The Idiom Connection Proverbs and Sayings





Proverbs and Sayings





A Proverbs

absence makes the heart grow fonder

- being away from someone makes you like him or her even more

Absence makes the heart grow fonder and when the young man went away to university he missed his girlfriend even more.

actions speak louder than words

- what you do is more important than what you say

The politician promised to do many things but he never did anything. However, actions speak louder than words and he lost the next election.

all good things must come to an end

- an enjoyable experience ends

All good things must come to an end and we soon had to return home from our holiday.

all is fair in love and war

- anything that you do in love or in war can be excused

All is fair in love and war the man thought when he asked his colleague for a date.

all's well that ends well

- if things are good at the end of some situation then we should be satisfied with these results (from Shakespeare's play All's Well That Ends Well)

All's well that ends well and although the storm was very bad the children arrived home safely.

all roads lead to Rome

- the same end or goal may be reached by many different ways

All roads lead to Rome and the two groups used two different methods to finish the project.

all that glitters is not gold

- many things that look attractive and valuable actually have no value at all

The man learned that all that glitters is not gold when he invested his money in the stock market and lost most of it.

all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy

- it is not healthy to spend all of your time working and never spend time relaxing or playing

The parents always wanted their child to study and did not realize that all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.

any port in a storm

- when someone is faced with an emergency he or she will accept help from any source and in any place - even from someone who they do not like

There was a bad storm so the ship went to the nearest port. It was any port in a storm.

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B Proverbs


bad news travels fast

- people are quicker to pass on bad news than good news

Bad news travels fast and the man heard about the job layoffs a week before the official announcement.

a bad workman blames his tools

- someone blames his tools or the material that he is working with for his own bad work

The carpenter was angry that his saw did not cut well. As often happens, a bad workman blames his tools.

bark is worse than one's bite

- someone is not as bad-tempered as they appear

The supervisor was always threatening to fire anyone who was late but he never did anything. His bark was worse than his bite.

beauty is only skin deep

- looks are superficial and sometimes a beautiful person may have unpleasant characteristics

The woman is not very beautiful but beauty is only skin deep and her personality is wonderful.

beggars can't be choosers

- one should not criticize something that one gets for free

Beggars can't be choosers and the girl should not complain about the free furniture that she got from her friend.

better late than never

- it is better to do something late than to not do it at all

The boy finally got a job after not working for three years. It was better late than never.

better safe than sorry

- it is better to be careful than to take a chance and risk an accident or illness or a failure which you may regret

It is better to be safe than sorry and I always bring my umbrella to work when it is a cloudy day.

better the devil you know than the devil you don't

- it may be better to endure a situation that you are accustomed to than to risk a change for something that may be worse

My friend wanted to change banks but he felt that it was better the devil he knew than the devil he didn't so he stayed with his old bank.

better to be a live dog than a dead lion

- it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

It is better to be a live dog than a dead lion so I walked away and did not try and fight with the man.

better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion

- it is better to be the leader of a small group than a follower of a bigger one

The young athlete always played for his hometown team rather than moving to a larger city with a bigger team. He thought that it was better to be the head of a dog than the tail of a lion.

between the devil and the deep blue sea

- you have two choices or alternatives and both of them are unpleasant

We are between the devil and the deep blue sea. If we increase our prices we won't sell our products but if we keep the same prices we will lose money.

bird in hand is worth two in the bush

- do not risk losing something that you have by trying to get something that is not certain

"You should accept the job offer with the lower salary now rather than waiting for a better job. Remember, a bird in hand is worth two in the bush."

birds of a feather flock together

- people who are similar often become friends or spend time together

The four boys were similar in every way and a good example that birds of a feather flock together.

blind leading the blind

- someone who has little ability or knowledge but is trying to help or teach someone else

It was the blind leading the blind when the teacher who could not cook was asked to teach the cooking class.

blood is thicker than water

- family ties are stronger than other relationships

Blood is thicker than water and the man chose to help his family rather than his friends.

boys will be boys

- you should not criticize boys or men for being adventurous or mischievous or noisy because that is how you should expect them to behave

Boys will be boys and the two brothers always come home very dirty.

C Proverbs


cat has nine lives

- cats are very strong and can survive many accidents or problems

The president of the small country survived crisis after crisis just like a cat with nine lives.

a cat in gloves catches no mice

- if you are too careful and polite you may not get what you want

A cat in gloves catches no mice and I advised my friend that he should be more aggressive at work or he will not be successful.

charity begins at home

- one should help one's family or close friends before helping other people

The man was always doing volunteer work. He did not understand that charity begins at home and he should spend more time helping his own family.

children and fools speak the truth

- children and fools say things without knowing or thinking what they mean but often what they say is true

The child said that the woman was very fat. This was true. Children and fools speak the truth.

children should be seen and not heard

- children should be quiet

The woman believed that children should be seen and not heard. Maybe for this reason her children were always very quiet.

