"Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué"

Get prepared to discover everything you have to know about the basic saying “Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué”.

It includes a detailed definition of what it mean and how to use it in a normal conversation with an audio example. But, we also sprinkled super useful stuff like dialogue example, synonyms, slow pronunciation audio and more!

In addition, you will find our others sayings pages on this page and the list of all our French words tutorials on this page. Wishing you a good learning!

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French to English


Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does it mean?


The literal meaning is:

  • Il ne faut pas → One/We shouldn’t
  • vendre → sell
  • la peau → the skin
  • de l’ours → of the bear
  • avant → before
  • de l’avoir tué → killing it/him

It means you shouldn’t use something before being sure you own it. By extension: you shouldn’t claim victory until you are sure that you have won. Even more broadly: you can’t predict the future and you shouldn’t skip the steps.

This saying comes from the middle ages and became popular a few centuries later thanks to Jean de La Fontaine in “L’Ours et les deux Compagnons.” (Book V – Fable 2, 1668)

How to use it

Imagine someone you know is planning how he/she will spend his/her money after winning the lottery. Then, you can use it as a reminder of not claiming victory too soon: “Il ne faut pas vendre la peau de l’ours avant de l’avoir tué.” (You shouldn’t sell the bearskin before killing it.)


  • Ne crie pas victoire trop vite. → Don’t shout victory too quickly
  • Il ne faut pas mettre la charrue avant les bœufs. → We must not put the cart before the cows

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this proverb in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Le jour de l'examen
The day of the exam
Aujourd’hui, Philippe a un examen très important.
Today, Philippe has a very important exam.
Il doit le réussir pour être accepté dans l’école de ses rêves.
He must succeed to be accepted into the school of his dreams.
Philippe est donc très nerveux…
So Philippe is very nervous…
Il a passé toute la semaine à travailler. Et il a même refusé de voir Emily.
He spent all week working. And he even refused to see Emily.
Elle est donc venue le voir aujourd’hui pour le soutenir…
So she came to see him today to support him…
Philippe arriva au centre d’examen. Puis Emily lui souhaita bonne chance et l’embrassa sur la joue.
Philippe arrived at the exam center. Then Emily wished him good luck and kissed him on the cheek.
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