6 Beautiful French Proverbs That Will Impress...
"Qui vivra verra"
“Qui vivra verra” is a widely used and understood proverb that literally means, “He/she who lives, shall see.” This phrase is usually used when an outcome is unpredictable or uncertain, like in the English “the future will tell.” Although it is a very short phrase, it still rolls smoothly off the tongue with elegance.
“L’habit ne fait pas le moine”
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“L’habit ne fait pas le moine” translates to “The vestment does not make the monk.” Its significance, though, is that just because a monk is wearing a renunciate’s robe, it doesn’t mean that the monk is sincere in his intentions. The English equivalent would be, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” The sense of the phrase implies that appearances can sometimes mislead one’s better judgement. The philosopher Plutarch came up with his own rendition of this phrase. It goes, “A beard does not make a philosopher,” which in French is translated as “La barbe ne fait pas le philosophe.”
“Chacun voit midi à sa porte”
“Chacun voit midi à sa porte” is a beautiful expression which, while being somewhat unfortunate, is nevertheless quite true. The literal translation goes, “Everyone sees noon at his doorstep.” It means that every individual is occupied, first and foremost, with his or her own personal interests, and each feels their subjective opinions as objective truths. When such tenacity occurs, the French would say, “Inutile de discuter,” it is “useless to argue,” since every man feels he is right. Innumerable are the contexts in which this phrase may be used, and it would impress a French person to hear it from a foreigner.
“Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir”
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“Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir” is another widely used proverb, understood by all French natives. It literally means, “It is better to prevent than to heal,” and interestingly, it’s the first principle of traditional Chinese healing practices. The French are very attached to this saying, dearly using it on a regular basis. It is not surprising, however, since health is first priority – “Et d’abord, ne pas nuire!” (First, do no harm!), they say. The sense of the proverb is such that it is better to take the necessary precautions to prevent a sickness, than to have to treat and heal this sickness. It is sens commun (common sense) in France, undoing the dictum, “Ignorance is bliss,” for the bliss in this case is to not be ignorant, but preventive.
“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid”
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“Petit a petit, l’oiseau fait son nid” is a charming little phrase that’s widely applied, and translated as, “Little by little, the bird makes its nest.” This proverb designates patience and perseverance. It can be used in many situations, particularly in the process of something not yet accomplished, as opposed to something that has been accomplished. And only then, after much time and effort, one might also say (with a pronounced sense of triumph and achievement), “Paris ne s’est pas fait en un jour!” (“Paris was not made in a day!”)
“Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun”
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“Qui court deux lievres a la fois, n’en prend aucun” is a marvel not only in its implication, but in its wonderful imagery. It is translated as, “Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none.” The meaning is that an individual ought to concentrate on one task at a time with optimal attention, if that task is to be well done. If a person does two things at once, the likelihood is that the end result will be anchored in mediocrity, due to a half-hearted effort. Something well done is something done with total concentration. This proverb offers an important reminder, so it can be wisely applied to many various situations.
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