C’est La Vie: Meaning, Translation & Songs

Ah, c’est la vie, a phrase that’s made its way into popular songs, movies, and cultures around the world. Despite the fact that it comes from the French language, English speakers also use c’est la vie. Keep reading to find out the real meaning of c’est la vie as well as a list of top songs using this popular French expression.

C’est La Vie Meaning

In English, the translation of c’est la vie is “that’s life” or “such is life.” But whether you say it in English or French, you pronounce the expression “say-la-VEE.” 

While the exact origin of the expression is a mystery, c’est la vie comes from the idea that there are certain moments in life that seem destined to happen and are thus inevitable. When I first moved to France I had a few little mishaps while I adjusted to French culture.

For example, in the United States it’s common for grocery stores and drug stores to be open 24/7, but in France that is not the case. Most grocery stores and pharmacies in France close around 8 or 9pm. And some pharmacies will even close during lunchtime.

There were many times when I first moved to France where I found myself forgetting this cultural difference and I would arrive at the store and find it closed. This is one of many moments where I’d have to tell myself “c’est la vie.” 

How to Use C’est La Vie in French vs. English

Interestingly, the phrase c’est la vie has been used in English since the 1880s. English speakers will often use it in a similar context as the one I mentioned above.

But here are a few ways to use c’est la vie in a sentence in both French and English:

Despite trying to get a few different jobs in Paris, it seemed no one was hiring. C’est la vie. 

The old dive bar in my town turned into an indoor cycling studio. Well, c’est la vie. 

On ne peut pas toujours gagner. C’est la vie. 

Meaning: We can’t always win. That’s life. 

Ma voiture ne marche plus. Je suis embêté, mais malheureusement c’est la vie. 

Meaning: My car doesn’t work anymore. I am upset, but unfortunately, that’s life. 

It’s interesting to note that the use of “c’est la vie” in both English and French is usually in a more negative context. You’ll usually use it to make yourself or someone else feel better about something bad happening by saying that life is filled with negative moments.

If you’re trying to comment on the positive moments in life, you can say something like “La vie est belle,” or “life is good.”

C’est La Vie Alternatives

But if you’re looking for a few other c’est la vie alternatives, here are some great ones in both French and English:

French:

Ainsi va la vie. 

Meaning: Literally meaning, “life goes that way,” ainsi va la vie can be used to replace phrases like c’est la vie or “that’s life.” 

C’est comme ça.

Meaning: C’est comme ça literally means “it is like that.” But you can use it in contexts where you might say “that’s the way it is.” 

Que voulez-vous !

Meaning: When posed as a question, que voulez-vous means “what do you want?” But when used as an exclamation or mid-sentence it means “what can I do?” or “such is life.” 

English: 

That’s the way the cookie crumbles. 

What will be will be. 

Que sera sera. (Another example of English taking a phrase from another language, but this time it’s Italian!) 

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Famous French C’est La Vie quotes

C‘est la vie isn’t just used in day-to-day life in France, it’s also in a few famous quotes.

Rêver, c’est le bonheur ; attendre, c’est la vie.” – Victor Hugo (Artist, Poet, Author)

Meaning: To dream, that is happiness, to wait, that is life.

La vie, c’est Paris ! Paris, c’est la vie !” – Marie Bashkirtseff (Artist, Painter, and Sculptor)

Meaning: Life, that’s Paris! Paris, that’s life! 

Une maison sans chat, c’est la vie sans soleil.” – Therese Burson (Author) 

Meaning: A house without a cat, that’s life without the sun. (This was one of Julia Child’s favorite phrases.) 

C’est La Vie Songs

With a phrase as popular as c’est la vie, it’s no surprise you can find it throughout pop culture. From songs to book titles to movies, you’ve probably seen the phrase c’est la vie in more than one place. 

There are actually a few different songs titled C’est La Vie. In the English-speaking world, the most famous is probably C’est La Vie by Irish girl group B*Witched

But there’s also the ‘80s favorite C’est La Vie by Robbie McNeil.

Another English language song is actually by an Austrian singer and is C’est La Vie by Zoë Straub.

And finally, for all of my French and Arabic speakers, there is the most famous C’est La Vie song of them all: C’est La Vie by Algerian raï singer Khaled. With over 334 million views on YouTube, C’est La Vie by Khaled went on to rank as the top 5 songs in Belgium, France, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia. 

You’ll also find a French film called C’est La Vie as well as a famous English book called C’est La Vie: The French Art of Letting Go

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