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"Faute de grives, on mange des merles."

Translation:Beggars can't be choosers.

December 19, 2013



"For lack of thrushes, one eats blackbirds."


Man this comment is like my own personal lingot farm.


Like Jagger said: "You can't always get what you want. You get what you need!" Yeah! I'm singing and typing at the same time :)


It's the "Da Lingot Code"


Have another one for that, that's the abundance way of thinking!


And for lack of blackbirds, one could eat snails.


Except you'd need some garlic too, and the edible ones are expensive... :-)


i was smiling until I read your comment. That bought out the laugh. You earnt my Lingot and I will bring the wine!.


How does "faute" become "for lack of"?


"faute" is from the same family as "défaut" (default) in this case, so it means "in the absence of".

"faute de mieux" is also used to mean for lack of anything better


very similar, if it helps you and you know spanish, to 'A falta' (a falta de pan buenas son las tortas por ejemplo) . the comparison with spanish helps me a lot in this sort of tricky 'sayings' :)


'faute de' is itself an idiom meaning 'for lack of'


However, when I hovered the mouse over the word, it says "sin/am sinning". Why doesn't it show "in lack of"?


That threw me off also. I was thinking "For the sins of the thrush we eat the blackbird", being the "sins of the father fall on the son" meaning some bird was bad, so we'll eat any bird.


i'm a begginer in french, but I see the relation between the two words cause 'sins' or mistakes (miss take) sometimes have synonymous that means 'lack of', 'miss'. In portuguese, for example, mistakes are sometimes said as 'faltas', which means lack of, and it reminds me of 'fault' (guilt). not sure if I explained it well.


Thank-you so much. Your translation makes this expression easier to remember!


Yes! I think they added your translation (which helps) but neglected the "for" at the beginning (which just made it even more confusing for me).


It is a literal translation, but not a good one. An English speaker would not understand it; rather "beggars can't be choosers" translates the sense of the phrase.


In portuguese we say something like 'who doesnt have a dog hunts with a cat!'


good luck with that, lol


que tal: cavalo dado não se olha os dentes.


What is it in Portuguese?


Can anyone explain this idiom? I don't understand how it translates to beggars can't be choosers.


The French basically means that when you can't have one thing, you have to be satisfied with less interesting things. Trushes are the top choice, while blackbirds are not that good.


You're right they taste terrible unless you cook them properly. The best recipe is to put them in a pot of boiling water together with a brick - when the brick is cooked throw away the blackbird and eat the brick.


et maintenant, en francais, s'il vous plait ;) for a lingot!


I can't ignore a challenge, can I? "Vous avez raison qu'ils goûtent mauvais, sauf si vous les faites cuire correctement. La meilleure recette est de les mettre dans une casserole d'eau bouillante avec une brique - lorsque la brique est cuit, vous jetez le merle et mangez de la brique."


"Goûter bon/mauvais" is Belgian. French say: ils ont bon/mauvais goût.

lorsque la brique est cuite


there you go, i gave you my precious lingot, although you are not the first one to translate 'your' recipe, see below @ MrHarard :)


Une lingot pour vous monsieur!


Hah! This is one to remember. Thanks. A first attempt to translate: Tu as raison. Les merles ont goûtent terrible, à moins que tu les cuis comme il faut. La meilleure recette est de les mettre dans une marmite d’eau bouillante avec une brique. Quand le brique est cuite, tu jetes le merle et manges la brique.

To complicate the issue, blackbirds are a species of thrush. Go figure.

Even further off the linguistic chart (sorry), I couldn't resist this Elizabethan recipe for blackbirds: "To bake Woodcocks, Black-birds Sparrows or Larks: Truss and parboil them, then season them with Pepper and Salt, and put them into a Pie with good store of Butter, and so bake them, then fill them up with Butter."

I promise to stick to language issues henceforth (but thanks for the laugh).


Pas très bien pour le régime avec toute cette beurre!

I go with your translation with these changes ... Les merles ont un goût terrible, à moins que tu ne les cuises ...

You haven't met the subjunctive and the "ne explétif" yet - it comes up later in the course - ha ha! you're in for fun. I suggest reading up the grammar rules and conjugations first http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/subjunctive.htm and http://french.about.com/od/grammar/a/negation_form_2.htm.

As for the brique, I go with the feminine. As for the joke - I'll try it on our French friends and see if they like it as much as we do! And laughter does help learning :-)


tout ce beurre

j'aime le beurre


Thank you - I often forget butter is masculine - hopefully I'll remember now!


