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Inspiration On Demand: 25 Famous French Quotes

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Do you know why people love inspirational quotes so much? A quick look at any Instagram feed is enough to be convinced that there’s something universally compelling about them. We print them on T-shirts, display them on our walls or fridges, and even tattoo them on our skin.

I love to learn interesting quotes about a language I’m studying. Not just to memorize them and impress locals (although it can be a neat trick!), but to learn what they tell me about their culture and values. 

This article on famous French quotes aims to give you the same immersive learning experience…”Tell me who you quote, I will tell you who you are.” We’ve gathered for you the best and most famous French quotes about life, love, and much more. Consider it a concentrate of French wisdom. 

P.S.: Be sure to stick with us until the end for a bonus list of some timeless classic quotes from French cinema.

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in French Table of Contents
  1. Quotes About Wisdom
  2. Quotes About Love
  3. Quotes About Time
  4. Quotes About Relationships
  5. Quotes From French Movies
  6. Le Mot De La Fin

1. Quotes About Wisdom

If you’re looking for some French quotes to live by, you may discover something valuable in the wise words of these notorious people from France’s past.

#1

FrenchLa difficulté de réussir ne fait qu’ajouter à la nécessité d’entreprendre.
Literally“It is so hard to succeed that it makes it even more necessary to take action.”
Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais, the author of this quote, is quite the character.

Born in Paris in 1732, he was a writer, playwright, musician, and businessman. He created the Société des Auteurs, the first official organization for the protection of authors and copyright.

When he wasn’t busy managing four careers, he was also working for the King as both a spy and arms dealer. He was instrumental in the American and French revolutions. This man’s life was so full of action and adventures that it probably served as an inspiration for the dramatic stories he’s famous for.

#2

FrenchLa vérité vaut bien qu’on passe quelques années sans la trouver. 
Literally“Truth is more valuable if it takes you a few years to find it.”
This is a quote from Jules Renard, a French writer from the eighteenth century.

#3

FrenchIl faut bonne mémoire après qu’on a menti. 
Literally“A liar should have a good memory.”
This is a quote from the play Le menteur (1644) by Pierre Corneille, one of the most famous playwrights and poets of his generation.

His five-act tragicomedy, Le Cid, is considered his finest work. It’s written entirely in rhyming couplets with alternating masculine and feminine rhymes, as was typical of French dramas at the time.

#4

FrenchQui craint de souffrir, il souffre déjà de ce qu’il craint.
Literally“He who fears suffering is already suffering that which he fears.”
One of the most influential thinkers of his time, the very quotable French writer Jean de la Fontaine was a widely famous poet and fabulist in the seventeenth century.

His most notorious work is Les Fables, a collection of short tales that features animals as characters and illustrates various moral lessons.

#5

FrenchScience sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.
Literally“Science without conscience is nothing but the ruin of the soul.”
This quote by Rabelais from the novel Pantagruel could be considered the beginnings of bioethics, a discipline that tries to reconcile scientific capabilities and their moral acceptability.



A Woman Thinking about the Future of Science

Science sans conscience n’est que ruine de l’âme.

2. Quotes About Love

Are you in love? A hopeless romantic? A poet at heart? Then you’ll certainly appreciate the beauty of these French quotes about love.

#6

FrenchLe cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point.
Literally“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of.”
This is a quote from the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, philosopher, moralist, and theologist Blaise Pascal.

Yes, that’s quite an impressive resume. The man has left such a wealth of insightful research and writings in all of these fields that it’s only fair to give him all due credit.

#7

FrenchUn seul être vous manque et tout est dépeuplé.
Literally“Only one person is missing, and the whole world seems empty.”
This is a quote from Alphonse de Lamartine, a French poet, writer, and politician. Lamartine is considered to be the first Romantic poet.

#8

FrenchLa vie est une fleur dont l’amour est le miel.
Literally“Life is a flower of which love is the honey.”
Here’s a quote from Victor Hugo, a French poet and novelist of the aforementioned Romantic movement.

#9

FrenchAimer sans être aimé, c’est comme allumer une cigarette avec une allumette déjà éteinte.
Literally“To love without being loved is like lighting a cigarette with a matchstick that has gone out.”
This is a quote from George Sand, one of the most prominent writers of the Romantic movement in the nineteenth century.

