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l’habit ne fait pas le moine

The French expression “l’habit ne fait pas le moine” translates literally to “the clothing doesn’t make the monk”. This is a very insightful idiom with the following meaning in English:

  • you can’t judge a book by its cover
  • appearances can be deceiving

Here’s an example sentence:

Cet homme parraît très sympathique et généreux mais en réalité il est égoïste et malheureux. N’oublie pas: l’habit ne fait pas le moine. This man appears to be very nice and generous but in reality he’s selfish and unhappy. Don’t forget: you can’t judge a book by it’s cover.

There are two other expressions for “don’t judge a book by its cover:

  • il ne faut pas se fier aux apparences – Literally: One must not trust appearances
  • les apparences sont souvent trompeuses  – Literally: Appearances can be deceiving

more French expressions

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on his site,, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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