Proverbs are short, memorable phrases handed down from one generation to another as “pearls of wisdom” embodying good thoughts, morality and experiences that can teach important lessons to us all. For a student of English, studying different kinds of proverbs can be both an insightful and satisfying learning curve, since they not only enhance your language skills in a pretty impressive manner, but also act as a source of profound philosophical thinking that can state axiomatic truths to guide you in every step of life. There are many common proverbs that you probably hear on a daily basis. For instance, ‘time and time wait for none’, ‘a stitch in time saves nine’, ‘honesty is the best policy’, or ‘cleanliness is next to godliness’. There are, however, many uniquely coined adages that are used only by the most ardent students of the English language. For your reading pleasure, some of them have been explained below:
20. You may lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink
You can persuade a person or guide him only to a certain extent, because the final step can only be taken by the person himself. Thus, you cannot ultimately force a person to do what he or she does not want to do.
19. A new broom sweeps clean
When a new person takes over a job, he tends to make noticeable changes and carry out the job with thoroughness.
18. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good
Most things that happen will benefit somebody, somewhere, sometime. It will be a really disastrous happening that brings no advantages at all. The rising wave of right-wing nationalism across the globe will only beget hate and violence.
17. Give a dog a bad name and hang him
If enough bad things are said about a person, they will ruin his reputation even though they may not be true. Holds true in this social media dominated world. A lynch mob may ruin the reputation of any person.
16. Half a loaf is better than none
We should be grateful for what receive, even though we expected to receive a lot more. Main aim should be to work harder in order to realise our goals.
15. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread
Foolish people say and do things too hastily. A wise person avoids rash action. Think before you say or do anything.
14. Don’t have too many irons in the fire
It is better to concentrate on one things and do it properly than to attempt too many things at the same time. Being a multi-tasker can backfire at times.
13. A creaking gate hangs longest
It means that a sickly person or a person of poor physical health often lives to reach an old age and does not die suddenly.
12. Cross the stream where it is shallowest
Find the simplest way of doing things; don’t create difficulties for yourself. Do not burden yourself with mere trivialities and pedantic issues if something can be done in an easy manner.
11. Cut your coat according to your cloth
We should not be too ambitious and should not want things which are beyond what we have. For example, we should adjust our spending according to our income.
10. Every why has a whereof
There is a reason behind everything, even if it is not obvious.
9. Fine words butter no parsnips
Fine words are no substitute for effective actions. Political leaders tend to fool people with their smooth tongues but unless they back it up with solid action, it will result in negative consequences.
8. Let sleeping dogs lie
Do not stir up unnecessary trouble. For instance, let past things remain forgotten, leave things alone that you know will cause trouble. Opening up old wounds is of no benefit to anyone.
7. Necessity is the mother of invention
If one needs something badly enough, one becomes very inventive in finding out ways of getting it. This is probably the basic mantra of all startups today.
6. One swallow doesn’t make a summer
One fact does not prove something, as it may be an exception to the rule.
5. The road to hell is paved with good intentions
People often have good intentions but fail to put them into practice. It is not enough to intend to do something; it is the doing itself that is the most important.
4. Paddle your own canoe
One should rely on oneself and not expect others to help. Do not be dependent on others.
3. Strike while the iron is hot
One should make the most of present opportunities. That opportunity may not arrive again.
2. You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds
One cannot be loyal to two opposing sides at the same time, in order to gain advantages from both. This is seen a lot in political circles where opportunists try to curry favours from all possible parties.
1. A rolling stone gathers no moss
A person who constantly changes his work or his home cannot expect to make much money, gain lasting friendship or be relied on. Having a volatile temperament will affect you personally as well as professionally.