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Proverbial French - All Work and No Play

I have somehow still managed to avoid any articles on dry grammar rules or verb conjuguation tables in the language section of my blog!1  Take advantage of this while it lasts… ;-)  Every language is full of proverbs and French is no exception.  Although many idioms between English and French are translated almost exactly the same, there are several which require completely different expressions depending on the language.  I have compiled a table of some common English proverbs that simply *cannot* be directly translated into French.  The literal expressions should give you some good laughs!

English/French Proverbs - Comparing Apples and Oranges

 

English Proverb French Equivalent French Literal Translation
Don’t judge a book by its cover (appearances can be deceiving) L’habit ne fait pas le moine The habit (religious clothing) doesn’t make you a monk 
To call a spade a spade Appeler un chat un chat To call a cat a cat
Don’t count your chickens before they hatch Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué Don’t sell the bear’s skin before you have killed it
By the skin of one’s teeth à un poil près  One hairwidth away
The straw that broke the camel’s back La goutte d’eau qui fait déborder le vase The drop of water that made the vase overflow
You can’t teach an old dog new tricks2 On n’apprend pas aux vieux singes à faire des grimaces You can’t teach old monkeys to make faces
Beginner’s Luck Aux innocents les mains pleines Innocents will have full hands
Like shooting fish in a barrel Tirer une vache dans un couloir Like shooting a cow in a corridor
Every rose has its thorn Chaque vin a sa lie Every wine has its dregs
Time will tell Qui vivra verra He who lives will see 
You can’t have your cake and eat it too On ne peut avoir le beurre, l’argent du beurre et le sourire de la crémière You can’t have the butter, money from selling the butter and the smile of the dairy seller
Different strokes for different folks On ne marie pas une poule avec un renard You don’t marry the chicken with the fox
If the shoe fits, wear it Qui se sent morveux, se mouche If you have snots, blow your nose
Birds of a feather flock together Qui se ressemble s’assemble Those who are like each other hang around together
Be as helpless as a babe Se noyer dans un verre d’eau Drown oneself in a glass of water
Eat like a horse Manger comme un ogre  Eat like an ogre 
A little bird told me C’est mon petit doigt qui me l’a dit My little finger told me
Sleep like a baby Dormir comme un loir Sleep like a doormouse
Misery loves company Un malheur ne vient jamais seul A bad event never occurs just once
Throw in the towel Donner sa langue au chat Give your tongue to the cat

Jack Torrance - And now for one of my favorite proverbs:

Language Overload!

Language Overload!

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite. Naquit un dimanche ou fête, qui n’aime que besogne faite.

 Ok, I better stop blogging for tonight or you never know what might happen…


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  1. Le Nouveau Roman []
  2. apparently in UK English they say “you can’t teach your grandmother how to suck eggs”, whatever that means!! []

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