cleanliness is next to godliness

- being a clean person is next in importance in life to having good religious or moral values

The mother told her children that cleanliness is next to godliness when she asked them to clean their rooms.

close, but no cigar

- you may be almost correct but you are still wrong

I tried to guess the arrival time of the bus but I was wrong. It was close, but no cigar.

crime doesn't pay

- crime is not profitable or beneficial and you will probably be caught and punished if you commit a crime

The young man learned that crime doesn't pay when he was arrested for stealing the bicycle.

cross a bridge when you come to it

- face a problem or challenge when you come to it or when it arises

I do not know what I will do if I cannot rent a car on my trip. I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

curiosity killed the cat

- asking questions or being curious about something that is not your business is often not a good thing

"Curiosity killed the cat," the mother said as the child asked questions about her birthday party.

customer is always right

- you should not disagree with your customers no matter what the problem is or you may lose your customer

The sales clerks were taught that the customer is always right and they must never argue with a customer.

D Proverbs


devil take the hindmost

- everybody must look after their own interests or safety

The man's attitude was the devil take the hindmost and he never helped his friends when they needed help.

die is cast

- a decision has already been made and you cannot change it

We have decided to move to Paris. The die is cast and we cannot change our plans.

different strokes for different folks

- everyone has different interests and tastes

The man loves to read all night and sleep all day. It is different strokes for different folks.

discretion is the better part of valor

- it is better to be careful and use discretion than to be too courageous and take unnecessary risks

Discretion is the better part of valor and the man decided not to make a complaint against his company.

do as I say, not as I do

- follow someone's advice and not their actions

The man always said to do as he says and not as he does because his advice was always better than his actions

do as you would be done by

- treat other people the way that you would like them to treat you

"If you do not want people to criticize you, then you should not criticize other people. Remember to do as you would be done by."

do unto others as you would have others do unto you

- treat other people the way that you would like them to treat you

"Don't hurt the feelings of your friend. Remember, do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

don't count your chickens before they hatch

- do not assume that you will be successful until it actually happens

I do not want to count my chickens before they hatch and spend much money before I get a new job.

don't look a gift horse in the mouth

- do not criticize a gift that you receive

The little girl did not like the present from her aunt but her mother told her not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

don't put all your eggs in one basket

- do not gamble and possibly lose your chance at success on one thing or by doing one thing because failure could mean losing everything

My uncle put all his eggs in one basket and lost much money on the stock market.

don't put the cart before the horse

- do not do things out of order

I told my friend not to put the cart before the horse and buy clothes for the new job that he does not have.

E Proverbs


early bird catches/gets the worm

- arriving early gives one an advantage

My boss always comes to work early because he believes that the early bird catches the worm.

early to bed, early to rise

- going to bed early is good for you

The man believed that early to bed, early to rise was good and he always went to bed at 9:00 every night.

early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise

- going to bed early is good for you

Early to bed, early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise was the advice that my grandmother gave me.

easier said than done

- something is easier to suggest or talk about than to actually do

It is easier said than done to say that you will never eat chocolate again.

easy come, easy go

- something that you easily acquire may be easily spent or lost or wasted

The man always found a new job easily but then he would quit the job quickly. For him it was always easy come, easy go.

eat, drink, and be merry

- enjoy yourself while you can without thinking about the future

The sailors always tried to eat, drink and be merry before they went on a voyage.

empty vessels make the most noise

- people who are the least intelligent are often the loudest and talk the most

The man talked endlessly but he never knew much about what he was saying. He was a good example that empty vessels make the most noise.

enough is as good as a feast

- what you have or have done should be satisfactory or enough

Enough is as good as a feast and having just enough can be as good as having much of something.

every cloud has a silver lining

- there is always something good in every problem or bad event

Although the fire destroyed the small business, every cloud has a silver lining and the business owners were able to build a new building which was better than the original one.

every dog has his day

- every person will have his chance or moment of glory

My friend is very discouraged because of his recent bad luck. However, every dog has his day and he should soon overcome those problems and find success.

exception proves the rule

- something that is different from what you believe or expect can prove that what you believe is often true

All of our salespeople are very talkative and outgoing but one person is the exception that proves the rule. He is very quiet and shy.

eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth

- a crime or injury should be paid back equally

The athlete believed in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and he attacked the player who had hurt him during the previous game.

eyes are bigger than one's stomach

- when someone takes more food than he or she can eat

My eyes were bigger than my stomach at the buffet and I could not eat all of the food that I took.

