English Proverbs, Phrases and Meanings

It’s good to know the really common English proverbs because you hear them come up in conversation all the time. Sometimes people say the entire proverb to give advice to a friend. Learning proverbs can also help you to understand the way that people in English-speaking cultures think about the world.

Proverbs can also give you good example sentences which you can memorize and use as models for building your own sentences.

This list of English proverbs includes definitions and examples, and is meant to improve English vocabulary and English cultural knowledge.

  • The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
    • ‘The grass is always greener is a proverb that teaches us it’s not good to be jealous (to want what other people have). It may seem like everyone around you has greener grass, meaning nicer cars, better jobs, etc.
    • But your neighbor probably thinks you have greener grass too, which means that your friends and other people think that you have better looks, a happier family, etc. So instead of thinking about what everyone else has, this proverb wants you to be thankful for what you have.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
    • Things are not always what they seem. This proverb teaches you not to make judgments about other people because of how they look or dress. A book with a boring or plain cover could be amazing. The same is true with people. A person might look like an athlete or fool, but there is probably a lot more to them than clothes suggest.
  • Strike while the iron is hot.
    • Blacksmith at work in anvil
    • This old expression comes from the days of blacksmiths (people who work with metal). To shape the metal, the blacksmith would have to beat it with a hammer. Iron is easier to work with when it’s hot. This proverb means you should take advantage of the moment. If an opportunity presents itself to you, take it! Take action because the chance may not come again.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    • Or as it’s more commonly said, Too many cooks in the kitchen. This is a well known experience—a lot people all trying to work in a kitchen around a small table or stove top will make a mess and ruin the food. This proverb talks about the trouble of too many people trying to do the same thing at once.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    • young boy on birthday
    • If you eat your cake, you won’t have it anymore, will you? So you can’t do both. This proverb is about having two opposite desires, and how it’s impossible to get both. Its meaning is similar to the proverb, You can’t have the best of both worlds.
  • Many hands make light work.
    • If a lot of people carry a heavy object, it does not feel heavy. That is the general meaning of this proverb. If everyone works together to complete something—like cleaning, painting or group projects—then each person has less to do. More importantly, the job will be completed much more quickly.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
    • When you are a visitor somewhere away from home, you should act like everyone else. It is polite to do so, and could keep you from getting into trouble. This proverb is from the ancient days of the Roman Empire when the capital city had visitors from all over the world. Cultures were very different between cities in those times. But while in Rome, one would behave like a Roman, no matter where you came from.
  • Don’t cross the bridge until you come to it.
    • This proverb tells you not to worry so much! Problems will certainly come in the future. But what can be done about that now? It’s better to think about what you are doing right now—without worrying about the unknown—and take care of issues when they happen.
  • Honesty is the best policy.
    • Young businessman oath Truth on white background
    • Lying a lot can be difficult, because you might forget your lies. Soon enough, someone will find out you are lying. Then, you are in trouble. Or even if no one ever finds out, you will feel guilty for not telling the truth. But if you are honest and tell the truth, people will believe you and respect you. You will earn their trust and sleep well at night.
  • Practice makes perfect.
    • It would be amazing if the first time you picked up a guitar you could play it like a rock star. Or if the first time you got in a car, you could drive like a professional. Or if you could speak English perfectly after one lesson. Everything is difficult when you are a beginner. But if you stick with it, if you keep practicing, you can master anything.
  • Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
    • This proverb is said to encourage people who want to give up. Sometimes, we face problems that seem impossible. But if you want it bad enough, nothing can stand in your way. That is what this proverb means—if you have the will to meet the problems that are in front of you, there is a way to overcome them.
  • Look before you leap.
    • Don’t rush into things! Make sure you know what is going to happen next. You would not jump off a cliff without first checking how far the ground is below or what there is to land on. You should wait a few moments and make sure it’s a good idea to jump from that cliff. So when making a big jump in life, make sure you’ve looked at the situation and really understand it before you take a big action.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers.
    • If someone gives you free things or offers to help you do something, you can’t ask for a different color or choose the perfect time in your schedule. When you receive free help or goods, you should accept what you’re offered—you can’t be picky (a chooser) because you’re not paying!
  • Don’t make a mountain out of an anthill.
    • People sometimes get very upset over small problems. This proverb reminds you to take a moment and see how important (or not important) the issue is. Messing up your laundry or being late for work is not very important when you consider your entire life. So it’s important to stay calm and not get angry about tiny problems.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    • An apple is full of Vitamin C, which keeps you healthy. However, the apple in this proverb means eating healthy in general. If you eat well and your diet includes a lot of fruits and vegetables, there will be no need to visit the doctor.
  • The early bird catches the worm.
    • This proverb is a lot like the phrase first come, first served. It simply means that it’s usually best to be early. If you arrive earlier—whether it’s to a clothing store, restaurant, conference, etc.—you will have the best options to choose from. If you come later, though, the best clothes could have sold out, the restaurant could be full and have a long waiting time, etc.
  • Better late than never.
    • While being the early bird is the best, even latecomers may get something for coming. It would be a lot worse if they never came at all. This proverb is said about ending fights with people. It’s better to apologize and make up years later, than to never resolve your fight at all.
  • The cat is out of the bag.
    • This proverb means that a secret has been told. It comes from the Middle Ages and was common advice given in the market. You may have thought you purchased a tasty pig, but the seller put a simple cat in the bag instead. To let the cat out of the bag was to reveal the seller’s trick.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    • If somebody insults you or harms you (a wrong), doing the same to them (two wrongs) will not make everything okay. It will most likely cause a back-and-forth fight without end. If somebody is mean to you, don’t be mean to them in return because it’s not right to do so.
  • Always put your best foot forward.
    • When you are starting on a project or a journey, it’s best to start with a good attitude and a lot of energy. First impressions (what people think about you when they meet you for the first time) can last for a long time. That’s why this proverb is also used when meeting new people or for job interviews. Having a positive attitude—your best foot—is the best way to make a good impression.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day.
    • Rome is a great city. However, it took many years to be completed. The builders did not rush to complete their work and neither should you. If you wish to create something wonderful and long-lasting, you will have to spend more than a day working on it. You will probably have to spend several days, weeks or even months to do a good job. Take your time and do it right!
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry.
    • Do everything possible to keep bad things from happening to you. It only takes a second to put on a seatbelt or to check that you locked the door. But if you’re not safe, the bad results can last a lifetime. So it’s best for you to be careful, otherwise you’ll be sorry.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
    • This proverb warns against acting mean to those who provide for you or who do nice things for you. If you were to bite the hand that gave you food, that hand probably won’t come back to feed you again. Then what would you eat? So you should be kind and thankful to those who care for you.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    • If you have a problem but never talk about it, no one will help you. How could they? But if you tell someone, things will get better. This proverb is about someone who complains a lot (the squeaky wheel) because they get more attention (the grease). For example, a child who cries a lot will get more attention from his mother than his silent brothers and sisters.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
    • If you take a bite of food that’s too big, you won’t be able to chew! Plus you could choke on all of that extra food. It’s the same if you take on more work or responsibility than you can handle—you will have a difficult time. So it’s best not to get involved in too many projects, because you won’t be able to focus and get them all done well.
  • You made your bed, now you have to lie in it.
    • No one likes sleeping in a poorly made bed. If you make your bed with the sheets all tangled and blankets facing the wrong way, you can’t switch with someone else. You have to sleep in that bed. This proverb uses bed-making to describe any bad situation in which you may find yourself. You can’t trade places with anyone else. You must live with the results of your actions, so make good choices.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
    • The Greek philosopher Plato once said that action is character. People are not defined by what they say because a lot of talk does not mean anything. People are judged by the things they do. Your actions are more important than what you say.
