30 Famous Bilingual French Quotes

Fun and Interesting Sayings With English Translations

Mixed race boy shouting into speech bubble on chalkboard
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French quotes are a fun and interesting way to learn some French vocabulary. The quotes below are short, famous, and easy to memorize. The quotations are grouped in sections according to their content so that you can find just the right saying to impress your family, friends, and colleagues—French or American—with your command of this Romance language. Each Fench quote is followed by its English translation as well as the person who made the statement.

Right and Wrong

Truth, like beauty, may be in the eye of the beholder, but in French, there are many ways to say that you think—actually know—that you are right and others are wrong.

"Prouver que j'ai raison serait accorder que je puis avoir tort."
Proving that I am right would be admitting that I could be wrong.
- Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais 

"Il n'y a pas de verités moyennes.​"
There are no half-truths.
- Georges Bernanos 

"On n'est point toujours une bête pour l'avoir été quelquefois."
Being a fool sometimes does not make one a fool all the time.
- Denis Diderot 

Thought and Existence

Widely regarded as the father of modern philosophy, René Descartes uttered four famous words—"I think, therefore I am."—which are even briefer in Latin, the language he used to create the dictum: "Cogito, ergo sum." Descartes motivated humans to begin thinking about the meaning of thought and existence, but other French notables also had interesting things to say on the subject.

"Je pense, donc, je suis."
I think, therefore, I am.
René Descartes

"Imaginer c'est choisir."
To imagine is to choose.
- Jean Giono

"Le monde a commencé sans l'homme et il s'achèvera sans lui."
The world began without man and it will end without him.
- Claude Lévi-Strauss 

"La Raison c'est la folie du fort. La raison du moins fort c'est de la folie.​"
Reason is the madness of the strongest. The reason of those less strong is madness.
- Eugène Ionesco 

"Dans une grande âme tout est grand."
In a great mind everything is great.
- Blaise Pascal

Books and Art

As one of the countries that helped usher in the Renaissance centuries ago, France has also produced many thinkers who have commented on great books and great art.

"Le livre est l'opium de l'Occident."
Books are the opium of the West.
- Anatole France

"L'œuvre d'art, c'est une idée qu'on exagère."
A work of art is an idea that someone exaggerates.
- André Gide

"Les livres sont des amis froids et sûrs."
Books are cold and certain friends.
-​ Victor Hugo

"Le monde est un livre dont chaque pas nous ouvre une page."
The world is a book—with each step we open a page. 
- Alphonse de Lamartine

"Un peuple malheureux fait les grands artistes."
An unhappy nation makes great artists.
- Alfred de Musset

"Les chefs-d'œuvre ne sont jamais que des tentatives heureuses."
Masterpieces are never anything else but happy attempts.
- George Sand

"Écrire, c'est une façon de parler sans être interrompu.​"
Writing is a way to talk without being interrupted.
- Jules Renard

Liberty, Equality, Fraternity

"Liberty, equality, fraternity" is the national French motto. The words marked the end of absolute monarchy and the birth of the sovereign nation in 1792, after the French Revolution.

Not surprisingly, many French thinkers have had plenty to say on the subject.

Les Français sont des veaux.
French people are calves.
- Charles de Gaulle

On nous apprend à vivre quand la vie est passée.
They teach us to live when life is past.
- Michel de Montaigne

"La liberté est pour la Science ce que l'air est pour l'animal."
Liberty is to science what air is to animals.
- Henri Poincaré

"Tous pour un, un pour tous."
All for one, one for all. 
-  Alexandre Dumas

"Un homme seul est toujours en mauvaise compagnie."
A lone man is always in poor company.
- Paul Valéry

Miscellaneous Thoughts

Many French sayings don't fit neatly into any single category, but they are thought-provoking, nevertheless.

"Je me sers d'animaux pour instruire les hommes."
I use animals to teach men.
- Jean de La Fontaine 

"La science n'a pas de patrie."
Science has no homeland.
- Louis Pasteur

"Tout commence en mystique et finit en politique."
Everything begins mystically and ends politically.
- Charles Péguy

"Plus l'offenseur m'est cher, je ressens l'injure."
The more dearly I hold the offender, the more strongly I feel the insult.
- Jean Racine

"Être adulte, c'est être seul."
To be an adult is to be alone.
- Jean Rostand

"On ne voit bien qu'avec le coeur."
We see well only with the heart.
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"L'enfer, c'est les autres."
Hell is other people.
- Jean-Paul Sartre

"À vaillant coeur rien d'impossible."
For a valiant heart nothing is impossible.
- Jacques Coeur

"Dis-moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es."
Tell me what you eat and I'll tell you what you are.
- Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

"Va, je ne te hais point."
Go, I don't hate you.
- Pierre Corneille​