F Proverbs


a faint heart never won a lady

- a shy or timid person must be bold to attract the woman that he likes

The man must be more aggressive if he wants to find a girlfriend. He should remember that a faint heart never won a lady.

familiarity breeds contempt

- knowing a person closely for a long time sometimes leads to bad feelings

Familiarity breeds contempt and after living together for several months the two girls were always fighting.

fat is in the fire

- something unwise has been said or done which may cause problems or trouble

The woman said that her colleague was stealing office materials. Now, the fat is in the fire and a serious problem may be developing.

finders keepers, losers weepers

- the person who finds something can keep it and the person who loses it can only cry because it is gone

Finders keepers, losers weepers thought the boy when he found the pocket knife in the park.

first come, first served

- the person who comes first will have his turn first or be served something first

It was first come, first served at the banquet so we went to the food table quickly.

first time for everything

- just because something has not been done or happened before does not mean that it will never happen

There is a first time for everything and the man recently decided to try skydiving.

flattery will get you nowhere

- praise or flattery will not convince someone to do something that he or she does not want to do

"Flattery will get you nowhere," the woman said to the man who was giving her compliments.

a fool and his money are soon parted

- someone who acts unwisely with money will soon lose it

A fool and his money are soon parted and the man quickly spent the money that he had won in the lottery.

fools rush in where angels fear to tread

- inexperienced people with little knowledge often become involved in difficult situations that smarter people would avoid

Fools rush in where angels fear to tread and when house prices became very high many people decided to buy a house.

a friend in need is a friend indeed

- a friend who helps you when you need help is a true friend

The man was my best friend since childhood so naturally I helped him when he got into trouble. We both know that a friend in need is a friend indeed.

G Proverbs


give a dog a bad name (and hang him)

- it is difficult to regain a reputation that has been lost

It is easy to give a dog a bad name but now it will take a long time for the store to regain their good reputation after the scandal.

give (someone) an inch and they will take a mile

- if you give a little to someone they will then ask for more

The teacher was always strict in his classroom. He knew that if he gave the pupils an inch they would take a mile and he would lose control.

give the devil his due

- to recognize the good points of someone who you think is unworthy

We do not like the man's personality but you must give the devil his due, his workmanship is wonderful.

grass is always greener on the other side (of the fence)

- a place or a situation that is far away or different seems better than one's present situation

My cousin is always looking for a new job. For her, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

H Proverbs


half a loaf is better than none

- having part of something is better than having nothing

Half a loaf is better than none and my friend should be happy to get part of the money back rather than nothing at all.

haste makes waste

- time gained in doing something rapidly will be lost if you must do it again to correct your mistakes

Haste makes waste I thought, as the carpenter repaired the work that had not been done correctly the first time.

he who laughs last, laughs longest

- the person who is successful in doing something last will have the most enjoyment or success, you may do something bad to someone but they will do something worse to you

Everybody thought that the boy would not get the job because he was too young. However, he who laughs last, laughs longest and he got the job easily.

he who lives by the sword dies by the sword

- people who commit violent acts will encounter violence themselves

The young man was involved in selling illegal drugs and he was found murdered. Sadly, he who lives by the sword dies by the sword.

he who pays the piper calls the tune

- the person who pays for something should control how it is spent or used

The oil company was paying the expenses for the theater group. However, he who pays the piper calls the tune and they wanted to help decide which plays would be performed.

honesty is the best policy

- it is always best to be honest in everything that you do

Honesty is the best policy and when the man found the purse on the street he gave it to a policeman.

I Proverbs


if at first you don't succeed try, try again

- if you are patient and persevere you will achieve your goal even if you do not succeed at first

The father taught his son to be patient and keep trying. "If at first you don't succeed try, try again," he said often.

if the cap fits wear it

- if you criticize another person and you also deserve criticism then you should accept the criticism and try and change

The girl criticized her friend for borrowing money. However, she herself always borrowed money so she should remember that if the cap fits wear it.

if the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain

- if someone will not come to you then you must go to them

The grandchildren would never visit their grandparents. However, if the mountain won't come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain so the grandparents went to visit their grandchildren.

if the shoe fits wear it

- if something that is said describes you then it is probably meant for you

You should not criticize someone for something that you do yourself. Remember, if the shoe fits wear it.

in for a penny, in for a pound

- after spending some money or time for something you should spend more time or money to finish the job completely

In for a penny, in for a pound and because we had already spent so much money fixing our house we decided to continue to pay more money until it was completely finished.

it is an ill wind that blows nobody good

- no matter how bad something is you can usually gain something from it

The economic news was very bad but it is an ill wind that blows nobody good. Many people began to get more training in order to prepare for new jobs.

it is darkest before the dawn

- the worst or most dangerous situation will occur just before a problem is resolved

The economic situation was terrible and just as it is darkest before the dawn things became worse before they began to improve.

it never rains but it pours

- problems often appear together in large numbers or quickly one after the other

It never rains but it pours and we have recently had many problems with our house.

it takes all kinds (to make a world)

- different people like different things

The woman was wearing very strange clothes. It seems that it takes all kinds to make a world.

it takes two to tango

- it takes two people to do certain activities

My friend complains that his friend always wants to fight with him. However, it takes two to tango and it is partly his fault..

