel”.

Les chiens aboient, la caravane passe

This one has a translation very similar to a Brazilian saying: “the dogs bark, but the caravan moves”, that is to say: ignore the adversities, the provocations, and go ahead.

Bâtir des châteaux en Espagne

Translated to “this is like building castles in Spain”, the French use it to talk about doing something without foundation, without reason.

This proverb stems from a common belief among the French in the fifteenth century, when they believed that there were no castles in Spain. According to the Oxford dictionary, this idea probably comes from the distance between countries: at that time, very few Frenchmen actually knew Spain.

Après la pluie vient le beau temps

Translates to “After a storm comes calm”.

Quand on parle du loup, on en voit la queue

“Speak of the devil (and he appears)”

Au royaume des aveugles, le borgne est roi

“In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king”, a famous phrase that points out that in certain situations, a little privilege is worth a lot.

Il est passé beaucoup d’eau sous le pont

“A lot of water has passed under this bridge,” says this French saying.

Sauve qui peut!

In the hour of trouble, the French say “run for your lives!”.

Elle a trouvé l’oiseau rare

It means “to find a rare bird”, used in the context of relationships.

Ça coûte les yeux de la tête

When you come across something very expensive, you can use the expression above. The closest translation is “this costs the eyes of the face”.

Cela va de soi

A French expression with the same meaning as the expression “Needless to say” in English.

L’occasion fait le larron

“Opportunity makes a thief”, that is, people react differently, depending on the situation.

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