The French proverb "Vouloir c'est pouvoir" revealed

You are in the right place to discover everything you want to know about the basic saying “Vouloir c’est pouvoir”.

To be clear, this includes a detailed guide of what it is and how you can use it in a conversation with an audio example. But that’s not all, we also added useful informations like slow pronunciation audio, dialogue example, literal meaning and more!

By the way, you will also find our others sayings guides on this page and the list of all our French words tutorials on this page. Enjoy!

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French to English translation

Pronunciation example

Slow pronunciation

Normal pronunciation

What does vouloir c'est pouvoir mean?


This is one of the simplest and most popular French sayings, claiming that when we really want something, we can reach it.

This popular proverb expresses the idea that a powerful will is all we need to achieve our goals. That the only barrier between us and our goals is how much we want it.

How to use

This proverb is mostly supposed to be a personal mantra, a guideline to keep you motivated. But you can also use it during a conversation, for example, to motivate a friend or a relative: “N’oublie pas que vouloir c’est pouvoir” (“Don’t forget that to want is to be able“) or “N’abandonne pas, vouloir c’est pouvoir” (“Don’t give up, to want is to be able“).

Funny stuff

We generally attribute this proverb and the variations below to Napoléon Bonaparte. Even though they became so common that we tend to forget it.

Synonyms and similarities

  • Quand on veut, on peut. (“When you want, you can“)
  • Quand on veut on peut, quand on peut on doit. (“When you want you can, when you can you must“)
  • Quand on veut constamment, fermement, on réussit toujours. (“When you want constantly, firmly, you always succeed“)

Example in a story with translation

Now, let’s see a complete example of this idiom in a story with slow French audio and the English translation below.
Pourquoi est-elle en colère ?
Why is she mad?
Olivia:   C’est très étrange…
It’s very weird…
Théo:   Quoi ?
Olivia:   Mon amie Emily ne répond pas à mes appels…
My friend Emily doesn’t answer my calls…
Théo:   Peut-être qu’elle est occupée ?
Maybe she’s busy?
Olivia:   J’ai appelé au moins dix fois pendant les trois derniers jours…
I have called at least ten times in the last three days…
Théo:   Peut-être qu’elle n’est pas en ville ?
Maybe she’s not in town?
Olivia:   Non, la dernière fois que nous avons parlé, elle a dit qu’elle serait en ville ce mois-ci.
No, the last time we spoke she said she would be in town this month.
Théo:   Tu penses qu’elle t’évite ?
Do you think she’s avoiding you?
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