Don’t be fooled by her pen name, “George”: Aurore Dupin was a woman, and what we would call a feminist in today’s day and age. She was primarily known for the exceptional quality of her writing, but also made a name for herself by wearing male clothes (in a time where it was not exactly socially acceptable) and smoking in public.

You’ve heard this quote a few times if you ever had the chance to watch the excellent Moulin Rouge from Australian director Baz Luhrmann.

#10

FrenchAimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.
Literally“Love doesn’t mean gazing at each other, but looking, together, in the same direction.”
This is a quote from Antoine Marie Jean-Baptiste Roger, comte de Saint-Exupéry, but you may just say Saint-Exupéry.

Internationally, he’s mainly remembered for his novel Le Petit Prince (“The Little Prince”).



A Man Carrying His Girlfriend Near a Waterfall

Le seul vrai langage au monde est un baiser. (Alfred de Musset)
(“The only true language in the world is a kiss.”)

3. Quotes About Time

Time is what binds us to our own mortality. The following French quotes about life express the significance of time, how we use it, and how it affects us. 

#11

FrenchLe temps est un grand maître, dit-on. Le malheur est qu’il tue ses élèves.
Literally“We say that time is a great teacher. It’s too bad that it kills all its students.”
This is a quote from Hector Berlioz, a composer and conductor of the nineteenth century.

#12

FrenchIl y a des gens qui ne savent pas perdre leur temps tout seul. Ils sont le fléau des gens occupés.
Literally“Some people can’t waste time on their own. They’re the bane of the busy ones.”
Louis de Bonald, the author of this quote, was a philosopher and political figure of the nineteenth century. He’s remembered as one of the founders of sociology.

#13

FrenchIl ne faut avoir aucun regret pour le passé, aucun remords pour le présent, et une confiance inébranlable pour l’avenir. 
Literally“You should have no regrets about the past, no remorse about the present, and unwavering confidence in the future.”
This quote is from Jean-Jaurès, a major political figure from the late nineteenth century. Among other accomplishments, he’s one of the main contributors to the 1905 law on the separation of the churches and the state.

This law would then become the backbone of the French concept of laïcité (“secularism”), which is today a crucial part of our national identity.

#14

FrenchCeux qui font mauvais usage de leur temps sont les premiers à se plaindre de sa brièveté.
Literally“Those who make bad use of their time are the first to complain about its brevity.”
This is from Jean de La Bruyère, a French moralist from the seventeenth century.

His most notorious work, Les Caractères, is an essay on the mental traits of individuals and how they interact with each other.

#15

FrenchC’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.
Literally“It’s a shame that there is too little time between when we’re too young and when we’re too old.”
Montesquieu was a political thinker and philosopher born in the late seventeenth century. He’s known for his thoughts on the separation of powers that would later influence the development of Western democracies.


    → Whether you want to complain or philosophize about it, you’ll be glad you stopped by our free vocabulary list on Time, with examples and audio recordings.

A Man Panicking because He’s Late for Work

Ceux qui font mauvais usage de leur temps sont les premiers à se plaindre de sa brièveté.

4. Quotes About Relationships

The following French quotes on friendship and other relationships underline the simple truths and concepts behind one of life’s most crucial elements.

#16

FrenchUn homme seul est toujours en mauvaise compagnie.
Literally“A lone man is always in poor company.”
This is a quote from Paul Valéry, a French poet and philosopher who is best known for his glorious mustache.

#17

FrenchL’enfer, c’est les autres.
Literally“Hell is other people.”
This is one of the most famous quotes from Jean-Paul Sartre, from his play Huis Clos (1943).

Huis Clos tells the story of three damned souls who have just been brought to Hell. As they get acquainted and try to figure out how they ended up there, they realize that there’s no torturer nor medieval devices, and that their punishment is to endure each other for all eternity.

Here is the full quote: 

Alors, c’est ça l’enfer. Je n’aurais jamais cru… Vous vous rappelez : le soufre, le bûcher, le gril… Ah ! Quelle plaisanterie. Pas besoin de gril : l’enfer c’est les autres.
(“So, this is Hell. I would never have thought… Do you remember: the smell of sulfur, the stake, the grill… Ha! What a joke. No need for a grill: Hell is other people.”)

#18

FrenchIl est bon de traiter l’amitié comme les vins et de se méfier des mélanges.
Literally“It’s good to handle friendship like wine and to be wary of mixtures.”
This quote is from Colette, a French author, actress, and journalist born in the late nineteenth century.