JK Proverbs


jump out of the frying pan and into the fire

- to leave one dangerous or bad situation for a situation that is worse

My friend jumped out of the frying pan and into the fire. He changed jobs and had more problems in his new job than in his old one.

just what the doctor ordered

- something that is good for someone to have or to do

The holiday was just what the doctor ordered and the employee returned to work energetic and refreshed.

kill two birds with one stone

- to accomplish two goals with one deed or action

We will kill two birds with one stone and go shopping and also go to the main library during our trip downtown.

L Proverbs


a leopard can't change his spots

- you cannot change someone's basic human nature

The supervisor tried to have a good relationship with his staff but a leopard can't change his spots and he still had problems with those around him

let bygones be bygones

- to forget the problems of the past

My aunt decided to let bygones be bygones and she finally decided to talk to my mother again.

let sleeping dogs lie

- to not make trouble if you do not need to

"You should let sleeping dogs lie and not ask your friend for the money that he owes you."

let the buyer beware

- the buyer of something is responsible to research the quality of the purchase before buying it (this expression is from the Latin - caveat emptor)

The idea to let the buyer beware is important when you buy something.

let the dead bury their dead

- to think about the present and try not to remember and think about past events and people

It would be better for the woman to let the dead bury their dead and stop thinking about what happened with her sister many years ago.

lightning never strikes twice (in the same place)

- the same type of misfortune does not occur twice to the same person

Lightning never strikes twice and I do not think that our house will be flooded again.

like father, like son

- a boy is often similar to his father

The boy always copied his father. It was very much like father, like son.

a little hard work never hurt or killed anyone

- one should expect to do hard or difficult work and not try to avoid doing it

The mother said that a little hard work never hurt anyone and asked her son to clean the kitchen.

a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

- knowing a little about something may make someone believe that they know too much about something and therefore make bad choices or choices that other people dislike

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing and when the citizens of the poor country became better educated, they began to make choices that the government did not like.

little pitchers have big ears

- small children often hear things that you think they won't notice or things that they are not supposed to hear

Little pitchers have big ears and we were surprised that the little boy understood everything that we had said.

live and let live

- to be tolerant and accept other people who may be different

People in a large city must live and let live.

a live dog is better than a dead lion

- it is better to be a live coward than a dead hero (this is from Ecclesiastes in the Bible)

A live dog is better than a dead lion and I told my friend not to get into a fight with the angry man in the restaurant.

live high off the hog

- to live in prosperous circumstances

I have been living high off the hog since I got my new job with its high salary.

lock the barn door after the horse is stolen

- to take care or try to make something safe after it is too late

The stadium managers tried to stop people from entering the stadium. But thousands of people had already entered. They were locking the barn door after the horse was stolen.

love is blind

- being in love with someone blinds you to his or her bad points

The girl was not very attractive to most people but love is blind and her boyfriend loved her very much.

love me, love my dog

- if you really love someone then you should love everything about him or her

"Love me, love my dog," the man told his fiance when she asked him to sell his favorite chair which she hated.

M Proverbs


make hay while the sun shines

- to take advantage of opportunities and good conditions while you can

We wanted to make hay while the sun shines so we tried to finish the outside work while the weather was good.

many hands make light work

- a job is done easily if a lot of people share in the work

Many hands make light work and when the three men worked together they quickly finished moving the furniture.

a miss is as good as a mile

- to miss success by a small amount is the same as missing it by a large amount

A miss is as good as a mile and although I almost passed the course, my marks were not good enough to get a diploma.

money doesn't grow on trees

- money is not easy to get but must be worked for

The girl's father told her that money doesn't grow on trees when she asked for money to buy new clothes.

money is no object

- there is much or enough money available for something so it does not matter how much you spend

Money was no object when the new stadium was built and it had the best equipment for both the fans and the players.

money is the root of all evil

- money is the main cause of most wrongdoing and problems in the world

The woman stole some money from her company. It seems that money is the root of all evil, and can cause many problems.

money talks

- if you have lots of money you will be treated well, money can influence people

We learned that money talks when the rich couple got a reservation at the famous restaurant although we could not.

more haste, less speed

- if you try to do something quickly you may make mistakes and take longer to finish the task than you normally would

The man was in a hurry to finish work but he made many mistakes and had to repeat some things again. It was more haste, less speed for him.

the more the merrier

- the more people who participate in an activity then the more enjoyable the activity will be

The more the merrier we thought, as we invited many people to the party.

