The French saying "Bon à tout bon à rien" explained

Get ready to discover all the things you need to know about the basic proverb “Bon à tout bon à rien”.

This include a full explanation of what it is and how you can use it in a dialogue with an audio example. Along with the useful stuff we sprinkled like dialogue example, slow pronunciation audio, synonyms and more!

Oh and you can find more of these proverbs pages on this page plus the ultimate list of all our French words tutorials on this page. Ready to learn? Let’s go!

Table of Contents

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Translation in English

How to pronounce it

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean exactly?

Definition

This is a two parts proverb: “Bon à tout” means “Good at everything” and “Bon à rien” means “Good at nothing“. Sounds like a paradox, right?

Well, yes, and that’s why it is so interesting.

In fact, the whole interest of this proverb comes from the human dilemma of choosing specialization vs. choosing diversification. We tend to think that with dedication it is possible to become very good at everything, but most of the time this is just an illusion.

If we want to achieve greatness and excellence, we have to restrict our focus on a very limited amount of activities/topics.

How to use it

That’s why this proverb is such a powerful reminder, saying more or less: “If you think you are good at everything, then you are certainly not mastering any of those things. But that’s ok, nobody does.

Then, you can keep this words of wisdom in mind as a reminder to not spread yourself too thin.

But you can also use it during a conversation, for example: with someone talking about running many projects simultaneously. Or with someone who brags about being a master in many things/everything.

In both cases, the answer is simple: “Bon à tout, bon à rien“. You can also add “Attention” before to say “Be careful“.

Synonyms

Generally, we use the masculine gender, which is also used when the gender is undefined. But if you are talking about a woman, the feminine gender would be: “Bonne à tout, bonne à rien“.

Dialogue example with audio

Audio dialogue by French natives

Dialogue audio

Dialogue transcription

” Cette personne sait tout faire “
” This person can do everything “
” Oui mais… bon à tout, bon à rien ! “
” Yes but… good at everything, good at nothing. “
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