#19

FrenchCe qui rend les amitiés indissolubles et double leur charme est un sentiment qui manque à l’amour : la certitude.
Literally“What makes friendships unbreakable and doubles their charm is a feeling that is missing from love: certainty.”
This is a quote from Honoré de Balzac, one of the most prominent writers of the nineteenth century with a huge biography of more than ninety novels.

#20

FrenchL’amitié fait deviner des choses dont on ne parle pas.
Literally“Friendship makes you guess unspoken truths.”
This is a quote from Les Pays Étrangers (1982) by Jean Ethier-Blais, a Canadian writer and professor of French literature.


    → For more insightful quotes on this topic, be sure to visit our list of quotes on Friendship. It’s freely available on FrenchPod101.com.

A Girl Comforting Her Friend, Who’s Crying

L’amitié fait deviner les choses dont on ne parle pas.

5. Quotes From French Movies

To close, let’s look at some famous quotes in French from top movies!

#21

FrenchUne femme sans amour, c’est comme une fleur sans soleil, ça dépérit.
Literally“A woman without love is like a flower without the sun, she will wither.”
Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain (“The Fabulous Destiny of Amélie Poulain”), or Amélie (2001) in the U.S., is a fantastic movie full of memorable quotes, by director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.

With its unique tone and aesthetic, it’s a must-watch, especially if you’re looking for movies to practice your French.

#22

FrenchLes cons ça ose tout. C’est même à ça qu’on les reconnait.
Literally“Fools dare everything. That’s how you recognize them.”
Les tontons flingueurs (“The Gunslingers Uncles”), or Monsieur Gangster in the U.S., is a cult classic crime comedy from 1963 with more witty quotes than I can count.

It was written by Michel Audiard, who’s still considered one of the best dialogue writers in French cinema.

#23

FrenchOn ne peut pas faire l’amour du matin au soir. C’est pour ça qu’on a inventé le travail. 
Literally“You cannot make love all day long. That’s why we’ve invented work.”
This is from the movie L’Homme qui aimait les femmes, or The Man Who Loved Women in the U.S. (1977), by François Truffaut.

François Truffaut was one of the founders of the French New Wave or Nouvelle Vague, a French film movement that rejected traditional filmmaking convention in favor of a more experimental style.

#24

FrenchEt dites-vous bien dans la vie, ne pas reconnaître son talent, c’est favoriser la réussite des médiocres.
Literally“Not acknowledging your talent is to encourage the success of mediocre people.”
This is a quote from Le cave se rebiffe, or The Counterfeiters of Paris in the U.S., by Gilles Grangier, with legendary French actor Jean Gabin.

#25

FrenchMoi, Monsieur, je suis ancien combattant, patron de bistrot et militant socialiste, c’est vous dire si des conneries dans ma vie j’en ai entendu quelques-unes. 
Literally“I, sir, am a war veteran, bartender, and socialist activist. So you can imagine that in my life, I’ve heard my fair share of nonsense.”
This is from Un idiot à Paris (“An Idiot in Paris”), a 1967 movie from Serge Korber.


    → If my movie quotes made you itch for a big-screen experience in France, check out our Movie-Going vocabulary list to come prepared!

Two Women Watching Movies

Time for watching some French movies.

6. Le Mot De La Fin

In this guide, you’ve learned the best quotes from French authors in a variety of categories, from love quotes to quotes about life and time, and even some of the finest lines from classic movies.

Did we forget an amazing French quote you’ve heard about? Don’t hesitate to share it in the comments below!

Going further, FrenchPod101 also has tons of vocabulary lists with audio recordings and free resources to boost your studies and keep your French learning fresh and entertaining. Quotes are even better when you can translate them yourself.

Remember that you can also use our Premium PLUS service, MyTeacher, to get personal one-on-one coaching and practice new words and structures with a private teacher. In addition to providing assignments, personalized exercises, and recorded audio samples just for you, your teacher will review your work and help improve your pronunciation. 

Happy learning on FrenchPod101!

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About the Author: Born and bred in the rainy north of France, Cyril Danon has been bouncing off various jobs before he left everything behind to wander around the wonders of the World. Now, after quenching his wanderlust for the last few years, he’s eager to share his passion for languages.