N Proverbs


necessity is the mother of invention

- if you need something you will be motivated to get it

Necessity is the mother of invention and we fixed the door by using an old coat hanger.

never look a gift horse in the mouth

- do not complain when you receive a gift

You should never look a gift horse in the mouth and instead accept a gift even if you do not want or need it.

no news is good news

- when you do not receive any news about something or somebody it probably means that everything is going well

Although the woman had not heard from her son for several weeks, she believed that no news is good news and she did not worry.

no smoke without fire

- if there are rumors or signs of something then there is probably a reason for the rumors

There is no smoke without fire and the rumors of the political scandal suggested that it was partly true.

no time like the present

- now is the best time to do something

We are very busy but there is no time like the present so we will go to the movie as planned.

no use crying over spilled/spilt milk

- there is no point in worrying or complaining about something that you cannot change

There is no use crying over spilled milk and we should not worry about what happened last week.

a nod is as good as a wink to a blind man

- hinting about something can be accepted without further explanation

A nod is as good as a wink to a blind man so we decided to begin the project after our boss seemed to say that it was alright.

nothing is sacred

- important things or situations are treated with disrespect

Nothing is sacred and there are few subjects that the media will not talk about.

nothing succeeds like success

- when you are successful you will become more confident and gain respect which will lead to even greater success

Nothing succeeds like success and after my sister got her first promotion she began to do better at her job.

nothing ventured, nothing gained

- you cannot achieve success in something unless you are prepared to take a chance and risk failure

Nothing ventured, nothing gained the man thought when he decided to begin his own computer company.

O Proverbs


old habits die hard

- it is hard to stop doing something that has become a habit even if you want to stop it

Old habits die hard and it is very difficult for my grandfather to change his habits.

once bitten, twice shy

- if something goes wrong one time then you will be careful about doing the same thing again

Once bitten, twice shy and after the woman lost much money on the stock market she did not want to invest money there again.

one good turn deserves another

- a good deed or doing a good thing should be repaid with another good deed or by doing another good thing

One good turn deserves another and I was quick to help my friend after he helped me.

one man's meat is another man's poison

- what is good for one person may be bad or unsuitable for another person

One man's meat is another man's poison and while some people like to eat fish, other people may hate fish.

one man's trash is another man's treasure

- something that someone thinks has no value may be considered valuable by someone else

One man's trash is another man's treasure and people were happy to find the old furniture outside the house.

out of sight, out of mind

- something that is no longer visible will be easily forgotten

The little boy was out of sight and out of mind until his mother discovered that he had emptied all of the shampoo containers into the toilet.

pen is mightier than the sword

- writing and ideas are more powerful than the use of force

The general believed that the pen is mightier than the sword and he tried to use words rather than force to overcome his enemies.

P Proverbs


a penny saved is a penny earned

- money saved through spending wisely is just as valuable as the money that you earn by working

A penny saved is a penny earned and it is just as important to be careful spending money as it is to earn money.

penny wise and pound foolish

- to be careful with small amounts of money but to waste large amounts of money on unnecessary things

The woman was penny wise and pound foolish and would hesitate to spend money on fruits and vegetables for her family but would buy very expensive desserts.

people who live in glass houses should not throw stones

- you should not complain about other people or criticize them unless you are perfect yourself

The man always criticizes his friend for gossiping about other people but people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. He always does the same thing himself.

pot calls the kettle black

- someone criticizes somebody for a fault that they have themselves

My friend always criticizes me for being late but that is like the pot calling the kettle black. He himself is the one who is usually late.

practice makes perfect

- you will become better at something if you practice

The tennis player believes that practice makes perfect and spends every evening playing tennis.

practice what you preach

- you should take the same advice that you give to others

Our teacher should practice what she preaches and act the same way that she wants others to act.

pretty is as pretty does

- you should do pleasant things if you want people to think that you are pleasant

Pretty is as pretty does, I said to my friend and suggested that he should be more pleasant if he wants people to like him.

prevention is better than the cure

- it is better to prevent a problem or an illness in order to avoid having to cure it

Prevention is better than the cure and you should look after your health so that you do not become sick.

pride comes before a fall

- if you have too much pride then you may soon meet a difficulty that will make you humble

The president of the company was arrogant about his business practices. However, pride comes before a fall and he lost his position because of a business scandal.

proof of the pudding is in the eating

- the real value of something can be judged only by practical experience and not from appearance

The company created a new website that they thought many people would visit but the proof of the pudding is in the eating and nobody liked the website.

put one's money where one's mouth is

- to follow through with a stated intention

The company always says that they will buy a new computer for the secretary but they should put their money where their mouth is and buy it.

R Proverbs


the road to hell is paved with good intentions

- you may have good intentions but if you do not put them into practice you will achieve bad results

The man wanted to be successful at his new job but the road to hell is paved with good intentions. He was always late and he was fired from the job.

a rolling stone gathers no moss

- someone who often changes jobs or where they live does not build roots or wealth or success

The musician proves that a rolling stone gathers no moss. He never lives in one place and always moves from town to town.

Rome was not built in a day

- it takes time and hard work to complete a difficult job

Rome was not built in a day and the government officials realized that it was going to take many years to rebuild the old area of the city.

a rose by any other name would smell as sweet

- what is important is what something or somebody is and not what they are called

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet," is from Romeo and Juliet when Juliet said that although their families had different names and they could not marry, Romeo was still wonderful.