Many thanks for the links and the translation corrections (including the brick of confused gender—oops!). I vaguely remember the subjunctive from past teachings (including my teacher repeating endlessly "It's not a tense but a mood). I remember it as being frustrating -- and I'm sure I will again!

Encore, merci pour l'aide! (Et malheureusement, j'aime la beurre comme un élizabéthain!)


Yes, pie is a good way to bake blackbirds, especially twenty-four in one.


Hee hee! Same recipe as for the galah (le cacatoès rosalbin) then! Thank you, that made my morning!


I remember the galah recipe as, "cook the galah in a pot with a stone. When the stone is soft, the galah is ready." I guess throwing out the bird and eating the stone is the next progression.


I love that story!


However, blackbirds had to suffice for the King of England: "Sing a song of sixpence, A pocket full of rye. Four and twenty blackbirds, Baked in a pie." 'Sing a song of sixpence' is an English nursery rhyme...I wonder whether there's any connection between this and the French idiom?


The only hint given for "faute" is sin - what's a better translation?


"une faute" is a mistake, an error or a sin.

"faute de" is an expression meaning "for lack of"


Another (loose translation): "Half a loaf is better than none."


No, it really isn't.


Make do with what you have. If you are hungry and someone gives you bread, don't complain; just eat it and be happy.


For me, Alphabeta explained it well I think: "For lack of thrushes, one eats blackbirds." Hope this helps.


As a vegetarian Hindu, I feel like someone is trying to convert me - first the "on ne vit qu'une fois" and now comparison of bird meat. Hmmm!

I kid, I kid, of course. :)


Why is it "Faute de grives" and not "Faute des grives"?


"de grives" is about "grives" in general... "des grives" would be about specific "grives".


Hi "Buddhafly" (interesting name!) thanks for the reply, I'm not sure that I fully understand but what you say does appear to make sense. I hope that things will become clearer as I progress. Have a happy Christmas and a have a lingot on me. Rob


it appears that "faute de" is one form of an expression also.


Thanks for your reply, can you expand on that for me? I haven't been able to find anything along those lines. Have you seen this explained anywhere?


Some thrushes = des grives but a quantity followed by a noun uses "de", e.g. beaucoup de grives, une centaine de grives, pas de grives, faute de grives.


"faute de" = for lack of



Here are some very descriptive explanation. Just let google translate into Eng site


In Russia we would say 'за неимением гербовой, пишут на простой' which means "who doesn't have a stamped paper writes on ordinary one".


"Make do with what you have" should be accepted.


"Don't complain about what you are given" is closer.


Except that is not the equivalent idiom but their common meaning.


who eats blackbirds anyways??? and what are "thrushes" ...?


Actually the American Robin is a thrush (It is not of the same family as the European Robin which is much smaller and looks nothing alike).


Well, they both have red breasts, which is how the American one got its name. But yes, they are very different; even the red breasts are about as different as red breasts could be (different shades of red in different spots on the breast).


Thrushes are also small birds. Like a wood thrush, or a meadow thrush. Apparently, they used to be quite the delicacy.


And they have the most lovely songs...that's why they rank higher than blackbirds!


Em português uma expressão similar seria: "Quem não tem cão, caça com gato."


The proverb in hungarian is very similar: if there is no horse, a donkey is good too


I'm also Hungarian learning French and English. So I must ask: is this translation correct? Shouldn't it be "If there are no horses, a donkey will do."? Or both of them are right?


rzsstef's phrase is more casual. yours is more formal, but both are right. It is merely a difference in stylistic choice.


Do people in France eat birds?


Hee hee! I don't think they do, at least not anymore (except poultry), but I'll ask some of the older folk when I see them.


Est-ce que vous mangez du poulet ? Du canard ?


Oui, du poulet, du canard, de la dinde, de la pintade, du faisan, des grives, des perdrix, des cailles...


... mais des merles ?


Four and twenty blackbirds, baked in a pie


Yes, the French do eat garden birds! I asked my neighbours' kids in Normandy and they thought I was mad. So then I asked a middle-aged neighbour and she said, yes, both thrushes and blackbirds are very good and so are woodcocks (bécasses). Hunters catch them and they are still eaten even to this day.


I was thinking about that rhyme last night. I wonder if Brits ate blackbirds at some stage. I also wonder what thrushes taste like. Must be good it the French like them! All the other birds Sitesurf mentioned are very tasty indeed.


