How to say ‘best’ in French: meilleur vs mieux

There are two ways to say “best” in French: meilleur (or meilleure/meilleurs/meilleures, depending on what it’s modifying) and mieux.

Despite their common translation, these words are used differently and in some cases can also be translated as “better”.

That may not sound like the best news, but fortunately, there’s an easy way to know when to use meilleur(e)(s) and when to use mieux.

Let’s get to know these two words better and learn about their key differences!

What does meilleur mean?

Two men and a woman in bright clothes sit on a white sofa, leaning on each other in a relaxed way. The woman has her head lying on one of the men's laps. They smile at the camera.
Mes meilleurs amis

Meilleur(e)(s) most often means “best” in French, although there are some cases when it can mean “better”. It can be either the comparative or the superlative form of bon(ne) (good), just as “better” and “best” are the comparative and superlative forms of “good” in English.

Whether it’s used as a comparative or a superlative, meilleur changes to agree with the word it’s describing. For instance:

As a comparative:

Nous cherchons une meilleure solution. (We’re looking for a better solution.)

Il rêve d’un meilleur poste. (He dreams of getting a better job.)

Tu as besoin de meilleures assiettes – celles-ci sont trop fragiles. (You need better dishes – these are too fragile.)

As a superlative:

Jacques est mon meilleur ami. (Jacques is my best friend.)

Carole est ma meilleure amie. (Carole is my best friend.)

Jacques et Carole sont mes meilleurs amis. (Jacques and Carole are my best friends.)

Jeanne et Carole sont mes meilleures amies. (Jeanne and Carole are my best friends.)

As in English, you can also see meilleur(e)(s) as a standalone superlative. For instance:

Tu es le meilleur./Tu es la meilleure. (You’re the best)

What does mieux mean?

A woman stands on stage, highlighted by spotlights, singing and smiling towards the crowd, with a her hand held up.
Elle chante mieux que vous tous.

As we’ve just seen, meilleur(e)(s) can mean either “better” or “best”. So why do we need another word?

The answer is that mieux does a slightly different job than meilleur(e)(s).

Basically, you use meilleur(e)(s) with nouns and mieux with verbs.

For example:

Sam a fait le meilleur dessin. (Sam did the best drawing)

vs

Sam dessine mieux que moi. (Sam draws better than me.)

Like meilleur(e)(s), mieux can be a comparative or a superlative. When it’s a superlative, you must use it with an article (le, la, or les).

Regardless of the article you use with mieux, it never changes – it’s always written mieux.

When using mieux with an article, most of the time you’ll see it as le mieux. But a common structure you’ll see where the article does change is when talking about a feminine and/or plural subject where the verb is used as an adjective.

This sounds complicated but it’s a type of phrase you’ve probably come across many times, in English or in French – for example:

C’est la femme la mieux habillée de toute la France. (She’s the best-dressed woman in all of France.)

or

Voici une liste des films les mieux connus des Français. (Here’s a list of the best-known films among the French).

Here are some more examples with mieux, in either its comparative or its superlative form:

Elle chante mieux que vous tous. (She sings better than all of you.)

De vous tous, elle chante le mieux. (Out of all of you, she sings the best.)

C’est la chanteuse la mieux payée en Europe. (She’s the best paid singer in Europe.)

Il s’habille mieux que son frère, mais son frère connaît mieux les marques.(He dresses better than his brother, but his brother knows designer brands better.)

Elle est mieux payée que moi. (She’s paid more/better paid than me.)

The unusual mieux

Generally speaking, mieux will follow the rules and patterns I discussed in the last section. But you may also see it used with a possessive pronoun, especially as part of a common phrase that you might think would be used with meilleur.

Faire de son mieux (to do one’s best) goes against the grain by incorporating the word de, as well as by using a possessive pronoun. This means that this common expression might be tricky to remember if you’re using it in conversation. Luckily, I can say from personal experience that most French people will understand what you mean if you forget the de, although it’s not ideal.

Here are a few examples that will hopefully stick this phrase into your mind:

Je ferai de mon mieux. (I’ll do/try my best)

Le dîner n’était pas parfait mais il a fait de son mieux. (The dinner wasn’t perfect but he did his best.)

Nous ferons de notre mieux pour rendre votre séjour le plus agréable possible.(We’ll do our best to make your stay with us as pleasant as possible.)

Some common expressions with “best” in French

A podium with three places, written in Roman numerals, sits in what seems to be an ancient stadium still in use.
Que le meilleur gagne !

As in English, there are many expressions with “best” in French. Most of these will follow the usual rules and patterns of how to use meilleur(e)(s) and mieux. Many can even be directly translated into English – for instance, meilleur(e)(s) ami(e)(s) – best friend(s). Others, though, are a bit more unexpected or unusual.

Here are some of the most common expressions with “best” in French:

meilleurs vœux – best wishes. This is a very common phrase you’ll find on greeting cards or in congratulatory text messages and the like.

pour le meilleur et pour le pire – for the best and for the worst.

Que le meilleur gagne ! – May the best man/person win!  This can be modified according to who is competing. For instance, Que la meilleure gagne ! or Que les meilleurs gagnent !

dans le meilleur des cas – in the best case scenario. Ex: Dans le meilleur des cas, nous récupérerons ce que nous avons perdu et nous quitterons cette affaire. (In the best case scenario, we recover what we lost and then get out of this deal.)

de mieux en mieux – better and better. Ex: Il va de mieux en mieux. (He’s feeling better and better.)

tant mieux – All the better!/Good! Ex: Elle a rompu avec lui? Tant mieux! Je ne l’ai jamais aimé. (She broke up with him? Good! I never liked him.)

Il vaudrait mieux – It would be better. This could be a standalone statement or part of a sentence. Ex: Il vaudrait mieux que tu fasses attention a tes devoirs et non pas a la télé.

Il vaut mieux – It’s better to/You’d better. Ex: Comme on risque d’avoir de la pluie, il vaut mieux porter des chaussures fermées. (Since it might rain, it’s better to wear closed shoes.)

On n’est jamais mieux servi que par soi-même. – If you want something done right, do it yourself.

garder le meilleur pour la fin – to save the best for last.

Want more expressions with “best” in French? This page features a long list of expressions with meilleur(e)(s), and this one includes a long list of expressions with mieux. You can also find additional common phrases with mieux on the right-side column of this Larousse entry.


I hope this article has left you feeling better about meilleur(e)(s) and mieux, and will help you donner le meilleur de toi-même (give it your best) when it comes to your French studies!

Alysa Salzberg

Alysa Salzberg is an American writer, worrier, teacher, and cookie enthusiast who has lived in Paris, France, for more than a decade. She has taught English and French for more than ten years, most notably as an assistante de langue vivante for L'Education Nationale. She recently published her first novel, Hearts at Dawn, a "Beauty and the Beast" retelling that takes place during the 1870 Siege of Paris. You can read about her adventures here, or feel free to stop by her website.

4 thoughts on “How to say ‘best’ in French: meilleur vs mieux”

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  1. Absolutely loved this article. Plus, all of the opportunities to practise repeating the sentences in French. Merci bien!

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  2. Isn’t “mieux” the adverb? It seems to be used as an adverb ( modifying verb, adjective, or another adverb ) in the examples..

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  3. As usual, you have provided a great article! Thank you, Alysa! I really enjoy all your tips and examples, as well as your pronunciation guide. I am learning a lot from you. 👍

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