Cette vieille musicienne, elle payait pas d’mine, mais elle jouait vraiment bien !

I wonder if the expression « ne pas payer de mine » can only refer to one's deceptive appearance hiding one's true talent or character. Or can it also mean "one is not good-looking physically"?

I usually associate this locution with this meaning:

Her appearance belies her true talent as a musician.

But can it ever have an alternative meaning of:

She doesn't exactly shine in the physical attraction department, but her musical talent more than makes up for it.

  • 1
    I don't really see any difference between your two ideas. But I can say that you can use it even without stating something positive behind. "Cet appartement ne paye pas de mine" means that apartment doesn't look good. Nothing good hidden behind that.
    – Destal
    May 22, 2017 at 11:10
  • 2
    Simon Déchamps, I disagree. "Ne paye pas de mine" refers to something that doesn't look good or doesn't give a good first impression but finally appears to be way better that we thought. Maybe it has a slightly different meaning between two different french-speaking countries, but that is how I use it.
    – Orgoss
    May 22, 2017 at 12:40
  • +1 with Orgoss here
    – user13512
    May 22, 2017 at 17:03

1 Answer 1


In my experience, ne pas payer de mine is used either when you know that the inner quality of something is better than it looks,

Cette petite brasserie ne paye pas de mine, mais on y mange très bien.

or when you're put off by its aspect and waiting to see if it's better than it looks.

Ce magasin ne paye pas de mine ! [mais j'attends d'être dedans pour voir]

The expression is mostly used to describe things, and when applied to people, it is always neutral or practical/professional-oriented. I've never heard it used to describe someone's lack of physical attractiveness or sex appeal.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.