Popular French Phrases to Speak With Confidence

Elly Kim9 min
Created: Oct 11, 2023Last updated: Feb 29, 2024
Popular French Phrases

Reaching a particular fluency level in French takes time and requires regular learning. Integrating into the country’s culture is even longer, as speaking fluently requires constantly updating your knowledge and keeping an eye on changes. French sayings are what diversify locals, as they use them often. Sometimes, these phrases may be completely unclear for foreigners, as they don’t always have a direct meaning. Let’s learn a few helpful collocations that will come in handy. 

Enrich Your Lexicon: French Expressions for More Diverse Vocabulary

Communicating with natives and keeping up the conversation is easier when you know a lot of words and phrases. Imagine a situation when a Frenchman says something, and you completely misunderstand them. Many expressions don’t have a direct meaning, so foreigners are often confused. It’s better to learn several beautiful French phrases in advance:

  1. Ce n’est pas la mer à boire – It’s not like the sea to drink (something is not difficult, and a person can easily do it).
  2. La nuit porte conseil – Sleep on it (you must sleep and think over something to make the final decision).
  3. Vouloir c’est pouvoir – To want is to be able to (if you desire something, you will find the way to achieve it).
  4. Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné – It’s better to be alone than badly accompanied (it’s usually about harmful or abusive relationships).
  5. C’est simple comme bonjour – It’s as simple as hello (the expression is used to say something is easier than it seems).
  6. Après la pluie, le beau temps – The good weather comes after rain (it’s used to say everything will improve after hard times).
  7. La vie est belle – Life is beautiful (enjoy every aspect of your life and routine).
  8. Chacun voit midi à sa porte – Everyone sees noon in their door (each person’s life perception guides how they live and interact with others).
  9. Ne mets pas tous tes œufs dans le même panier – Don’t put all eggs in one basket (consider all the alternatives and don’t count on only one thing).
  10. Ce n’est pas la vache qui crie le plus fort qui fait le plus de lait – The cow that cries the loudest doesn’t make the most milk (talk less and act more).
  11. Les actes valent mieux que les mots – Actions speak louder than words (don’t speak too much, act first).
  12. Bien mal acquis ne profite jamais – Received unfairly, never profits (don’t try to get anything through a deception).
  13. Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup – Eat, laugh a lot, love (take maximum benefits of your life and enjoy it).
  14. La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin – Our lives aren’t too long, so don’t drink bad wine (always choose the best for yourself and take the maximum of your life).

Overall, many of these phrases have alternatives in English and are widely spread among speakers. Therefore, it might be easier for learners to memorize and implement them in their speech. The above sayings can be mottos for many people, inspiring and guiding them. Hearing such a pearl of wisdom is important to understand what to do and search for future prospects. You can implement these sayings when giving advice, greeting people, and during an ordinary conversation.

French Expressions About Life: Wisdom Through Centuries

French people love communicating with different people, so it’s not surprising many of them would gladly share their wisdom with others. Famous proverbs are the best way to do it. Take a look at some popular expressions that may be helpful:

  1. Il ne faut rien laisser au hasard – Don’t rely on the chance (it’s important to plan everything in advance).
  2. Bien faire et laisser dire – Do well and let them say (ignore others’ opinions and act in the way that will be beneficial for you).
  3. Être bien dans sa peau – To be good about yourself (to be confident).
  4. Battre le fer pendant qu’il est chaud – You should strike the iron while it’s hot (don’t ignore good opportunities and start acting immediately after you receive a chance).
  5. À jeune chasseur, il faut un vieux chien – A young hunter needs an old dog (respect people with broader experiences and ask for their advice when needed).

These are only some examples; you can find many more expressions in French to enrich your vocabulary. It’s not mandatory to memorize them all, as it can be challenging for learners. However, learn at least some to demonstrate your in-depth language knowledge. These phrases will be helpful when communicating with French speakers; they will be impressed with your vocabulary.

Famous Quotes in French from Writers, Composers, and Other Artists

France gave birth to many writers and other artists who conquered the entire world with their art. Locals appreciate them and still consider Victor Hugo, Honoré de Balzac, Voltaire, and many others iconic. Therefore, it’s not surprising they often use their famous quotes:

  1. On passe une moitié de sa vie à attendre ceux qu’on aimera et l’autre moitié à quitter ceux qu’on aime. – We spend half our lives waiting for those we love and other half leaving those we love (Victor Hugo).
  2. Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point. – The heart has its reasons that the brain cannot explain (Blaise Pascal).
  3. Il faut bonne mémoire après qu’on a menti. – A liar needs to have a good memory (Pierre Corneille).
  4. Le temps est un grand maître, dit-on. Le malheur est qu’il tue ses élèves. – Time is a good teacher, they say. The misfortune is that it kills its students (Hector Berlioz).
  5. C’est un malheur qu’il y a trop peu d’intervalles entre le temps où l’on est trop jeune, et le temps où l’on est trop vieux. – It is a misfortune that there is too little time between one being too young and too old (Montesquieu).
  6. L’enfer, c’est les autres. – Hell is other people (Jean Paul Sartre).

Many think the most famous quotes are about love since France is the country of romance. However, you can find sayings on any topic. The above expressions became pure inspiration for many people globally. Many are about time, showing how fast it is and reminding people to do what they want, as life is short. The benefit is that everyone can find their senses in these famous phrases.