It is one of the reasons that there are more songbirds in the Americas than in Europe. During times of famine the people could eat wild birds when there was nothing else so those easily caught became extinct (unless they were domesticated). After Europeans settled America we started getting some extinctions. But hunting hasn't gone on for millennia so hopefully we can change this. I can't believe all the hoopla about pet cats catching birds. They haven't done near the damage as people.


What is de la dinde, de la pintade, du faisan, des grives, des perdrix et des cailles? how did you learnt these verbs? I don't think they are found in the Duolingo vocabularies..


They are nouns, and are a bit too specific for Duolingo. I only knew poulet, canard, dinde, grive and merle before this, having encountered them elsewhere. Dinde = turkey; pintade = guineafowl; faisan = pheasant; grive = (song) thrush; perdix = partridge; caille = quail.


That's a good student, caring to search info from other sources! Well done.


Sure, some of them. Edible ones only.


Tout est relatif, et cela seul est absolu.


I take it you mean songbirds, since many countries eat game and poultry. The answer is yes -- though it's by no means common these days. The most famous (or notorious) is the Ortolan [ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ortolan_Bunting ].


That's interesting! Though it sounds like that's now prohibited since it's a protected species.

Incidently, I found recipes for blackbirds online http://www.cuisinez-corse.com/recette-du-merle-aux-herbes-et-aux-olives/ note: le merle Corse fait partie des gibiers qui sont excellents à la dégustation

and for thrushes http://cuisine.notrefamille.com/recettes-cuisine/recette-grive-_393-ingredient.html which also mentions thrushes are espèces proches du merle noir as already pointed out by MrHazard.

So I guess people are still eating them!


Unfortunately, despite the legal restrictions, it's still a big problem -- see e.g. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/09/ortolan-bunting-slaughter-ignored-france . Not just in France, though: this goes on in many countries around the Mediterranean, particularly Egypt ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/nature-up/2013/jul/19/jonathan-franzen-egypt-migratory-bird ).


I believe it's illegal to eat grives, merles etc as well as ortolans. I have a Corsican recipe book that includes recipes for these, but with a disclaimer at the top of the page saying 'You should be aware that the eating of (bird) is currently prohibited in France'!


Thanks for sharing this - had no idea.


They certainly do. A French hunter friend shared a number of freshly shot "perdix" (partridges) and faisans (pheasants) with us. We all, kids and adults, sat down on the kitchen floor and plucked them. Quite the messy business, but a fantastic meal! Bécasse (woodcocks) are also very popular. You also see pheasants and other wild birds hanging on hooks at markets in big cities as well as at country markets.


Absolutely, we were staying in rural France on the weekend of the "pigeon shoot", it was pretty unattractive!


I ask some french guys and they say, it is an old expression and they don't use it much


Half a loaf is better than no bread. - my English equivalent was fine :(


This is now accepted. Thanks!


Spanish native speaker here. I dont even know what trushes or blackbirds are, is it really bird eating we are talking about or is it just the idiom?


Bird eating. Yum!


We're not really talking about eating birds. The idiom means that if you don't have what you want (eg. thrushes to eat) you have to make do with what is available (blackbirds)


In Czech, we have a proverb which says "Dont look at teeth of the horse which was given to you."


In French: "à cheval donné, on ne regarde pas les dents".


In English: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."


A definition for "Faute de" really should be added as "For lack of/For want of".


Is there a French version to this? "In der Not frisst der Teufel Fliegen" (German) "When in need the devil will eat flies."


Apparently, there is this: "À bon goût et faim il n'y a mauvais pain", which is much rarer than and not as close in sense as "faute de grives, on mange des merles".

Literal translation: "For/to good taste and hunger, there is no bad bread".


Great expression, thanks!


this says literally: "sin of the thrush, we eat of the blackbirds"!!!!!


Or in this case: In lack of thrush, one eats blackbirds. Faute de=lack of


Beggars = Homeless?


Beggars are those who make a living by begging for money on the streets; homeless are those with no long-term place to live. Beggars are often homeless, and homeless are often beggars, but they're not the same thing.


Apparently "Beggars can't be choosers" is accepted, but "Beggars can't be choosy" is not... I'm not from an english-speaking country, but I thought the latter was the most common?


I've never heard it with "choosy," only ever "choosers"


Same. Maybe "choosers" is an American thing?


I've only heard the former here in Australia. Where are you from?