  • It takes two to tango.
    • This proverb is often said during a fight in which one person is putting all of the blame on the other person, when both people were actually responsible. Just as one person can’t tango (a Spanish dance with two people) alone, two people are responsible for some situations, so you can’t just blame one person.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
    • This proverb warns against being too eager. Just because you have five eggs, does not mean you will have five chickens. It is not a good idea to make plans based on expectations (what you think will happen). Wait for all things to come true before building up your dreams. Or worse, your promises. Things may not happen like you thought they would and that could get you in trouble.
  • It’s no use crying over spilled milk.
    • Milk is easy to get. You may get in trouble for spilling the milk, you shouldn’t cry because it isn’t a big deal. Also, crying won’t solve anything. This proverb advises you to stay calm during such small problems. Don’t waste time worrying about little things that cannot be changed. Clean up the mess and go buy some more milk.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
    • Be careful! If you put all your goods in one bag or all your money in one stock, you are taking a big risk. It is smarter to spread your wealth around. That way if one basket should break, you’re not left with nothing.
  • People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
    • People in glass houses means anyone who is sensitive about their failures. People like this should not insult others (should not throw stones) because most likely the other person will turn around and insult you back. And like glass, which is easy to break, your self-esteem (what you think of yourself) will easily break into pieces.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss.
    • Only a stone that is in the same place for a long time will have moss growing on it. A stone on the move will remain bare. The same is true with people. If you remain in one place for a long time, the signs of life—friends, family, objects and your local reputation (what people think of you)—will grow on you. But not if you always move from place to place.
  • First things first.
    • This proverb advises you to do things in the right order. Do not skip over the more difficult or less enjoyable tasks in order to get to the easier, more fun ones. For example, if you have an exam to study for the same night your friend is having a party, study for the exam first. The party would be more fun, but the exam is more important so it should be done first.
  • Still waters run deep.
    • Still waters run deep describes people who are quiet and calm. These people often have deep, interesting personalities. So even if someone doesn’t talk a lot, they could still be very thoughtful. The proverb uses water to describe people. When the surface of a body of water is rough and fast, it usually means that it is shallow (not deep) and has rocks close to the surface, like in a river or stream. But water that is calm and still is often very deep, like in a lake.
  • If it ain’t* broke, don’t fix it.
    • This phrase is used when someone is trying to change or improve a way of doing something that works perfectly well. Why change something that works? You could ruin everything! This proverb goes nicely with the proverb leave well enough alone.
    • *Note: Ain’t is not correct English. It’s an informal way of saying isn’t or is not. This style of speaking is popular in the Southern states of the United States and in farming regions.
  • Curiosity killed the cat.
    • This proverb is often used to stop someone from asking too many questions. Curiosity (when you’re excited and eager to know something) can lead you into dangerous situations. Cats, who are naturally curious, often end up in trouble. They get stuck up in trees or between walls.
  • Learn to walk before you run.
    • Do things in the right order, from simple to more complicated. For example, do not try to read a difficult English novel when you’re just starting to learn English. If you try to jump ahead, you will most likely fail—just like a child who tries to run before learning to walk will fall. All things will come in time, but you must be patient and go through the proper process.
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
    • Things that grow on trees, such as fruit or leaves, are considered plentiful (enough, plenty) because they will grow back. If you eat an apple from a tree, more apples will continue to grow. But money must be earned through hard work, and doesn’t grow back after you spend it. Once you spend money, it’s gone. This proverb is often said to people who waste their money on silly purchases.
  • My hands are tied.
    • This phrase should not be taken literally. You say this proverb when you can’t do what you would like to do. For example, say you are in charge of an office and everyone (including you) wants to celebrate someone’s birthday. But your boss tells you it’s against the rules. You could tell your coworkers, Sorry, my hands are tied. You would like to have a birthday celebration with them, but you can’t.
  • It’s the tip of the iceberg.
    • Only a small amount of an iceberg can be seen above the surface of the water. Most of it lies below. This proverb uses the iceberg to describe a situation where you are only beginning to understand the problem. The little signs that you can see are in fact part of a much larger problem.
  • No news is good news.
    • No information about a situation suggests that nothing bad has happened. This phrase is said by families waiting nervously for news of a father or son who has gone to war. To receive news would mean hearing that your loved one has been killed, captured or hurt.  Even though it’s difficult to know nothing about what’s happening, it’s still better than hearing bad news.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.
    • If you can see something every day, your mind will think about it. This proverb is about the habit of forgetting things that are not nearby. For example, if you want to stop eating chips and junk food, you could move them from the counter top and hide them in a cupboard. If you don’t see them, you won’t think to eat them. Out of sight, out of mind.
  • If you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.
    • This proverb simply means that if you help me, I’ll help you too. Usually, when you do a favor for someone, they do something for you in return. This can be beneficial (helpful) to both people.
  • Ignorance is bliss.
    • Ignorance is when you don’t know or are unaware of something. Bliss is pure joy and happiness. So sometimes it feels better and you’re more comfortable when you don’t know about certain things. For example, if I tell you this fact—that from 2000-2012, 2.3 million square kilometers of forests were cut down around the world (which is size of all the states east of the Mississippi River)—you could feel sad and hopeless for the environment. But if I hadn’t told you that fact, you would feel happier.
  • Easy come, easy go.
    • Money, fame, love or anything that happens easily can be lost just as quickly. If you get a lot of money or suddenly become famous, you could lose that money or fame very quickly—since you didn’t work hard to earn it.
  • The forbidden fruit is always the sweetest.
    • Forbidden means it’s not allowed, so this phrase means that if something isn’t allowed, you often want it the most (it will taste the sweetest). For example, let’s say you’re a kid whose parents don’t let you drink soda. You go to a friend’s house, and her parents ask if you want a soda. You say yes and really enjoy that soda because you never get to drink it at home.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • People say this when things are going badly or when someone is sad. Clouds stand for bad situations. Every bad situation has some good parts to it—you just have to look for them. The proverb is meant to help people feel better and keep going. It’s also where the name of the movie Silver Linings Playbook came from.
  • You can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.
    • Sometimes, to get things done, you have to be pushy or break a few rules. You may even have to insult some people. An omelet is a tasty dish and worth the effort to make. However, you must break some eggs to make it. So if you want to get a worthwhile project done or make changes, you can’t please everyone. Someone might be offended or hurt, so you have to decide if the price is worth it.
  • Close but no cigar.
    • In the old days, fairgrounds would give cigars as prizes for games. The phrase close but no cigar means that you were close to succeeding in the game, but you didn’t win the cigar. As a proverb it means that even though you did your best or almost had it right, you weren’t completely correct.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder
    • Meaning: Being away from someone or something for a period of time makes you appreciate that person or thing more when you see them or it again
    • Example: I used to hate going to my aunt’s house, but now I kind of miss it. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
    • Meaning: What you do is more important than what you say
    • Example: Don’t just tell me you’re going to change. Do it! Actions speak louder than words.
  • A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step
    • Meaning: You must begin something if you hope to finish it; something that takes a long time to finish begins with one step
    • Example: If you want to lose weight, you need to stop eating junk, and you need to start exercising. Today. Not tomorrow. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • All good things must come to an end
    • Meaning: Everything ends; good times don’t last forever
    • Example: I wish this vacation would go on forever. It’s too bad that all good things must come to an end.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words
    • Meaning: An image can tell a story better than words
    • Example: I wasn’t sure that he loved her, but then I saw them hugging at the airport. A picture is worth a thousand words.
