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55 Inspirational French Quotes About Life, Love, and Happiness

For as long as I can remember, I have been drawn to France—the language, the food, the culture. I started studying the French language when I was just eleven and in the sixth grade. I just love it  — it is the language of love, after all! It’s also a romantic language, meaning it is derived from Latin.

I went on to major in French in college (fun fact!) and have always loved the language and the deeper meaning behind their way of life. Some of my favorite inspirational quotes come from French authors, a French poet, and French novelists, which makes sense because I’m a writer!

Here are some of the best French quotes about life, love, and happiness that I think we can all relate to. You’ll also see the English translations below – just in case you’re not familiar with French! They’re not all a literal translation, so it’s important to keep that in mind. Not all French sayings have an English equivalent. French thinkers and the French way of life offers us many beautiful quotes that you’ll turn to again and again. 

55 French Quotes About Life, Love, and Happiness

55 Inspirational French Quotes About Life, Love, and Happiness

1. “Il n’y a qu’un bonheur dans la vie, c’est d’aimer et d’être aimé.” – George Sand

There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.

I love this quote because it gets to the heart (excuse the pun) of what is so important about humankind: the capacity to love. What I also love about this quote is that the person who said it is George Sand, AKA Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, a FEMALE novelist, memoirist, journalist from the 19th century who was known for pushing the limits of gender roles and cultural norms.

2. “Le plus grand faible des hommes, c’est l’amour qu’ils ont de la vie.” – Molière

Man’s greatest weakness is his love for life.

3. “C’est cela l’amour, tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour.” – Albert Camus

That is love, to give away everything, to sacrifice everything, without the slightest desire to get anything in return.

4. “L’amour est une passion qui ne se soumet à rien, et à qui au contraire, toutes choses se soumettent.” – Madeleine de Scudéry

Love is a passion which surrenders to nothing, but to the contrary, everything surrenders to love.

You’ll notice that many of these quote and proverbs are about love…I think love and French living are synonymous with one another.

5. “Le prix d’Amour, c’est seulement Amour… Il faut aimer si l’on veut être aimé…” – Honoré d’Urfé

The price of love is love itself. One must love if one wants to be loved…

We must be brave, and love freely even if it means it may not be returned.

6. “Il n’est rien de réel que le rêve et l’amour.” – Anna de Noailles

Nothing is real but dreams and love.

7. “L’amour fait les plus grandes douceurs et les plus sensibles infortunes de la vie.” -Madeleine de Scudéry

Love makes life’s sweetest pleasures and worst misfortunes.

8. “Aimer et être aimé sera la grande affaire de toute notre vie.” – Rousseau

To love and be loved will be the greatest event in our lives.

9. “L’amour est le miracle de la civilisation.”- Marie-Henri Beyle

Love is the miracle of civilization.

10. “L’amour est l’étoffe de la nature que l’imagination a brodée.” -Voltaire

Love is the cloth which imagination embroiders.

11. “Vivre sans aimer n’est pas proprement vivre.” – Molière

To live without loving is to not really live.

Fitting for the language of love!

12. “Je me suis souvent repenti d’avoir parlé, mais jamais de m’être tu.” – Philippe de Commynes

I have often repented for speaking, but never for staying silent.

We’ve learned over and over again the importance of speaking up and speaking out, and I like to think this quote echoes those learnings.

13. “Nous promettons selon nos espérances, et nous tenons selon nos craintes.” – François de La Rochefoucauld

We promise according to our hopes; we fulfill according to our fears.

I like this quote because it reminds me about the one in English we say, “never make decisions when you’re angry, never make a promise when you’re happy.”

14. “Il faut vivre comme on pense, sans quoi l’on finira par penser comme on a vécu…” – Paul Bourget

You have to live the way you think, otherwise you’ll end up thinking the way you lived.

15. “Rien ne pèse tant qu’un secret.”- Jean de La Fontaine

Nothing weighs more than a secret.

16. “Qui se couche avec les chiens se lève avec des puces.” – French proverb

He who sleeps with dogs gets up with fleas.

art beautiful old town of Provence

17. “Quand le vin est tiré, il faut le boire.” – French proverb

When the wine is drawn, it must be drunk.

What do the French say? Oh, right, “c’est la vie.”

18. “Si vous êtes triste, ajoutez plus de rouge à lèvres et attaquez.” – Coco Chanel

If you are sad, add more lipstick and attack.

I feel this. When I want to cheer myself up, or change my mindset, I often make more of an effort to dress up and look nice…kind of a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of thing.

19. “Prouver que j’ai raison serait accorder que je puis avoir tort.” – Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais

Proving that I am right would be admitting that I could be wrong.

20. “Il n’y a pas de verités moyennes.​”- Georges Bernanos

There are no half-truths.’

I think it must be all-lie or all-true. There is no in-between.

21. “On n’est point toujours une bête pour l’avoir été quelquefois.”- Denis Diderot

Being a fool sometimes does not make one a fool all the time.

22. “Je pense, donc, je suis.”- René Descartes

I think, therefore, I am.

We all know this famous quote by French philosopher and mathematician.

23. “Le monde a commencé sans l’homme et il s’achèvera sans lui.”- Claude Lévi-Strauss

The world began without man and it will end without him.

24. “Imaginer c’est choisir.”- Jean Giono

To imagine is to choose.

