There is an interesting sentence

Je suis ce que je suis.

Now I've got two versions of its meaning, one of which is

I am what I follow.

while the other is

I follow what I am

Both seem to make sense to me. But which one indeed is its real meaning in French? Since this sentence sounds kinda like a proverb or an idiom, there can be of course only one version that is correct.

  • 8
    None of the above ... "I am what I am."
    – jlliagre
    May 24, 2015 at 13:03
  • @jlliagre is this a proverb or idiom?
    – Vim
    May 24, 2015 at 13:05
  • 2
    It is equally known in English: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Am_What_I_Am
    – jlliagre
    May 24, 2015 at 13:10
  • It’s probably not a good idea for me to argue with your premise (that sentences sounding like a proverb or an idiom can, of course, have only one correct version/meaning), but I believe that this sentence, depending on the context, could possibly have the two meanings that you suggest, plus two others, i.e.,“I follow what I follow” & “I am what I am” (the latter, of course, being by far its most common meaning). “Je suis QUI je suis” would only mean one thing to me (I am WHO I am), but I’m not convinced that “je suis ce que je suis” can have one, & only one meaning, regardless of the context.
    – Papa Poule
    May 24, 2015 at 14:05
  • @PapaPoule The other meanings are of course technically possible but in the real life, they are only used in a humoristic context (like the riddle in my reply).
    – jlliagre
    May 24, 2015 at 14:12

3 Answers 3


Je suis ce que je suis appears in the Bible (ego sum qui sum / Ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν / אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה ) commonly translated in English by "I am that I am".

There are common variants:

Je suis comme je suis

Je suis qui je suis

There is however a well known case where "suis" is deliberately used ambiguously:

Je suis ce que je suis, mais je ne suis pas ce que je suis. Si j'étais ce que je suis, je ne serais pas ce que je suis. Qui suis-je ?


Je suis un berger qui suis son mouton.

  • Haha that's brilliant.
    – Vim
    May 24, 2015 at 13:51
  • Ou encore : mon ombre, mon chemin, ....
    – Personne
    May 24, 2015 at 14:00
  • Adapte la conjugaison dans ta réponse cachée, ça perturbe encore un peu plus. :)
    – Chop
    May 26, 2015 at 5:49

I follow what I follow is correct too, altthough less likely to be intended in the context. A tautology in both cases. A tautology is a tautology, but not only a tautology.

As the proverb says

Quand on voit ce qu'on voit, et qu'on sait ce qu'on sait, on a raison de penser ce qu'on pense.


As a proverbe the sentence "Je suis ce que je suis" means "I am that I am"/"I am what I am"/"I am as I am".

But in other contexts, it can be any of these combinations:
I am what I am
I am what I follow
I follow what I am
I follow what I follow.

Actually "Je suis" meaning "I follow" and "Je suis" meaning "I am" are both written and pronounced the same.

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