  • A watched pot never boils
    • Meaning: If something takes time to do, it doesn’t help to constantly check on it. You just have to give it time.
    • Example: I know you think he’s going to be a great guitar player one day, but stop criticizing him so much. He just started taking lessons two weeks ago! A watched pot never boils.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers
    • Meaning: If you’re in a bad situation and someone offers to help you, you have to take whatever they give you and shouldn’t ask for more
    • Example: I was unemployed, and they offered me a job cleaning prison toilets. I didn’t like the job, but I accepted it. Beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
    • Meaning: What is beautiful is different for each person
    • Example: I think their house is ugly, but they seem to like it. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Better late than never
    • Meaning: It’s better to finish something late than to never do it at all
    • Example: Hello, Mr. Jameson. Here is my final essay. Better late than never, right?
  • Birds of a feather flock together
    • Meaning: People who are similar spend time together
    • Example: I think we all started hanging out because we all liked anime. Birds of a feather flock together.
  • Cleanliness is next to godliness
    • Meaning: It’s good to be clean. God is clean, and you should be too.
    • Example: Go take a shower before your date. You know what they say; cleanliness is next to godliness.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
    • Meaning: Don’t make someone angry or hurt someone who is helping you or paying for you
    • Example: You had a fight with your boss? Are you stupid? Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
    • Meaning: Don’t expect a positive result before you actually see it
  • Example: A: This idea is going to make me millions of dollars!
                    B: Whoa. Let’s slow down. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover
    • Meaning: Don’t judge someone or something by appearance alone
    • Example: Racism is still a problem today, and it will continue to be that way until we learn not to judge a book by its cover.
  • Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket
    • Meaning: Don’t put all of your hopes and resources into one goal or dream
    • Example: I know you really want to be an actor, but don’t you think you’re being financially irresponsible? Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket.
  • Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today
    • Meaning: If you can do something today, do it. Don’t wait until tomorrow; don’t procrastinate.
    • Example: You have 6 hours of free time now. You should start on that final psychology assignment. Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Don’t put too many irons in the fire
    • Meaning: Don’t try to do too many things at the same time; focus on one thing at a time
    • Example: No wonder you’re exhausted. You’re trying to work 4 jobs at the same time! You have too many irons in the fire right now.
  • Easy come, easy go
    • Meaning: When you make money quickly, it’s very easy to lose it quickly as well
    • Example: I won $200 at the casino, and then I spent it on a very expensive meal for me and some friends. Easy come, easy go.
  • Fortune favors the bold
    • Meaning: People who are brave and who take risks are more successful than people who are do things safely all the time
    • Example: It’s a risk, but the reward could be great. I say you go for it. Fortune favors the bold.
  • God helps those who help themselves
    • Meaning: Don’t just wait for good things to happen to you. Work hard to make them happen
    • Example: If you want a better life, you can’t just sit on your butt thinking about it. You have to work to make it happen. God helps those who help themselves.
  • Good things come to those who wait
    • Meaning: If you are patient, good things can happen
    • Example: I know you’re hungry, but stop being so impatient. We just ordered our food. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Honesty is the best policy
    • Meaning: It’s always better to tell the truth than it is to lie
    • Example: If you want people to trust you, you need to be honest with them. Honesty is the best policy.
  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
    • Meaning: In any situation, be optimistic about the result, but always be ready for the worst outcome
    • Example: We’re going on vacation next week. It’s supposed to rain a lot, so we’re bringing our umbrellas and a bunch of board games. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
    • Meaning: If something is already working well, don’t try to change it or improve it
    • Example: Why are you trying to upgrade your PC again? It was working fine before. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em
    • Meaning: If you can’t change someone’s behavior or opinion, sometimes it’s better or easier to do what they want to do
    • Example: I told Mark that we needed to study, but he kept playing video games. Eventually I gave up and just played video games too. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.
  • If you play with fire, you’ll get burned
    • Meaning: If you get involved in something dangerous or beyond your abilities, you will probably experience negative consequences
    • Example: Don’t make him angry. If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.
  • If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself
    • Meaning: Don’t depend on someone else to do a good job; do it yourself
    • Example: I asked my roommate to wash the dishes, but they ended up super filthy! I guess it’s true what they say: if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
  • Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer
    • Meaning: If someone is your enemy, treat them like a friend so you can be ready if they ever try to betray you
    • Example: We don’t trust each other, but we have to be nice to each other because we work for the same company. I’m worried about him stealing my promotion, so I’m going to keep being nice to him. Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, and all that.
  • Knowledge is power
    • Meaning: The more you know, the more powerful you can be in different areas of your life
    • Example: When we were kids, our parents taught us how to swim. That knowledge helped me to save my cousin’s life when he was 5 years old. Knowledge is power.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.
    • Meaning: When you’re in a difficult situation, laughing can make it easier to get through that situation
    • Example: I’m sorry to hear about your dog. Want to watch a funny movie? Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.
  • Like father, like son
    • Meaning: Said when a son is similar to his father; also, ‘Like mother, like daughter’
    • Example: Ryan started playing hockey at a very young age. He’s just like his dad. Like father, like son.
  • No man is an island
    • Meaning: No one is truly capable of living alone. We need human connection to be healthy
    • Example: You can’t just abandon your friends and family. No man is an island.
  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones
    • Meaning: Don’t criticize someone if you’re not perfect either; don’t be a hyprocrite
    • Example: Why are you always bothering her about being addicted to her phone? You’ve been smoking for 20 years and haven’t been able to give it up. People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  • Practice makes perfect
    • Meaning: The more you do something, the better you will become at it
    • Example: Don’t give up on learning the violin. Practice makes perfect.
  • The early bird gets the worm
    • Meaning: People who wake up early or who get to places early have a better chance of success
    • Example: I got to the ticket office before anyone else. I got front row seats to the show! The early bird gets the worm.
      If someone whom I don’t like doesn’t like someone else whom I don’t like, we can act like friends and unite against the other person (common in war)
      I don’t like you, you don’t like me. But I think we can agree that we both HATE Daniel. Let’s work together and get him fired! The enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?
  • The grass is always greener on the other side
    • Meaning: People always want what they don’t have
    • Example: A: I’m jealous of all the free time my single friends have.
                      B: Yeah, but your friends are probably jealous of you too in some ways. The grass is always greener on the other side.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword
    • Meaning: If you’re trying to convince someone of something, words and ideas are stronger than using physical force (common in politics)
    • Example: We must avoid this war and use diplomacy to solve our problems. The pen is mightier than the sword.
  • There is no place like home
    • Meaning: Your home is the most comfortable place in the world
    • Example: What a tiring vacation! I’m glad to be back in my own bed again. There’s no place like home.
  • There is no such thing as a free lunch.
    • Meaning: Nothing is free. Even the things that are free have a hidden cost
    • Example: His bank gave him $50 for free, but he had to commit to opening a credit card account. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
  • There is no time like the present
    • Meaning: Don’t wait to do something. Do it now.
    • Example: Why don’t you stop talking about needing to call your mom? Just CALL her! There is no time like the present.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease
    • Meaning: The person who complains in a situation is more likely to get something.
    • Example: A: I just don’t understand why she’s received so many promotions, and I’m still at the bottom of the company!