S Proverbs


seeing is believing

- you must see something before you can believe that it really exists

Seeing is believing and until we saw the Egyptian pyramids we could not imagine their beauty.

shape up or ship out

- behave properly or leave

The employee was told to shape up or ship out because of her bad attitude.

shoe is on the other foot

- someone is experiencing the same things that he or she caused someone else to experience, the situation is reversed

The supervisor treated the employees badly but now the shoe is on the other foot and his new boss treats him badly.

silence gives consent

- saying nothing or not saying no to something means that you agree

Silence gives consent and when nobody spoke at the meeting, the principal thought that most people agreed with his proposal.

silence is golden

- sometimes it is better to say nothing

The man believes that silence is golden and he is very careful what he says.

slow and steady wins the race

- being patient and determined will lead you to success

Slow and steady wins the race and the man was successful because of his hard work and patient determination.

some people are more equal than others

- the members of a group may appear equal but some members may receive better treatment than others

Some people are more equal than others and the superstar was not given a penalty for hitting the other player while other players would have received a penalty.

spare the rod and spoil the child

- sometimes you must physically punish a child in order to teach him or her to behave properly

The parents supported some physical punishment for their children and believed that if you spare the rod you will spoil the child.

speak of the devil (and he appears)

- a person appears just when you are talking about him or her

We were in the coffee shop talking about our friend when, speak of the devil, he suddenly appeared.

the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak

- someone has good intentions but their laziness or love of pleasure may prevent them from doing what they want

The man often goes to expensive restaurants and nightclubs and although he wants to do well at his job he cannot. For him the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.

sticks and stones may break my bones but names/words will never hurt me

- verbal insults will not physically hurt a person

The little boy yelled "sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me," when the older boy started to call him bad names.

still waters run deep

- a quiet person may have much knowledge or deep feelings

The salesman was very quiet but still waters run deep and away from work he was a very knowledgeable and emotional person.

a stitch in time saves nine

- if you fix something or solve a problem immediately you will save time later

A stitch in time saves nine and it is better to spend some time becoming organized so that you will save time later.

streets are paved with gold

- a place (usually a city) where you can make much money

Many people believe that the streets are paved with gold when they move to the city to try to have a better life.

strike while the iron is hot

- to take action quickly and at a good opportunity

When I heard about the new job I quickly sent in my application in order to strike while the iron was hot.

T Proverbs


tall oaks from little acorns grow

- everything has a small beginning before becoming big

The large chain of supermarkets began with one small store but tall oaks from little acorns grow and it is now the largest supermarket chain in the world.

tell the truth and shame the devil

- it is better to tell the truth even though there may be good reasons not to

The woman had information about the illegal activities at her company. She was hesitant to become involved but she felt that it was better to tell the truth and shame the devil than to remain silent.

there are none so blind/deaf as those who will not see/hear

- people will not see or hear what they do not want to see or hear

There's none so blind as those who will not see and the mother refused to believe that her son was the cause of so much trouble in the community.

there are plenty of other fish in the sea

- there are many potential partners in the world

There are plenty of other fish in the sea, I told my friend when she separated from her boyfriend.

there is more than one way to skin a cat

- there is more than one way to do something

When my father taught me a different way to do the painting I realized that there is more than one way to skin a cat.

there is no accounting for taste

- it is difficult to understand why somebody likes something

There is no accounting for taste I thought as I looked at the man in the red pants and the green shoes.

these things are sent to try us

- some difficulties appear in order to test our courage or patience

The woman had very strong religious beliefs and although she faced many difficulties, she believed that those things were sent to try her and she continued on.

third time lucky

- the third time that you try something you will be successful

The man was third time lucky when he applied for the job at the film company and he finally got the job.

the thought that counts

- the good intentions behind an action or a gift are more important than the action or the gift itself

The present that the man bought for his wife was not very expensive but it was the thought that counts and his wife was very happy.

time and a place for everything

- there are times and places when something should be done and other times and places when it should not be done

There is a time and a place for everything and a symphony concert is not the place to discuss business.

time and tide wait for no man

- things will happen naturally no matter what you do so it is important to take an opportunity when it appears

Time and tide wait for no man and if you want to become an elected official then you should take the opportunity now as the situation will change and it may be more difficult in the future.

time flies

- time seems to pass very quickly

Time flies and before we had a chance to enjoy the summer it was already autumn.

time is a great healer

- pain or sorrow will be less strongly felt as time passes

Time is a great healer and the parents could only hope that this was true as they tried to deal with the death of their only daughter.

time is money

- time is valuable and wasting time is like wasting money

"Time is money," the angry customer said as he waited at the car rental counter.

times change

- the values and fashions of life change

Times change and when my friend went to buy some tapes for her tape recorder she found that they were no longer being produced.

to the victor belong/go the spoils

- the winner of something achieves power over people and property

In ancient times a victory by an army usually meant that to the victor belong the spoils.

tomorrow is another day

- there will be another opportunity to do something in the future

The boy gave up his plans to get on the basketball team but tomorrow is another day and he will try again next year.

too many cooks spoil the broth

- if too many people try to do something then often the job will not be done well

