For members


French phrase of the day: Ne pas vendre la peau de l’ours

Even if you are not a professional bear-hunter, you may still need to talk about selling bearskins in France, metaphorically, of course.

French phrase of the day: Ne pas vendre la peau de l'ours
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Why do I need to know ne pas vendre la peau de l’ours?

Because it’s one of those many French animal expressions that show you’re really mastering the language.

READ ALSO: 15 everyday French expressions inspired by animals

What does it mean?

Ne pas vendre la peau de l’ours translates as ‘not to sell the bearskin’, which sounds like something you wouldn’t need to worry about unless you are a bear hunter.

However it’s really a figurative expression meant to provide useful advice for everyone – no bears needed.

The full proverb goes: il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué, which means ‘you mustn’t sell the bearskin before having killed the bear’.

As you probably have understood, it’s caution against acting prematurely, or giving promises you might not be able keep. 

The idea is that presuming something will happen before it has happened is a bad idea. Don’t throw a victory party before you have actually won, the warning goes.

The English equivalent is ‘don’t count your chickens before they have hatched’.

Use it like this

Allez les gars, le match n’est pas encore terminé ! Ne vendez pas la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué. – Come on guys, the game isn’t over yet! Don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched.

Je pense qu’on s’est bien entendus, mais enfin je ne veux pas vendre la peau de l’ours trop tôt.. Je ne sais pas encore si elle voudra me revoir. – I think we got along well, but hey, I don’t want to count my chickens too soon. I don’t know yet if she wants to see me again.

Cette réforme ne passera pas. Le gouvernement a vendu la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué, et ils en payeront le prix lors de la prochaine élection. – This reform won’t pass. The government celebrated too soon, and they will pay the price in the next election.

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For members


French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

You might do this while gardening or while reading the tabloids.

French Expression of the Day: Découvrir le pot aux roses

Why do I need to know découvrir le pot aux roses?

Because if you enjoy celebrity gossip, then you probably will find good use for this phrase

What does it mean?

Découvrir le pot aux roses – pronounced day-coov-rear le pot-oh rose – literally translates to ‘to discover the pot of roses.’ 

You might use this expression when finding out about some exciting gossip or maybe when discovering what your partner secretly planned for your anniversary, as this phrase in actuality is what you would say when you learn something secret or hidden. 

In English, when discussing secrets, you might say someone has ‘spilled the beans’ or ‘let the cat out of the bag,’ but the French phrase is more about the person who has found out about the hidden item or truth, not the person who told it, as it ‘spill the beans’.

The origins of this French expression are not what you might expect, historically, the phrase has little to do with the flowers.

During the Middle Ages, the verb ‘découvrir’ had the meaning of ‘to lift a lid’ and at the time the phrase ‘pot aux roses’ referred to a small box that wealthy women used to store their perfumes, as well as their makeup. They often used these boxes to keep secrets, letters, or notes that they did not want others to stumble upon.

Use it like this

Pendant l’afterwork, Sarah a raconté à tout le monde les secrets les plus fous sur la vie privée du patron. Je ne comprends pas comment elle a réussi à découvrir le pot aux roses. – During the work happy hour, Sarah told us all about the wildest secrets of our boss’ personal life. I don’t understand how she managed to unearth that gossip.

Il a découvert le pot aux roses lorsqu’il s’est connecté à l’ordinateur de son colocataire pour regarder simplement son mail. – He discovered the secret when he logged onto his roommate’s laptop to just check his email.