                      B: She complains a lot. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
  • Time is money
    • Meaning: Don’t waste your time or other people’s time; also, if you can use your time to make money in some way, you should do that.
    • Example: Hurry up! Time is money!
  • Two heads are better than one
    • Meaning: It’s easier to do something as a team than by yourself
    • Example: I’m stuck on this project. Can you help me out? Two heads are better than one.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right
    • Meaning: Trying to get revenge on someone who has hurt you will only make things worse
    • Example: I know she made you angry, but did you have to steal her phone? Two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do
    • Meaning: When you are in a new place or situation, try to act like the majority of people in that place or situation.
    • Example: A: You’ve been eating a lot of bread and cheese on this Paris vacation.
                      B: Hey, when in Rome.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going
    • Meaning: When a situation becomes difficult, strong people don’t give up; they work harder
    • Example: My great grandfather survived the Great Depression. You know the phrase, ‘when the going gets tough, the tough get going?’ That was my great grandfather.
  • Where there’s smoke, there’s fire
    • Meaning: If something seems wrong, it probably is; also, there is usually some truth to a rumor
    • Example: Matilda came to school with a black eye today. She cried when I asked her about it after class and didn’t want to say anything about her parents. I don’t want to speculate too much, but where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
  • You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it
    • Meaning: You can try to help someone by giving good advice, but you can’t force them to accept it or follow it
    • Example: She tried to help her brother find a job by improving his resume, but he didn’t do anything with it. I guess you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink it.
  • You can’t always get what you want
    • Meaning: Don’t complain if you don’t get what you want
    • Example: A: I really wanted to see that movie, but I didn’t have enough money last week
                      B: It happens. You can’t always get what you want, right?
  • A bad workman always blames his tools.
    • Meaning: This proverb is used when someone blames the quality of their equipment or other external factors when they perform a task poorly.
    • Example: A: The turkey isn’t cooked well because the oven is not functioning well.
                      B: Well, it’s the case of a bad workman blaming his tools.
  • A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
    • Meaning: Things we already have are more valuable than what we hope to get.
    • Example: A: Why did you turn down that job offer when you don’t have anything concrete in hand at the moment?
                      B: Well, I’m confident I’ll land one of the two jobs I interviewed for last week. And they’re better than this one.
                      A: In my opinion, you should’ve taken it. A bird in hand is worth two in the bush.
  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
    • Meaning: When people we love are not with us, we love them even more.
    • Example: When I was with her she always fought with me but now she cries for me on phone. I think distance made her heart grow fonder.
  • A cat has nine lives.
    • Meaning: Cat can survive seemingly fatal events.
    • Example: I haven’t seen him for several weeks, but I wouldn’t really worry about him. Everyone knows a cat has nine lives.
  • A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
    • Meaning: One weak part will render the whole weak.
    • Example: No matter how confident the team is, it is as strong as its weakest link – its defence.
  • Actions speak louder than words.
    • Meaning: Actions are a better reflection of one’s character because it’s easy to say things, but difficult to act on them and follow through.
    • Example: Julie always says she’ll donate to the school, and she never does, so I doubt she will this year. Actions speak louder than words, after all.
  • A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
    • Meaning: When someone is in a difficult situation, s/he will take any available opportunity to improve it.
    • Example: After trying all reliable medicines, he is now visiting quacks to get a cure for his baldness. A drowning man will clutch at a straw.
  • Adversity and loss make a man wise.
    • Meaning: We gain wisdom faster in difficult times than in prosperous times.
    • Example: After losing money in my investments, I know which investments to avoid. It is rightly said adversity and loss make a man wise.
  • A fool and his money are soon parted.
    • Meaning: Foolish people do not know how to hold on to their money.
    • Example: She gave up her entire estate on the basis of a verbal promise. A fool and his money are indeed easily parted.
  • A journey of thousand miles begins with a single step.
    • Meaning: Howsoever big a task is, it starts with a small step.
    • Example: I’m feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of completing 4,000-word paper by next week, but I guess I’ll start by writing 500 words every day. After all, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
  • A leopard can’t/ doesn’t change its spots.
    • Meaning: A person can’t change its innate character, especially bad.
    • Example: A: Do you think he’ll stop copying after being caught and penalized?
                      B: I don’t think so. A leopard can’t change its spots.
  • All good things come to an end.
    • Meaning: Good experiences eventually come to an end.
    • Example: I was so sad to graduate from college and separate from my friends, but I’ve to realize that all good things come to an end.
  • All’s well that ends well.
    • Meaning: As long as the outcome is good, problems on the way don’t matter.
    • Example: I’m glad you finally got here, even though your car had a flat tire on the way. Oh well, all’s well that ends well.
  • All that glitters is not gold.
    • Meaning: Things that look good outwardly may not be as valuable or good.
    • Example: A: I want to be a movie star when I grow up.
                      B: Film industry looks good from the distance, but it has its own problems. Remember, all that glitters is not gold.
  • All’s fair in love and war.
    • Meaning: One can break the rules of fair play under extenuating circumstances.
    • Example: A: How can you pitch my idea to the boss to look good? B: Come on, all is fair in love and war.
  • Always put your best foot forward.
    • Meaning: Try as hard as you can or give your best.
    • Example: You need to put your best foot forward in the interview if you want to land that job.
  • Among the blind the one-eyed man is king.
    • Meaning: An incapable person can gain powerful position if others in the fray are even more incapable.
    • Example: Despite his obvious lack of exposure and skills, he became head of the department because he is one-eyed among the blind.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    • Meaning: Eating an apple a day will keep you healthy.
    • Example: Switch from chips to apples for your snack. An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  • An empty vessel makes much noise.
    • Meaning: Foolish or stupid people are the most talkative.
    • Example: The spokesperson of the ruling political party yesterday was shouting at the top of his voice on a TV debate, trying to defend the indefensible. Empty vessel makes much noise.
  • An idle brain is the devil’s workshop.
    • Meaning: If you’ve nothing to do, you’ll likely think of mischief.
    • Example: The kids should be kept busy during the summer break. Otherwise, you know an idle brain is devil’s workshop.
  • An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
    • Meaning: A little precaution before a crisis hits is better than lot of firefighting afterwards.
    • Example: Get the vaccination on priority. An ounce of protection is worth a pound of cure.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Meaning: It is easier to show or explain something through a picture than through words.
    • Example: A picture is worth a thousand words. It is easier to learn biology through pictures than through reams of text.
  • Appearances can be deceptive.
    • Meaning: Outward appearance may not be what you believe them to be.
    • Example: A: He was well-mannered, suave, and good to talk to, but he turned out to be a cheater. B: Well, appearances can be deceptive.
  • A rolling stone gathers no moss.
    • Meaning: A person who is always changing jobs and places has the advantage of less responsibilities, but also the disadvantage of no fixed place to live.
    • Example: He was a bit of rolling stone before he got the job and settled down.
  • A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for.
    • Meaning: Get out of your comfort zone to grow and fulfill your potential.
    • Example: I think your fears are unfounded. You should travel to Italy for the Model UN. I’m sure you’ll learn a lot. Remember, a ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for.
  • A stitch in time saves nine.
    • Meaning: It’s better to deal with problems immediately rather than wait by when they worsen and become much bigger.
    • Example: Because we anticipated and responded to the possible change in Facebook algorithm, the referral traffic to our website dropped much less than what happened to some of our competitors. A stitch in time saves nine.
  • As you sow, so you shall reap.
    • Meaning: Your actions – good or bad – determine what you get.
