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Slow And Steady Builds The Nest – A Fun French Expression Posted by on Feb 14, 2018 in Culture, Vocabulary

Sometimes les expressions françaises (French expressions, idioms) leave me scratching my head wondering what exactly a fat morning could mean. Luckily, parfois (sometimes) les expressions françaises immediately make sense without ever needing them explained!

Image from Pixabay. Licensed under CC0.

Most of the time when I hear a strange combination of des mots (some words) like being known like the white wolf, I know it’s une expression I need to learn.

However, I had a fun counterexample to my usual experience récemment (recently). I was working on a big stressful project au travail (at work) and mon collègue (my coworker) must have seen how distraught I looked. To try and cheer me up and not let la stresse get to me, they looked at me and said:

Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid. 
Little by little the bird makes its nest. 

I had never heard l’expression before, but it immediately made sense and la stresse fell away for a moment as I thanked mon collègue for teaching me something new! I still had a ways to go on the project, but the small triumph of understanding une nouvelle expression française made the day much better.

Une fois chez moi (once I was home), I looked up l’expression to find out if there was an equivalent en anglais. The best I could find is the familiar moral of La lièvre et la torture (the Tortoise and the Hare):

Slow and steady wins the race. 

No matter how you say it, it’s a nice phrase to hear when you are feeling overwhelmed. If you ever feel like learning French is impossible or there are too many conjugaisons, just remember:

Petit à petit l’oiseau fait son nid. 

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About the Author: John Bauer

John Bauer is an enthusiast for all things language and travel. He currently lives in France where he's doing his Master's. John came to France four years ago knowing nothing about the language or the country, but through all the mistakes over the years, he's started figuring things out.


  1. Blessed:

    Merci. I really needed a form of encouragement today.

  2. Hillarie:

    Another saying that matches…

    Q. “How do you eat an elephant?”
    A. “One bite at a time”