Of course, there are many more famous quotes, and you’ve probably met some online or read iconic French books. Locals highly appreciate their literature and often use renowned authors’ sayings to diversify their speech and provide arguments during conversations.


Exciting French Proverbs You Can Hear from Natives

You can find proverbs in every language, and these phrases are a way to express particular wisdom. These sayings have an instructive form, showing important thoughts. Are you ready to familiarize yourself with a few proverbs in French and memorize them?

  1. Il faut tourner sept fois sa langue dans sa bouche avant de parler. – Don’t speak before you turn your tongue seven times in your mouth (this wisdom says a person should think good before saying something).
  2. Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid. – The bird makes the nest little by little (this expression reminds people that success doesn’t come immediately, and it’s important to be patient to benefit).
  3. L’habit ne fait pas le moine. – The clothes don’t make the man (it means appearance can be deceptive, and it’s essential to know the person before concluding about them).
  4. Qui sème le vent, récolte la tempête. – Who sows the wind reaps the storm (it teaches that every act has consequences, and people have to think before doing something).
  5. Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir. – Prevention is better than cure (this usually concerns unpleasant occasions like illnesses).
  6. Qui court deux lièvres à la fois, n’en prend aucun. – Who runs two hares at once catches none (it’s better to focus on one thing and do it well rather than perform several actions simultaneously, which won’t bring the desired results).
  7. Il faut casser le noyau pour avoir l’amande. – You have to break the shell to get the almond (achieving the result requires effort).
  8. Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué. – Never sell the bear’s skin before killing it (don’t act until you are confident in success).
  9. L’argent ne fait pas le bonheur. – Money cannot buy happiness (true happiness comes from things that cannot be purchased).

Have you ever heard any of these phrases? Frenchmen often use proverbs to diversify their speech and transfer the wisdom of centuries. Therefore, don’t be surprised if locals use proverbs when talking to you.

Reasons to Use Popular French Phrases

Reaching a higher fluency level requires regular improvements. Of course, learning French should start with the basics, but replenishing your vocabulary with new words and expressions is never enough. Catch some reasons to learn the widespread sayings and use them when communicating:

  1. Understand French people better and keep the conversation.
  2. Demonstrate your mastery and profound knowledge.
  3. Dip into the country’s culture and understand the locals better.
  4. Learning the language history and understanding the appearance of particular phrases.
  5. Support your argument with well-known facts and common French sayings.

Boosting conversational skills is essential for every learner. Many experienced tutors say dipping into the French-speaking environment is the best way to strengthen your knowledge. And interacting with the natives will be much easier if you know some widely used phrases, allowing you to express your thoughts creatively and understand the locals better. French residents use idioms and other popular sayings more often than foreigners, so such phrases will definitely be helpful for those interacting with them.

Explore More Sayings and Words with Promova

Mastering the language takes time, but sitting on lessons for hours slightly becomes a thing of the past. Interactive learning is the approach that inspires students, and this is what we offer in Promova. Learners can download a convenient app or use the web version to enjoy guided courses and strengthen their French skills daily. Our platform offers multiple lessons developed by proficient tutors, so hundreds of new words and exciting quizzes are available for everyone.

Downloading the Promova app is free, so you can start learning right now and explore our methods and exercises. However, a Premium version is also available; it offers even more exciting expressions, interactive tasks, and other benefits. Make your education more creative and efficient, and reach the desired fluency level as soon as possible with Promova.


Learning popular French sayings is great for those who want to boost their knowledge and integrate into the country’s culture. It often seems that memorizing the basic phrases to speak the language is enough. However, learning as much as possible is a perfect solution for those desiring to speak fluently. Implement the famous quotes in your speech to impress your close people. For example, why not use “La nuit porte conseil” (night brings advice) instead of simply saying “bonne nuit” (good night)?


Why do Frenchmen prefer using proverbs so often?

These little sayings in French, with a lot of sense, allow people to connect the wisdom of centuries with modernity. Proverbs are often used to give pieces of advice. Knowing such expressions allows people to explore the culture and the language’s history. Therefore, memorizing at least some can help communicate with natives and understand them better.

Which sources can I use to learn more beautiful French sayings?

Online learning is now popular, so the Promova platform can be a perfect tool for those searching for interactive education. You can also use additional materials; in this case, dictionaries are the great helpers. The best free options include WordReference and Collins-Robert French Dictionary. These are indispensable tools, so every student can access them with a few clicks. Experienced tutors recommend learning several new words daily, boosting your skills.

How many people speak French globally?

According to statistics, there are around 220 million native French speakers worldwide. Moreover, around 100 million speak it as their second language. It’s prevalent in France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Monaco, Canada, and numerous African countries. French is on the fifth in the rating of popular languages worldwide.

Is it easier for English speakers to learn French?

It’s never straightforward to master something new, so those who’ve already learned English shouldn’t hope they will have strong French skills within a few months. However, the two languages are in many ways similar. Therefore, English speakers will have an advantage. The two languages have more in common than Spanish, Portuguese, etc. So, those with fluent English skills can master French faster. However, learning regularly and constantly strengthening your knowledge is still important.


Cora ConradNov 2nd, 2023
Thanks for this handy list!