    • Example: You’ve got entangled in few cases of fraud. That’s a result of your illegal get-rich-quick methods. You should have known as you sow, so you shall reap.
  • A thing begun is half done.
    • Meaning: A good beginning makes it easier to accomplish the rest of the project.
    • Example: He has already won first set in the match. I think he is on course to take this match. Well begun is half done, after all.
  • Barking dogs seldom bite.
    • Meaning: People who appear threatening rarely do harm.
    • Example: A: I’m really scared to report delay in the project to the boss. His temper is so over the top. B: I don’t think you should worry too much about it. Barking dogs seldom bite.
  • Be slow in choosing, but slower in changing.
    • Meaning: Choose things or people after proper diligence, but once you choose, stick for long.
    • Example: Don’t be hasty in picking friends, but once you make friends with someone, don’t change him/ her fast. You should be slow in choosing, but slower in changing.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
    • Meaning: What may seem beautiful to one person may not seem to another.
    • Example: You may not like the curves of my new car, but then beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • Beauty is only skin deep.
    • Meaning: A person’s character, intellect, and other inner qualities are more important than his/ her physical beauty.
    • Example: That gorgeous actress behaved so rudely with the driver – beauty is skin deep, after all.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers.
    • Meaning: People who depend on the generosity of others can’t pick & choose things as per their liking. They’ve to accept what is given to them.
    • Example: A: I borrowed this jacket from my friend, but it’s not one of his nice ones.
                      B: Well, but, beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Best things in life are free.
    • Meaning: The most valuable things are often free.
    • Example: I feel so rejuvenated in clean air, sparkling water, and beautiful nature of the mountains. Often times, the best things in life are free.
  • Better late than never.
    • Meaning: It is better to get something (you desire) late than get it never.
    • Example: I’m sorry I’m late to the party, but better late than never, right?
  • Better to be poor and healthy rather than rich and sick.
    • Meaning: Good health is more important than money.
    • Example: The pharma tycoon has been in and out of hospital for the last two months because of kidney ailments. It’s better to be poor and healthy than rich and sick.
  • Better to wear out than to rust out.
    • Meaning: It is better to remain active than to be idle (used mainly for old people)
    • Example: A: Seeing your age, I wouldn’t recommend you to work so hard.
                      B: It’s better to wear out than to rust out.
  • Blood is thicker than water.
    • Meaning: Relationships with family (or blood relatives) is stronger than other relationships.
    • Example: My friends invited me for the picnic on Sunday, but I have to go to my cousin’s birthday instead. Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it?
  • Cleanliness is next to Godliness.
    • Meaning: Cleanliness is a sign of goodness, a great virtue.
    • Example: Keep yourself clean, after all cleanliness is next to Godliness.
  • Clothes do not make the man.
    • Meaning: A person’s character can’t be judged by his/ her clothing and outward appearance.
    • Example: A: I can’t believe he has been charged for insider trading. He always seemed so professional and impeccable. B: Well, clothes don’t make the man.
  • Cowards die many times before their deaths.
    • Meaning: Cowards suffer the feared effects of death many times over in their lives.
    • Example: A: He is constantly worried about the security of his job, and I don’t think he’ll pursue his true interests. B: He exemplifies the saying ‘cowards die many times before their deaths’.
  • Cross the stream where it is shallowest.
    • Meaning: To do things in the easiest possible way.
    • Example: Let’s just cross the stream where it is shallowest and find a spot that you can pull right in to—don’t worry about parallel parking.
  • Curiosity killed the cat.
    • Meaning: Enquiring into others’ work can be dangerous. One should mind own business.
    • Example: I know curiosity killed the cat, but I can’t stop the investigation until I know where the donations are really going.
  • Curses, like chickens, come home to roost.
    • Meaning: The consequences of doing wrong always catch up with the wrongdoer.
    • Example: Politicians can fool some people some of the time, but in the end, chickens come home to roost.
  • Discretion is the better part of valor.
    • Meaning: It is wise to be careful and not show unnecessary bravery.
    • Example: Son: Can I go hand gliding with my friends? Father: No. Son: But they’ll say I’m a chicken if I don’t go! Father: Discretion is the better part of valor, and I’d rather have them call you chicken than risk your life.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
    • Meaning: Don’t take more responsibility than you can handle.
    • Example: I bit off more than I can chew when I said ‘yes’ to my boss for another project.
  • Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
    • Meaning: Don’t act badly toward the person who has helped you or from whom you derive some benefits, for you may lose those benefits in future.
    • Example: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you by talking ill of your mentor for such a small thing. If he distances himself from you or talk bad about you, it can hurt you bad.
  • Don’t blow your own trumpet.
    • Meaning: You should avoid proudly talking of your achievements and success in front of others.
    • Example: Don’t blow your own trumpet by talking of who your clients are and how much money you make every month.
  • Don’t cast pearls before swine.
    • Meaning: Don’t offer something valuable to someone who doesn’t value it.
    • Example: To serve them French cuisine is like casting pearls before swine.
  • Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
    • Meaning: Don’t make plans based on future events that may not happen at all.
    • Example: A: I’ve to prepare for my campaign.
                      B: But you haven’t been nominated yet. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
  • Don’t cross a bridge until you come to it.
    • Meaning: Deal with a situation when it happens and not unnecessarily worry about it in advance.
    • Example: I know you’re worried about the mortgage payment in January, but don’t cross the bridge till you come to it.
  • Don’t judge a book by its cover.
    • Meaning: Just like you can’t form an opinion of a book just by looking at its cover, you can’t form an opinion about someone (or something) from their outward appearance.
    • Example: He seems a bit jerk to me, but, hey, you never know. He may be good. You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
  • Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    • Meaning: If you kill a goose that lays golden eggs, you destroy something that makes lot of money for you.
    • Example: Tourists come to this city mainly to see this monument. By opening it to commercial use, the city council may kill the goose that lays golden eggs.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
    • Meaning: Don’t put all your effort into a single course of action, venture, investment, goal, or the like, because if it doesn’t work, you lose everything.
    • Example: Almost entire revenue of the Company comes from the Facebook platform. If Facebook tweaks its policies in future, the Company may sink. They shouldn’t put all their eggs in the same basket.
  • Don’t put the cart before the horse.
    • Meaning: Do things in proper order. ‘Horse before the cart’ is the proper order, and not ‘cart before the horse’.
    • Example: Don’t put the cart before the horse by finalizing the house you want to buy before you arrange the funds for down payment.
  • Don’t throw the baby with the bathwater.
    • Meaning: Don’t discard something valuable while getting rid of something worthless.
    • Example: We shouldn’t scrap the entire project for a subpart not planned well. Let’s not throw the baby with the bathwater.
  • Early bird catches the worm.
    • Meaning: One who starts early on the work has higher chance of success.
    • Example: A: Why have you come so early for the season-ending sale?
                      B: So that I can choose from a wider selection and get a better piece. Early bird catches the worm, after all.
  • Easy come, easy go.
    • Meaning: You say this when you get something easily and then lose it as easily.
    • Example: I found fifty dollars while on my morning walk, but I frittered it away foolishly by the afternoon – easy come, easy go.
  • Empty bags cannot stand upright.
    • Meaning: A poor or hungry person cannot discharge his duties well.
    • Example: You cannot expect poor people to fight for climate change, because empty bags cannot stand upright. They need to first fulfill their basic needs.
  • Every cloud has a silver lining.
    • Meaning: Every bad or negative situation can result in some benefit to you. (The presence of silver lining means that the sun is behind the cloud and will eventually emerge.)