I stared at it for a bit to make it out and put "for want of thrushes, we eat blackbirds". I thought that sounded quite pleasing and was quite proud of myself. I felt less happy when Duo marked it wrong. it really doesn't like you being poetic does it? I'll report it anyway in case anyone else is of a similar bent.


Would it be "des grives" rather than "de grives"?


I get whay they're doing but actual translations would be a nice cultural insight. Just the kind of thing bonus units are good for.


I thought merles were robins (makes sense as they're smaller)


Some of these idioms are completely different to what I'd expect. Caught me by surprise.


I would love to hear how french students learning english would translate "Beggars can't be chooses", have a feeling it wouldn't be "Faute de grives, on mange des merles"!!


It is though, most of the time.


Don't you think that if a French student learning English was given the idiom "Beggars can't be choosers" they would consider the possibility of "Les mendiants ne peuvent pas etre ceux qui choisissent" - I've probably got my French wrong but I'm hoping you've got the gist of what I am wanting to say. Meant to also say that I'm loving this exercise on idioms and the comments by so many people discussing idioms from their own languages - what a wonderful world we could live in. Je suis Charlie!


I have seen lots of proposals for this sentence in the reverse course. Most French speakers find "faute de grives..." because it is a common saying. A few others pick a literal translation, like: "les mendiants ne choisissent pas" or "les mendiants ne peuvent pas choisir".


HOW? is one translated into another


The translation is based on the general sense of the idiom, rather than the literal words.


they should stick to literal ... and then one can make the general sense of it


Perhaps an alternate format for learning idioms would be more helpful and less confusing.


I like your suggestion. A separate testing place for idioms.


When I hover over faute is says sin, is this the right translation? Does Faute also mean sin?



  • une faute = a mistake
  • une erreur = an error
  • un péché = a sin

"faute de" is a phrase meaning "for lack of".


Thank you, must be an error with the translation.


I heard "any port in a storm" sometimes..what do you native speakers say?


Can "defaut" be used instead of faut here?


Lacking thrushes is graded as wrong but means the same as lack of thrushes, why?


The Larousse dictionary http://www.larousse.com/en/dictionaries/french-english and the PONS dictionary can be helpful to compare different French idioms.


Auch, taking this mini idoms course for the 3. time, 'cause you have to know the things before you even have been introduced to them.. loosing hearts as loosing my temper :p


What are trushes duo told me it was "for lack of trushes we eat blackbirds" can anybody help? :'(


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrush_%28bird%29 Its a type of bird. I'm assuming they are good to eat, and blackbirds are less so.


Duo has 'trushes' which is incorrect. The word is 'thrushes'.


"Lacking thrushes, we eat blackbirds", should be perfectly acceptable.


Ridiculous! How does "lack of thrushes, we eat some blackbirds," equate to "beggars can't be choosers?" I'm so lost in these idiom/proverb translations!


yea I would like to see the literal meaning as well


What sense does one make of the expression "A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes?"


"un tiens vaut mieux que deux tu l'auras" = be happy with what you can get now, for you don't know what you will get in the future (maybe nothing at all).


Thanks for the French version of the proverb, Sitesurf, even if it doesn't speak of birds.


there is another one with birds in En and no birds in French:

one shot, two birds = faire d'une pierre deux coups (one stone, two hits)


Thanks again! In the US this one, of course, includes the verb "kill" (but with a stone, not a bullet).


In Portuguese, we had a saying like: "who doesn't have a dog hunts with a cat".


Hey, Buddy! Your cat just caught my last thrush. Now there's nothing to eat but some damned blackbirds. Thanks for nothing!


For a non-native English speaker, this is pure guesswork. "If the the thrush fails, you eat blackbirds" was what I could manage. It seems like some of these idioms are explained, but not all.


French is so confusing. How hoes this translate to beggars can't be choosers?


Idioms and proverbs are difficult by nature and rarely translate word for word, that is the very principle of these sayings.


Jesus Christ, it's, "Beggars can't be choosers," and now I feel dumb


"lack of thrashes, one eats blackbirds." = beggars can't be choosers." ...... brain explodes in frustration


I don't entirely understand how you get "Beggars cant be choosers." from "For lack of thrushes, one eats blackbirds." The literal translation seems rather far off from the meaning...?


There's no way this translates literally to "beggers can't be choosers". What exactly does this actually say? Like a literal translation?


Can't you read the first comment on this page? Or the comment just before yours? Or the one just above the latter?


How is anyone to know this the first time through?!?

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