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Les Proverbes et les Dictons
French Proverbs and Sayings

1.  Quand le chat n'est pas là, les souris dansent.
Literal translation:  When the cat isn't there, the mice dance.
The equivalent proverb in English:
When the cat's away, the mice will play.

2.   À tout oiseau son nid est beau.
Literal translation:  To every bird his nest is beautiful.
The equivalent proverb in English:
There's no place like home.

3.  L'argent ne se trouve pas sous le sabot d'un cheval.
Literal translation:  Money isn't found under a horse's hoof.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Money doesn't grow on trees.

4.  C'est la fin des haricots!
Literal translation:  It's the last of the beans!
The equivalent sayings in English:
It's the end of the world!
That's the last straw!

An interesting fact:  this saying originates from a French tradition, in the past, to serve beans to pupils at boarding school for dinner.  Beans were considered a basic and necessary food for survival, like bread.  So, if ever the beans ran out, it would mean that pupils would go hungry and the situation would be bleak.  It would seem to be the end of the world!

5.  Le monde appartient à ceux qui se lèvent tôt.
Literal translation:  The world belongs to those who rise early.
The equivalent proverb in English:
The early bird catches the worm.

6.    Deux avis valent mieux qu'un.
Literal translation:  Two opinions are worth more than one.
The equivalent proverb in English: 
Two heads are better than one.

7.    L'habit ne fait pas le moine.
Literal translation:  The habit doesn't make the monk.
The equivalent proverbs  in English:
Clothes don't make the man.
You can't judge a book by its cover.

8.    À mauvais ouvrier, mauvais outils.
Literal translation:  To a bad workman, bad tools.
The equivalent proverb in English:
A bad workman quarrels with his tools.

9.   Faire d'une pierre, deux coups.
Literal translation:  To make from one stone, two strikes.
The equivalent saying in English:
To kill two birds with one stone.

10.  'Impossible' n'est pas français.
Literal translation:  'Impossible' is not French.
The equivalent saying in English:
There is no such word as 'can't.'

An interesting fact:  this saying originates from an opinion expressed by Napoleon I when faced with battle.  When French military commanders believed that victory would be impossible, Napoleon replied that he did not recognise the word 'impossible' and that it was not part of French vocabulary!

11.  Deux s'amusent, trois s'ennuient.
Literal translation:  Two have fun, three get bored.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Two is company, three is a crowd.

12.   Qui se ressemble, s'assemble.
Literal translation:  Those who are similar, gather together.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Birds of a feather flock together.

13.   Vouloir, c'est pouvoir.
Literal translation:  To want is to be able.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Where there's a will there's a way.

14.   Ce ne sont pas les mots qui comptent mais les actions.
Literal translation:  It is not the words that count but the actions.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Actions speak louder than words.

15.   À beaucoup d'ouvriers la tâche est aisée.
Literal translation:  To lots of workers the task is easy.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Many hands make light work.

16.  Bouillon de chou fait perdre au médecin cinq sous.
Literal translation:  Cabbage soup costs the doctor five pennies.
The equivalent proverb in English:
An apple a day keeps the doctor away.

17.  À cheval donné on ne regarde pas les dents.
Literal translation: To a horse given as a present, one does not look at its teeth.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.

18.  Après la pluie, le beau temps.
Literal translation:  After the rain, the beautiful weather.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Every cloud has a silver lining.

19.  La beauté est affaire de goût.
Literal translation:  Beauty is a matter of taste.
The equivalent proverb in English:
Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

20.  À bon chat, bon rat.
Literal translation:  To a good cat, good rat.
The equivalent sayings in English:
Tit for tat. 
 Two can play at that game.

21.  Qui vivra verra.
Literal translation:  Whoever lives will see.
The equivalent sayings in English:
Time will tell.
Wait and see.

22.  Ce n'est pas la mer à boire!
Literal translation:  It's not the sea that you have to drink!
The equivalent sayings in English:
It's not that bad / hard / difficult!
It's not such a big deal!
It's not too much to ask!

23.  C'est mon petit doigt qui me le dit.
Literal translation:  It's my little finger that tells me.
The equivalent saying in English:
A little bird tells me.


24.  Chacun voit midi à sa porte.
Literal translation:  Everyone sees midday at their door.
The equivalent sayings in English:
Each to their own.
Everyone has their own way of seeing / doing things.
Everyone follows their own star.

25.  Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.
Literal translation:  Once the wine has been fetched, you have to drink it.
The equivalent saying in English:
There's no going back.
You have to see it through.

26.  Paris ne s'est pas fait en un jour.
Literal translation: Paris wasn't made in a day. 
The equivalent saying in English:
Rome wasn't built in a day.

27.  On ne peut pas avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.
Literal translation: You cannot have the butter and the money from (selling) the butter. 
The equivalent proverb in English:
You cannot have your cake and eat it.

28.  Il faut tourner sept fois la langue dans la bouche avant de parler.
Literal translation: You must turn your tongue seven times in your mouth before speaking.
The equivalent sayings in English:
Think long and hard before speaking.
Think before you speak.

29.  Un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras.
Literal translation: A 'you have' is worth more than two 'you will haves'.
The equivalent proverb in English:
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.


30.   Petit à petit, l'oiseau fait son nid.
Literal translation:  Little by little, the bird makes its nest.
The equivalent sayings in English:
Every little bit helps.
One step at a time.

Spanish Proverbs

Literature Zone

French Zone


Worksheets + answer sheets 

Wall signs.

Templates to make flashcards. 

Ideas for lessons.

For upper Key Stage 2 and Year 7.

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