    • Example: I know your business has suffered few setbacks this season. But remember, every cloud has a silver lining.
  • Every dog has his day.
    • Meaning: Even the unluckiest or the most unfortunate will taste success at some point.
    • Example: Are you surprised that John, the laggard, has got 92 percent marks in math? Well, every dog has his day.
  • Every man is the architect of his destiny.
    • Meaning: Your own actions and decisions decide what you achieve (or don’t) in life.
    • Example: Don’t blame others for your current state of affairs. Every man is the architect of his destiny. You too are.
  • Every man has his price.
    • Meaning: Anyone can be swayed to do something. It’s just that some may demand high price, some low. This proverb is also used in the sense of bribing people.
    • Example: A: He has declined our offer to join the company.
                      B: Sweeten the offer. Raise the compensation. Every man has his price.
  • Fall seven times. Stand up eight.
    • Meaning: Be resilient and try despite failures. That’s how you succeed.
    • Example: Abraham Lincoln lost so many elections, but he kept trying. Eventually he became the President of United States. It’s rightly said: Fall seven times. Stand up eight.
  • Familiarity breeds contempt.
    • Meaning: If you know a situation, person, or thing well, you stop respecting them and become careless.
    • Example: After working so many years in that role, I don’t like it. I guess familiarity breeds contempt.
  • Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
    • Meaning: Fools or inexperienced persons get involved in situations or pursue goals without much thought. In contrast, wise are thoughtful about such situations or goals.
    • Example: He sent an angry email without going into the background of the matter – fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
  • Fortune favors the brave.
    • Meaning: If you carry out your plans boldly, the luck is more likely to favor you.
    • Example: I know you’re hesitant to accept the overseas position in your Company because the ground realities there are different from what you’ve faced so far, but remember fortune favors the brave.
  • Get out while the going (getting) is good.
    • Meaning: To leave a place or situation before conditions worsen and it becomes difficult to leave.
    • Example: With the stock market at an all-time high and further upside looking difficult, we decided to sell our shares and get out while the going was good.
  • Give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
    • Meaning: If you give someone a small amount of power or freedom to do something, they may try to get a lot more.
    • Example: He borrowed my car for a day, but hasn’t returned even after four days. Well, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile.
  • God helps those who help themselves.
    • Meaning: God doesn’t help those who don’t try. You’ve to make effort if you want to succeed.
    • Example: You’ve to take the bull by horns and try getting a new job. God helps those who help themselves.
  • Good things come to those who wait.
    • Meaning: Patience is often rewarded.
    • Example: The best investors in the world have made their fortunes by investing for the long term. Good things come to those who wait.
  • Grief divided is made lighter.
    • Meaning: If you share your grief, it’ll get easier to bear.
    • Example: You shouldn’t hold back the news of financial loss you’ve incurred in your business. Grief divided is made lighter.
  • Half a loaf is better than none.
    • Meaning: Getting less than what one wants is better than not getting anything.
    • Example: A: Did you get the compensation for damage to your vehicle?
                      B: I was hoping for $2,000, but the judge awarded only $800. A: Well, half a loaf is better than none.
  • Honesty is the best policy.
    • Meaning: It’s always better to be truthful and honest, even if the opposite may get you the benefits.
    • Example: I think you should just explain what happened, rather than trying to cover your tracks. Honesty is the best policy, after all.
  • Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
    • Meaning: Be optimistic, but be prepared for a scenario where things can go wrong.
    • Example: We’re hoping to raise capital from investors, but it may not come so soon. Therefore, it’s imperative to look for alternatives as well. Let’s hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
    • Meaning: If something is working fine, don’t change it unnecessarily.
    • Example: A: Why do you want to change this component in the machine when everything is working fine?
                      B: OK. I agree. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
  • If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.
    • Meaning: If things don’t turn the way you want them to, then adjust your way to suit those things.
    • Example: I need that book for completing my assignment. If you aren’t coming to the college tomorrow, I’ll come to your place to take it – if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, Muhammad must go to the mountain.
  • If wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
    • Meaning: If things were to happen by just wishing them, even the poorest will have everything they want.
    • Example: A: I want to be in a job that would pay me a million dollars a year.
                      B: If wishes were horses, beggars would ride. Stop fooling yourself and work hard towards your goal.
  • If you can’t beat them, join them.
    • Meaning: If you can’t beat your opponent, then work alongside them for mutual benefit.
    • Example: ABC Pvt. Ltd. has struck partnership with its competitor after it failed to gain market share despite aggressive marketing. If you can’t beat them, join them.
  • If you play with fire, you’ll get burned.
    • If you do something dangerous or adventurous, you may get harmed.
    • Example: Enacting the stunts of movie superheroes in real life is playing with fire. You may get burned.
  • Ignorance is bliss.
    • Meaning: If you don’t know about something, you don’t need to bother about it. In other words, if you’re unaware of something, it won’t cause you stress. This proverb, however, is often used in negative way – ignorance is not bliss.
    • Example: I didn’t know that the neighbor next door was involved in criminal activities. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
  • It’s better to be safe than sorry.
    • Meaning: It’s better to be cautious than regret later.
    • Example: One shouldn’t complain about the inconvenience of security check each time you enter the building. It’s better to be safe than sorry.
  • It’s easy to be wise after the event.
    • Meaning: It is easy to understand what you could have done to prevent something bad from happening after it has happened.
    • Example: I would have never Yought an apartment if I had known that the land on which it has been built is disputed. Well, it’s easy to be wise after the event.
  • It’s never too late to mend.
    • Meaning: It’s never too late to change your wrong ways or habits.
    • Example: A: I still miss my best friend, but it’s been a year since our fight and we haven’t spoken to each other since.
                      B: Well, it’s never too late to mend; why don’t you call him up and apologize?
  • It’s not over till it’s over.
    • Meaning: Till the event has completely played, you’re still in with a chance to succeed.
    • Example: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga came back from two sets down at Wimbledon to pull off a miraculous win. That’s why they say it’s not over till it’s over.
  • It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
    • Meaning: There is no point in staying upset over a mistake because you can’t undo what has happened.
    • Example: A: He is feeling terrible for accidentally elbowing the flower pot from the window.
                      B: It’s broken now. It’s no use crying over spilt milk.
  • It takes two to make a quarrel.
    • Meaning: An argument of quarrel is not one person’s fault.
    • Example: A: Why are you always so quarrelsome?
      B: I’m not the only person involved. It takes two to make a quarrel.
  • It takes two to tango.
    • Meaning: Where two parties are involved in a situation, fault usually lies with both if things go wrong. Rarely can one party be blamed entirely.
    • Example: This deal won’t go through unless you too are willing to compromise. It takes two to tango, after all.
  • Keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.
    • Meaning: Speak only when necessary and remain alert and observant at all times.
    • Example: We’re in a hostile territory. So, to avoid problems, keep your mouth shut and your eyes open.
  • Laughter is the best medicine.
    • Meaning: Thinking positively and laughing will help you to feel better.
    • Example: I think the best thing for you right now would be to spend some time with people you can joke around with. Laughter is the best medicine, after all.
  • Learn to walk before you run.
    • Meaning: Learn basic skills first before venturing into complex things.
    • Example: A: I want to submit my first article to Fortune magazine for publication.
                      B: I think you should aim for smaller publications to start with. You should learn to walk before you run.
  • Let sleeping dogs lie.
    • Meaning: Don’t talk about a bad situation people have forgotten and that could unnecessarily create problem in the present.