25. “La Raison c’est la folie du plus fort. La raison du moins fort c’est de la folie.​” – Eugène Ionesco

Reason is the madness of the strongest. The reason of those less strong is madness.

26. “Dans une grande âme tout est grand.”- Blaise Pascal

In a great mind everything is great.

27. “L’œuvre d’art, c’est une idée qu’on exagère.”- André Gide

A work of art is an idea that someone exaggerates.

28. “Écrire, c’est une façon de parler sans être interrompu.​” – Jules Renard

Writing is a way to talk without being interrupted.

29. “Les livres sont des amis froids et sûrs.” – Victor Hugo

Books are cold and certain friends.

30. “Le monde est un livre dont chaque pas nous ouvre une page.”- Alphonse de Lamartine

The world is a book—with each step we open a page. 

31. “Plus l’offenseur m’est cher, plus je ressens l’injure.”- Jean Racine

The more dearly I hold the offender, the more strongly I feel the insult.

32. “On ne voit bien qu’avec le coeur.”- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

We see well only with the heart.

33. “Aimer, ce n’est pas se regarder l’un l’autre, c’est regarder ensemble dans la même direction.” – Antoine de St Exupéry

Loving is not looking at each other, it is looking together in the same direction.

34. “Dans la vie on ne fait pas ce que l’on veut mais on est responsable de ce que l’on est.”

– Jean-Paul Sartre.

In life you don’t do what you want but you are responsible for what you are.

35. “Un sourire coûte moins cher que l’électricité, mais donne autant de lumière.” – L’abbé Pierre

A smile costs less than electricity, but gives as much light.

36. “Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.” – French proverb

Little by little, the bird makes its nest.

37. “L’avenir est entre les mains de ceux qui explorent.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The future is in the hands of those who explore.

38. “Je veux, je peux.” – Maryse Bastié

I want, I can.

Maryse Bastié was a female pilot born in 1898, who pushed the limits and blew past boundaries. I think we should lean into this motto!

39. “Le monde de la réalité a ses limites; le monde de l’imagination est sans frontières.” – Jean-Jacques Rousseau

The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless.

I love this — as a writer, this ones means a lot!  For example, I know there are seven story archetypes (nothing is ever new!) but the way you put them together and let them unravel are endless.

 

40. “Le style découle de ce qui nous nous nourrit tous les jours.” – Caroline de Maigret

Style comes from what nourishes us every day.

41. “Qui vivra verra.” – French proverb

They who live shall see.

We learn the most by living life, expanding our horizons, and seeing what is ahead of us.

42. “Dans la vie, rien n’est à craindre, tout est à comprendre.” – Marie Curie

Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

What a science-based way to look at life. And I have to agree, when we understand things, we often fear them less.

43. “L’amour, c’est l’espace et le temps rendus sensibles au Coeur.” – Marcel Proust

Love is space and time measured by the heart.

Proust is a  well-known French novelist who blows me away time and time again.

44. “L’habit ne fait pas le moine.” – French proverb

The outfit doesn’t make the monk.

So, don’t judge a book (or a monk) by the cover.

45. “Mieux vaut tard que jamais.” – French proverb

Late is worth more than never.

“Better late than never…”Or, in Queen Clarice’s words, “A queen is never late. Everyone else is merely early.”

46. “Mieux vaut être seul que mal accompagné.” – French proverb

 Better alone than in a bad company.

As an introvert, I relate to this very deeply.

47. “Après la pluie, le beau temps.” – French proverb

After the rain, good weather.

Andddd we can’t have a rainbow without the rain! 

48. “Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup.” – French proverb

Eat well, laugh often, love a lot.

The French “Live, laugh, love!”

49. “S’occuper de ses oignons.” – French proverb

 To take care of your own onions.

This feels like a very French way to say “mind your own business.”

50. “La vie est trop courte pour boire du mauvais vin.” – French proverb

Life is too short to drink bad wine.

I love this one! I usually say “life’s too short to finish reading a bad book.”

51. “Chacun voit midi à sa porte.” -French proverb

Everyone sees noon at his own door.

I have never heard of anything like this, but the meaning is more about how people are more focused on their own personal interests, and that their subjective opinions are objective truths.

52. “On n’est point toujours une bête pour l’avoir été quelquefois.” -Denis Diderot

Being a fool sometimes does not make one a fool all the time.

This is a nice reminder that our small dumb moments don’t “make the man” so to speak.

53. “L’enfer, c’est les autres.” -Jean-Paul Sartre

Hell is other people.

I think this one is self-explanatory…

54. “L’amour est comme le vent, nous ne savons pas d’où il vient.” -Honoré de Balzac

Love is like the wind, we never know where it will come from.

Similar to “you can’t help who you fall in love with!”

55. “On n’est pas sorti de l’auberge !” – French proverb

We’ve not left the hostel!

The French equivalent of “we’re not out of the woods yet.”

So, there you have it my friends. Or, “et, voila, mes amis.” Fifty-five French quotes about life, love, and happiness to think about. Which one is your favorite?

About the Author

Marina Crouse

Marina has a B.A. in French and an MFA in Creative Writing. In her free time she is reading, cooking, traveling, or binge-watching sitcoms on Netflix.

Website: www.marinacrousewrites.com