There were four people trying to fix the broken air conditioner but too many cooks spoil the broth and there were too many people to do a good job.

truth is stranger than fiction

- real life is sometimes stranger than fiction

Truth is stranger than fiction and the man survived in the mountains for several months after his airplane crashed.

truth will out

- you cannot hide the truth about something

The politicians discovered that "the truth will out" applied to them more than to others when the media tried to learn the facts behind the scandal.

two heads are better than one

- two people working together can achieve better results than one person working alone

Two heads are better than one and when the two carpenters began to work together they quickly solved the problem of building the cabinets.

two's company, three's a crowd

- two people (often two people on a date) are happier when nobody else is around

The couple decided to go on a holiday with their friend but two's company and three's a crowd and none of them were able to enjoy themselves.

two wrongs don't make a right

- you cannot justify doing something wrong or bad just because somebody else has done the same thing to you

Two wrongs don't make a right and just because the boy's friend was not punished for being late, this did not make it right for the boy to do the same thing.

VW Proverbs


variety is the spice of life

- life is made more interesting by doing new or different things

The three women believe that variety is the spice of life and they are always traveling to new places and trying new things.

walls have ears

- be careful what you say because someone may be listening

We were told that walls have ears when our supervisor heard us talking in the hall.

waste not, want not

- if you never waste anything then you will not lack for anything either

The children were very poor when they were young and were taught by their parents to waste not, want not.

a watched pot never boils

- if you wait impatiently for something to happen then it will seem to take longer

“You should go and sit down rather than wait for the beans to cook. Remember, a watched pot never boils.”

the way to a man's heart is through his stomach

- a woman can win a man's love if she gives him the food that he likes

The woman believed that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach and she spent much time cooking for her husband.

what goes around comes around

- justice will be served and you will get what you deserve

What goes around comes around and it is wise to maintain good relations with the people who you work with.

what is good for the goose is good for the gander

- what is good for one person should be good for another person as well

If the small bedroom is good enough for me then it should also be good enough for my friend. What's good for the goose is good for the gander.

what is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

- what is good for one person should be good for another person as well

If I can do the cleaning then my friend can also do the cleaning. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over

- you will not be troubled by something that you do not know exists

“Ignore the new furniture that your neighbors recently purchased. Remember that what the eye doesn't see the heart doesn't grieve over.”

when in Rome do as the Romans do

- you should adjust your habits to match the customs of the people or place where you live

The diplomat believed that when in Rome do as the Romans do and he made an effort to learn the language and the customs of the people where he lived and worked.

when it rains it pours

- problems often appear together in large numbers or quickly one after the other

When it rains it pours and much time was spent dealing with the many problems caused by the new accounting system.

when pigs fly

- something is impossible (used when you do not believe that something will happen)

I think that my friend will finish university when pigs fly - probably never.

when the cat's away the mice will play

- when someone who is in charge of children or students or workers is away then they will enjoy themselves and stop working

The teacher returned to the classroom and everybody was running around. It was a perfect example that when the cat's away the mice will play.

where there's a will there's a way

- if you are sufficiently determined you can overcome difficulties and do what you want to do

Where there's a will there's a way and the young woman worked very hard to get enough money to go to the computer school.

where there's smoke there's fire

- if there is evidence of a problem then there probably is a problem

Where there's smoke there's fire. The company is talking about a safety problem so there probably is one.

the wish is father to the thought

- you want something to be true so you begin to think that it is true

The wish is father to the thought and the woman believed that her boyfriend wanted to get married even though he did not.

Y Proverbs


you are only young once

- enjoy life while you are young and before you must face the responsibilities of life

The young man's grandmother believed that you are only young once and encouraged her grandson to do many new things in his life.

you are what you eat

- in order to be fit and healthy you need to eat good food

You are what you eat so you should try to eat healthy food.

you can lead/take a horse to water but you can't make him drink

- you can give someone the opportunity to do something but you can't get him or her to do it if they do not want to

The woman took her children to the park but they were not interested in playing in the playground. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink.

you can't judge a book by its cover

- you cannot judge something by how it looks on the outside

The man looked very poor but actually he was very rich. You can't judge a book by its cover.

you can't teach an old dog new tricks

- people become used to their way of doing things and you can't get them to change

My friend refused to try anything new and would never go to a new restaurant. It is true that you can't teach an old dog new tricks.

you make your bed and you must lie on it

- you will suffer the results of your own actions, you are responsible for your actions

The man refused to wear his rubber boots when he went out in the rain. Now he must spend the day wearing wet clothes. He made his bed and now he must lie on it.

your sins will find you out

- if you do something wrong it will be discovered

Your sins will find you out and you should be honest at all times.



Quizzes - Proverbs and Sayings

    Choose an idiom to replace the expression in the brackets:

  1. The supervisor told the man that (what he does is more important than what he says) and he must not be late for work again.