    • Example: A: Should I ask the professor if he is upset about my late submission of the assignment? B: If he hasn’t said anything, then don’t bring forth the topic – let sleeping dogs lie.
  • Life begins at forty.
    • Meaning: A person truly starts enjoying life after forty as a result of accumulated skills and wisdom.
    • Example: A: I’m turning 40 next month.
                      B: You look glum. You should instead be cheerful, after all life begins at forty.
  • Lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
    • Meaning: Misfortune does not occur twice in the same way to the same person.
    • Example: A: I don’t want to take this route, because I was robbed the last time I traveled on this route.
                      B: Don’t worry, lightning never strikes twice in the same place.
  • Look before you leap.
    • Meaning: Consider all consequences before taking an action, especially when you can’t retract.
    • Example: A: I’m planning to pursue an MBA.
                      B: It’s an expensive degree and, moreover, you’ll be out of work for two years. I would say look before you leap.
  • Make hay while the sun shines.
    • Meaning: Make the most of favorable conditions till they last.
    • Example: I got plenty of referral traffic to my website from Facebook in its initial years. I made hay while the sun shone. Later on they changed their algorithm, after which the traffic dried.
  • Money doesn’t grow on trees.
    • Meaning: Spend money carefully because it’s limited. You can’t grow it on trees and replenish.
    • Example: I’m surprised that you spent your entire month’s salary on a frivolous gadget. Well, money doesn’t grow on trees.
  • Money talks.
    • Meaning: Money gives one power and influence.
    • Example: I don’t have access to many people like he has, after all he is a scion of a rich family. Money talks, you know.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention.
    • Meaning: A need or problem forces people to come up with innovative solutions.
    • Example: In some parts of the world, farmers use washing machine to clean potatoes in large volumes. Necessity, after all, is the mother of invention.
  • Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
    • Meaning: Don’t delay doing something if you can do it immediately.
    • Example: A: I’m done with most of my assignment, but I’ll pick the remaining part on Monday.
                      B: Why don’t you complete it now? You’ll be more relieved and in a better state of mind. You shouldn’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.
  • Never test the depth of water with both feet.
    • Meaning: If you’re in water with both feet down, you risk being swept away by the currents. The message is: don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. Think twice before placing all your bets and investments on one thing.
    • Example: While applying to colleges, don’t limit yourself only to those with high cutoff marks. Never test the depth of the water with both feet.
  • No gain without pain.
    • Meaning: It is necessary to suffer or work hard in order to succeed or make progress.
    • Example: You’ve to drastically reduce the time you spend on video games and TV if you want to get admission in a good college. No gain without pain.
  • No news is good news.
    • Meaning: If you don’t receive any news about someone or something, it means that everything is fine and going normally.
    • Example: My daughter has been working in Australia for nearly five years now. At first I used to get worried when I didn’t hear from her, but now I know that no news is good news.
  • Once bitten twice shy.
    • Meaning: You say this proverb when someone won’t do something a second time because they had bad experience the first time.
    • Example: I won’t try this drink, because last time I had a burning sensation in my throat. Once bitten twice shy, I guess.
  • One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.
    • Meaning: What may seem to be junk to one person maybe valuable to another.
    • Example: I sold my 6-year-old laptop for little amount, but I’m sure the buyer will make hefty profit on it by refurbishing and selling it to someone else. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure, after all.
  • One shouldn’t miss forest for the trees.
    • Meaning: Sometimes you get so focused on small details that you may miss the larger context.
    • Example: The marketers got so bogged down on creating the perfect ad campaign that they didn’t realize that the medium – Facebook – they wanted to use was no longer a viable option because of its recent algorithm updates.
  • Out of sight, out of mind.
    • Meaning: If someone or something is not seen for a long time, it’ll be forgotten.
    • Example: Many celebrities find a way to appear in media because they know that out of sight is out of mind.
  • Pen is mightier than sword.
    • Meaning: Thinking and writing have more influence on people and events than use of force.
    • Example: After the mass killings at the newspaper office, there is a protest which is happening in the city declaring support to the paper and proving that pen is mightier than sword.
  • People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.
    • Meaning: People who have faults should not criticize other people for having the same faults.
    • Example: The main political party in the opposition has blamed the ruling party for giving tickets to people with dubious background in the upcoming elections. But the big question is: are they themselves clean on this count? People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.
  • Persuasion is better than force.
    • Meaning: You can achieve better results through persuasion than through coercion.
    • Example: After many futile attempts by the government, farmers finally agreed to acquisition of their land on the promise of economic development of the area. That’s why it is said persuasion is better than force.
  • Practice makes perfect.
    • Meaning: Doing something over and over makes one better at it.
    • Example: You can’t expect to master guitar in two months. You’ve to keep at it for several months, as practice makes perfect.
  • Practice what you preach.
    • Meaning: Behave the way you encourage other people to behave.
    • Example: You keep telling us to go for a jog in the morning, but I wish you would practice what you preach.
  • Rome wasn’t built in a day.
    • Meaning: Important work takes time to complete.
    • Example: You can’t expect her to finish such a complex project in a week. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
  • Silence is half consent.
    • Meaning: If you don’t object to what someone says or does, you may be assumed to agree to some extent.
    • Example: He didn’t say anything to my proposal of going for a picnic on the weekend. I believe he is not saying ‘no’. Silence is half consent.
  • Slow and steady wins the race.
    • Meaning: Slow and consistent work leads to better chance of success than quick work in spurts.
    • Example: A: I’ve built a strong vocabulary by learning a word a day for the last three years.
                      B: Mine has been much less even though I’ve had days when I polished off ten words. I guess slow and steady wins the race.
  • Still waters run deep.
    • Meaning: If a person doesn’t speak much, it doesn’t mean they lack depth or are uninteresting.
    • Example: She is one of the smartest persons in the organization. She may not talk much, but still waters run deep.
  • Strike while the iron is hot.
    • Meaning: Take advantage of an opportunity as soon as it comes along.
    • Example: I thought over the job offer I got way too long. Now it has been offered to someone else. I should have struck while the iron was hot.
  • The best-laid plans go astray.
    • Meaning: Despite best preparations, things may not go your way.
    • Example: A: I had everything covered for this project, but now I’m told that the project can’t go ahead because the Company is planning an organizational restructuring.
                      B: Well, that’s unfortunate, but sometimes the best-laid plans go astray.
  • The end justifies the means.
    • Meaning: A desired result is so important that any method, even a morally bad one, may be used to achieve it.
    • Example: He’s campaigning with illegal funds on the theory that if he wins the election the end will justify the means.
  • The harder you work, the luckier you get.
    • Meaning: The harder you work, the more good ideas and chances you may make for yourself.
    • Example: Many think he got lucky in getting that fat contract, but few know he had been pursuing dozens of such contracts for several weeks – the harder you work, the luckier you get.
  • The grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
    • Meaning: People are never satisfied with their own situation; they always think others have it better.
    • Example: A: When I see him post all those travel pictures on Instagram, I feel he has the perfect life.
                      B: It’s usually not like that in real life. I’m sure he too has his share of problems. I see your thought as grass being greener on the other side of the fence.
  • The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
    • Meaning: You can only judge the quality of something after you have tried, used, or experienced it.
    • Example: A: Marketers have claimed that this weight loss diet produces strong results in just two months.
                      B: Well, I’ll reserve my opinion till I’ve tried it myself. After all, proof of pudding is in the eating.
  • There are more ways than one to skin a cat.
    • Meaning: There is more than one way to reach the same goal.
