The French saying "Avec des si on mettrait Paris en bouteille"

On this page, we are going to teach you all the things you ever wanted to know about the basic proverb “Avec des si on mettrait Paris en bouteille”.

This include a complete explanation of what it mean and how to use it in a dialogue with an audio example. As well as the useful stuff we sprinkled like dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio, synonym and more!

By the way, you can also find more proverbs guides like this one on this page and all our French words guides on this page. Ready to learn? Let’s go!

Table of Contents

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French to English

Audio pronunciation

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?

Definition

“If only I was immortal.” or “If only I could fly.” or even “If only I was smarter than Einstein“. We all tend to say some crazy sentences starting with “If” like these.

Then, the purpose of this proverb is basically to discredits them and reminds us that only (practical/tangible) actions matter. Need a proof? Try to say: “Si seulement je pouvais mettre Paris en bouteille.” (“If only I could put Paris in a bottle“).

Chances are that you can say it, but can you do it?

No.

Because with “Ifs” we could do anything, even putting Paris in a bottle, but it’s only with actions that we can make the world. 

How to use

Let’s imagine you are talking with someone who uses often “If” sentences to make unfounded assumptions.

In this case, you can use “Avec des si on mettrait Paris en bouteille.” to remind this person that only action matter.

You can also add “Attention” (“Be careful“) at the beginning of the sentence if you want to emphasize the warning.

Fun fact

You probably wonder about the origin of this saying, well… it is unclear.

In fact, the most famous theory claims that it’s coming from “Avec des si on mettrait Lutèce en amphore“.

“Lutèce” (Lutecia) being the former name of Paris during the Roman empire. And “Amphore” (Amphora) being the name of antic vases used during this period.

Synonyms

  • Avec des si on refait le monde. (“With ifs we could change the world“)
  • Avec des si on aurait un monde parfait. (“With ifs we would have a perfect world“)
  • Avec des si on mettrait Paris dans sa poche. (“With ifs we could Paris in our pocket“)
  • Si le ciel tombait, il y aurait bien des alouettes de prises. (“If the sky was falling, many birds would get caught.“)
  • (Haïti) Si la mer bouillait, il y aurait bien des poissons de cuits. (“If the sea was boiling, many fishes would get cooked“)
  • * Avec des scies on coupe du bois. (“With saws we can chop woods“)
  • * (Canada) Si les chiens avaient des scies, il n’y aurait plus de poteaux. (“If dogs had saws, there would be no more poles“)

* The French word “Scie” (“Saw” in English) is pronounced exactly like “Si” (“If” in English), adding a pun into the proverb.

Dialogue example

Audio dialogue by French natives

Dialogue audio

Dialogue transcription

” Si seulement j’étais plus grand et plus fort “
” If only I was taller and stronger “
” Avec des si, on mettrait Paris en bouteille. “
” With ifs, one would put Paris in a bottle. “
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