    (a) all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy (b) a bad workman blames his tools (c) actions speak louder than words (d) there's no accounting for taste



  2. The man knew nothing abut repairing a car. He was (not able to teach someone else) when he tried to show his friend how to fix his car.

    (a) between the devil and the deep blue sea (b) better safe than sorry (c) all fair in love and war (d) like the blind leading the blind



  3. (The decision has been made) and we will move next month. We cannot change our plans now.

    (a) The die is cast (b) The customer is always right (c) A cat has nine lives (d) Crime doesn't pay



  4. The school board knew that (there was much money available) so they began to look for a good architect to design the new school.

    (a) easy come, easy go (b) it is easier said than done (c) money was no object (d) the exception proves the rule



  5. The young men had come to the city to watch the football game and they planned (to enjoy themselves without care) during the weekend.

    (a) that enough is as good as a feast (b) to eat, drink, and be merry (c) to shape up or ship out (d) that empty vessels make the most noise



  6. The supervisors want to control the workers and believe that (if they give them a small amount of freedom then they will soon ask for more).

    (a) if at first they don't succeed they must try, try again (b) the exception proves the rule (c) they should put their money where their mouth is (d) if they give them an inch, they will take a mile



  7. The long holiday was (what he needed) and the man was able to return to work totally refreshed.

    (a) just what the doctor ordered (b) more haste, less speed (c) what goes around comes around (d) a first time for everything



  8. The man had an attitude of (tolerance) toward other people and he was not bothered by the different lifestyles in his neighborhood.

    (a) let the dead bury their dead (b) love is blind (c) let the buyer beware (d) live and let live



  9. The weather was sunny so the couple decided (to take advantage of it) and finish painting their house.

    (a) that many hands make light work (b) that a miss is as good as a mile (c) to make hay while the sun shines (d) that money doesn't grow on trees



  10. The mother did not speak with her daughter for several weeks but she believed that (not hearing anything meant that everything was probably all right) so she did not worry.

    (a) necessity is the mother of invention (b) no news is good news (c) there is no smoke without fire (d) nothing succeeds like success



  11. The teddy bear was (not visible) so the little boy soon forgot about it.

    (a) once bitten, twice shy (b) out of sight, out of mind (c) in for a penny, in for a pound (d) nothing ventured, nothing gained



  12. There is (no point worrying about) the television that I broke as there is nothing that I can do about it.

    (a) no use crying over spilled milk about (b) no time like the present for (c) the pot calling the kettle black for (d) different strokes for different folks with



  13. (Ideas are greater than using force) and throughout history this has been true many times.

    (a) He who pays the piper calls the tune (b) One man's meat is another man's poison (c) Pride comes before a fall (d) The pen is mightier than the sword



  14. The girl is (careful with small amounts of money) but she will often spend large amounts of money on wasteful things.

    (a) in for a penny, in for a pound (b) better safe than sorry (c) penny wise and pound foolish (d) putting her money where her mouth is



  15. For the woman next door (many problems always come at one time) and suddenly she has many, many problems.

    (a) it never rains but it pours (b) the road to hell is paved with good intentions (c) the proof of the pudding is in the eating (d) practice makes perfect



  16. The man believes that (some things take much time) and it will take time and effort to finish the difficult job.

    (a) when in Rome do as the Romans do (b) a rolling stone gathers no moss (c) what's good for the goose is good for the gander (d) Rome was not built in a day



  17. (Some famous people receive better treatment than others) when they go to an expensive restaurant.

    (a) Some people may spare the rod and spoil the child (b) Some people are more equal than others (c) For some people the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak (d) For some people still waters run deep



  18. Many people believe that (you can make much money) in the city so they are moving there in large numbers.

    (a) silence is golden (b) seeing is believing (c) it is third time lucky (d) the streets are paved with gold



  19. You should remember that (dealing with a problem or fixing something immediately will save time later).

    (a) there is a time and a place for everything (b) time and tide wait for no man (c) a stitch in time saves nine (d) time is a great healer



  20. It was (the good intention behind her action) that was important and everyone forgave the teacher when she apologized.

    (a) the thought that counts (b) none so blind as those who will not see (c) different strokes for different folks (d) an ill wind that blows nobody good



  21. (Everything is different now) and the fashions of last year are no longer seen on the streets of the city.

    (a) Time flies (b) Times change (c) Time is money (d) Tomorrow is another day



  22. (There were too many people around) so we had to ask some of those who were trying to fix the computer to leave.

    (a) Two wrongs don't make a right (b) Two's company, three's a crowd (c) Two heads are better than one (d) Too many cooks spoil the broth



  23. The woman believes that (always doing new things is the best way to live).

    (a) tall oaks grow from little acorns (b) it takes all kinds to make a world (c) variety is the spice of life (d) truth is stranger than fiction



  24. (If you are determined enough then you can succeed) and you will be able to do what you want to do in life.

    (a) The wish is father to the thought (b) You're only young once (c) Where there's a will there's a way (d) It is the thought that counts



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