    • Example: We can get around that by renting instead of buying the delivery van – there’s more than one way to skin a cat.
  • There is no time like the present.
    • Meaning: The best time to do something is right now. So, act now.
    • Example: Don’t wait until New Bear to change your bad habits. There’s no time like the present.
  • There is safety in numbers.
    • Meaning: A group offers more protection than when you are on your own.
    • Example: Her parents won’t allow her to date but do let her go to parties, saying there’s safety in numbers.
  • The road to hell is paved with good intentions.
    • Meaning: Good intentions do not matter if a person’s actions lead to bad outcomes.
    • Example: A: Well, I was only trying to be helpful by mixing those two acids.
                      B: But, it exploded the beaker. Well, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
  • The show must go on.
    • Meaning: A performance, event, etc., must continue even though there are problems.
    • Example: The chairman died yesterday but the show must go on.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    • Meaning: People who complain the most are the ones who get attention or what they want.
    • Example: If you’re not satisfied with the service at the hotel, then you should call up the manager there. The squeaky wheel gets the grease, after all.
  • Time and tide wait for no man.
    • Meaning: You’ve no control over passage of time; it’ll keep slipping. So don’t procrastinate, don’t delay things.
    • Example: We need to hurry up or else we’ll miss the flight. Time and tide wait for no man.
  • Too many cooks spoil the broth.
    • Meaning: When too many people work together on a project, the result is inferior.
    • Example: This proposal has received feedback from too many parliamentary committees, and that’s probably the reason why it lacks clear actionables. I’ve no doubt that too many cooks spoil the broth.
  • Two heads are better than one.
    • Meaning: Two persons have a better chance to solve a problem than one.
    • Example: More startups have two cofounders than one. That’s because they very well understand that two heads are better than one.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    • Meaning: You shouldn’t harm a person who has harmed you, even if you think that person deserves it.
    • Example: Just because he insulted you doesn’t mean it’s OK for you to start a rumor about him – two wrongs don’t make a right.
  • Watch the doughnut, and not the hole.
    • Meaning: Focus on what you have and not on what you don’t.
    • Example: A: I’ve to submit the assignment next Monday, but I don’t have a clue on the topic.
                      B: Consult your friends. Consult books. Understand the topic. Watch the doughnut, and not the hole.
  • What goes around comes around.
    • Meaning: If someone treats other people badly, he or she will eventually be treated badly by someone else.
    • Example: He tormented me back in high school, and now he has his own bully. What goes around comes around.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
    • Meaning: When visiting a foreign land, follow the customs of local people.
    • Example: I don’t love cotton candy, but we are at a carnival. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, right?
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
    • Meaning: When conditions become difficult, strong people take action.
    • Example: I know you’re not used to climbing at such heights, but come on when the going gets tough, the tough get going.
  • Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
    • If you are determined enough, you can find a way to achieve what you want, even if it is difficult.
    • Example: He had little resources to start his business, but he eventually did through a small opening – blog. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
  • Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
    • Meaning: If there are rumors or signs that something is true so it must be at least partly true.
    • Example: A: Do you believe those rumors about the mayor?
                      B: Well, you know what they say, where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
  • Where one door shuts, another opens.
    • Meaning: When you lose an opportunity to do one thing, an opportunity to do something else appears.
    • Example: A: I failed to get into my dream college.
                      B: Don’t worry, this has happened with many. I’m sure something better is waiting for you. Where one door shuts, another opens.
  • While the cat’s away, the mice will play.
    • Meaning: Without supervision, people will do as they please, especially in disregarding or breaking rules.
    • Example: As soon as their parents left, the children invited all their friends over – when the cat’s away, you know.
  • You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
    • Meaning: It’s easier to win people to your side by persuasion and politeness than by confrontation and threats.
    • Example: A: The courier service has taken more time to deliver than they had promised. I want to take the issue up with them and get a refund.
                      B: I would suggest you deal with them politely. You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
  • You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
    • Meaning: You can show people the way to do things, but you can’t force them to act.
    • Example: A: He has received all the resources one needs to start a business, but even after six months I don’t see anything happening.
                      B: Well, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.
  • You can’t always get what you want.
    • Meaning: Sometimes you may face disappointments in your pursuits or your wishes may not be fulfilled.
    • Example: A: I want a bike on my birthday.
                      B: Sorry, you can’t always get what you want.
  • You can’t fit a round peg in a square hole.
    • Meaning: You can’t force someone into a role for which s/he is not suited.
    • Example: It took me a while, but I eventually understood that I was a round peg in a square hole in the firm. That’s why I quit for a better-fitting role.
  • You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
    • Meaning: To have two things that one desires, but they’re normally impossible to get simultaneously.
    • Example: If you want more local services, you can’t expect to pay less tax. Well, you can’t have your cake and eat it.
  • You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs.
    • Meaning: It is hard to achieve something important without causing unpleasant effects.
    • Example: If I don’t slash people’s salaries, the company is going to go bankrupt. It’s unfortunate, but you can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs.
  • You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
    • Meaning: People who have long been used to doing things in a particular way will not abandon their habits.
    • Example: I bet you can’t get him to get up at 5 AM and go out for a walk. After all, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
  • You can’t unscramble a scrambled egg.
    • Meaning: Some actions are irreversible.
    • Example: The spilt milk can’t be used. You can’t unscramble a scrambled egg.
  • You can’t win them all.
    • Meaning: It is not possible to succeed at everything you do.
    • Example: I know you’re disappointed to not convert that interview, but you can’t win them all.
  • You show me the man and I’ll show you the rule.
    • Meaning: Rules change depending on how influential or powerful the person likely to be affected by the rules is.
    • Example: A: He has been treated leniently by the police.
                      B: That’s why they say – you show me the man and I’ll show you the rule.
  • Two wrongs don’t make a right.
    • Meaning: When someone has done something bad to you, trying to get revenge will only make things worse.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword.
    • Meaning: Trying to convince people with ideas and words is more effective than trying to force people to do what you want.
  • When in Rome, do as the Romans.
    • Meaning: Act the way that the people around you are acting. This phrase might come in handy when you’re traveling abroad notice that people do things differently than you’re used to.
  • The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
    • Meaning: You can get better service if you complain about something. If you wait patiently, no one’s going to help you.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
    • Meaning: Strong people don’t give up when they come across challenges. They just work harder.
  • No man is an island.
    • Meaning: You can’t live completely independently. Everyone needs help from other people.
  • Fortune favors the bold.
    • Meaning: People who bravely go after what they want are more successful than people who try to live safely.
  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
    • Meaning: Don’t criticize other people if you’re not perfect yourself.
  • Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.
    • Meaning: Bad things might happen, so be prepared.
  • Better late than never.
    • Meaning: It’s best to do something on time. But if you can’t do it on time, do it late.
  • Birds of a feather flock together.
    • Meaning: People like to spend time with others who are similar to them.
  • Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
    • Meaning: If you have an enemy, pretend to be friends with them instead of openly fighting with them. That way you can watch them carefully and figure out what they’re planning.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words.
    • Meaning: Pictures convey emotions and messages better than written or spoken explanations
  • There’s no such thing as a free lunch.
    • Meaning: Things that are offered for free always have a hidden cost.
  • There’s no place like home.
    • Meaning: Your own home is the most comfortable place to be.
  • Discretion is the greater part of valor.
    • Meaning: Sometimes it’s important to know when to give up and run away, instead of always acting brave and maybe getting hurt.
  • The early bird catches the worm.
    • Meaning: You should wake up and start work early if you want to succeed.

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