Alongside French charades and popular games, riddles in French are a great way to practice the language while having fun, even if you’re only beginning to learn. Often based on jokes and puns, they may help you revise and expand your vocabulary, especially when it comes to idioms, slang and asking questions – as many French riddles feature the same few question phrases (Qui suis-je …? / Who am I?). With that, here are seven of our favorite French riddles. And to help, we’ve broken them down by the unique question phrases they begin with. Enjoy!
Qui suis-je ?
Qui suis-je ? (who am I?) are riddles in which you are given clues to identify an unknown object, animal or type of person. Here are three such French riddles with their answers.
1. Fun with letters
The following riddle is perfect if you want to test your knowledge of the French alphabet and spelling:
Je commence la nuit, je finis le matin et j’apparais deux fois dans l’année. Qui suis-je ?
Réponse : la lettre N.
English translation: The night starts with me, the morning ends with me, and I appear twice in the year. Who am I?
Answer: The letter N.
The pun only really works in French, due to the different spellings between the two languages. As you may have figured out, N is the first letter of nuit (night), the last letter of matin (morning) and is doubled in année.
2. Playing with letters and words
Like the one above, the following riddle is based on a pun around the French alphabet, but only partly so as it also adds a pun on words in the mix:
Je commence par E, je finis par E et je ne contiens qu’une seule lettre. Qui suis-je ?
Réponse: une enveloppe.
English translation: I start with E, I end with E, and I only contain one letter. Who am I?
Answer: An envelope
Little explanation is needed here, as the pun works in English as well as in French, since the spelling of both words starts and ends with the letter e. And while the words contain more than one letter, the actual object they designate doesn’t!
3. A poetic riddle
More advanced French learners will enjoy this poetic riddle, which requires a greater vocabulary range.
Je suis une petite pierre blanche qui tombe dans une mer noire et qui disparaît dans un tourbillon argenté. Qui suis-je ?
Réponse : un morceau de sucre dans un café
English translation: I’m a tiny rock that falls into a black sea and disappears in a silvery whirlpool. Who am I?
Answer: A sugar cube in a coffee
Quelle est la différence ?
The question quelle est la différence ? (what’s the difference?) introduces another kind of riddle, in which you need to find the difference between two objects, animals or people. The difference is almost always based on a pun.
4. Get the hump
Yes, you may get the hump with this riddle, as it’s based on a pun that doesn’t work in English.
Quelle est la différence entre un chameau et un dromadaire qui travaillent ensemble ?
English translation: What’s the difference between a camel and a dromedary who work together?
Réponse : Le chameau bosse deux fois plus que le dromadaire.
Answer: The camel works twice as much as the dromedary.
The pun is around the word bosse which may have two meanings in English. Une bosse refers to the hump that you can see on the back of a camel or dromedary. But the verb bosser is also a French slang word that means “to work”. So it’s only natural that, with its two humps, a French camel should work twice as much as a French dromedary that has only one hump.
5. A high-flying pun
By an interesting reversal of situation, the riddles introduced by the question quelle est la différence ? may highlight the fact that there’s supposedly no difference between the two mentioned objects, animals or people. Let’s look at one example.
Quelle est la différence entre un voleur et une chauve-souris ?
Réponse : Aucune, ils dorment tous les deux le jour et volent la nuit.
English translation: What’s the difference between a robber and a bat?
Answer: There’s none. They both sleep during the day and fly at night.
The joke here is that the verb voler has two meanings in French: “to fly” and “to rob”. So while the bat flies at night, the robber is busy… robbing.
Quel est le comble ?
The French idiom être le comble can be translated as “to take the cake”. From there, the question quel est le comble ? is a type of riddle in which you’re asked to uncover a paradoxical fact.
6. A lovely pun
In the following riddle, the pun doesn’t come from words with two meanings, but from words that wrongly appear to be connected thematically.
Quel est le comble pour deux abeilles?
Réponse : Partir en lune de miel
English translation: What takes the cake for two bees?
Answer: To go on a honeymoon.
There is of course a connection between bees and honey, but this doesn’t really extend to a honeymoon, hence the contradiction.
7. Wolves in sheep’s clothing
The paradox may also come from elements that have nothing to do with each other or are natural enemies, as in the following example:
Quel est le comble pour un mouton?
Réponse : Avoir une faim de loup
English translation: What takes the cake for a sheep?
Answer: To have a wolf’s hunger
While the literal translation of avoir une faim de loup is indeed “to have a wolf’s hunger”, the idiom actually means “to be starving”. But it would make more sense for a sheep to make a wolf hungry than to be the one feeling hungry.
French riddles made easy
We hope our list of seven riddles gives you some insight into a few popular types of French riddles and how they’re constructed through puns and wordplay. Practicing French with tools like riddles can help you to revise and grow your vocabulary and understanding of French humor and culture.
Anne-Lise is a translator and copywriter working for various industries, such as hospitality and travel, as well as health and well-being. Settled down in London since the end of her university years, she cannot get enough of the exceptional cultural life in the English capital city, starting with theater, be it to see a new West End show or to roll up her sleeves with her amateur drama group. She is also interested in photography, as her Instagram profile shows. She indulges her passion for languages in a translation blog she writes with other linguist friends. Go to her Linkedin page to know more about her background and her professional experience.