well known english proverbs and their meanings
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The Best Known English Proverbs and their
By Kay HutchingsKJ LANGUAGE SERVICESwww.kjlanguageservices.com
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A "proverb" is a short, traditional saying that is commonly used, especially in colloquial speech. Proverbs usually express some obvious, universal truth or familiar experience that is shared amongst many people. There are many proverbs in existence, so here is a selection of some of the most well known in English.
"The best things in life are free."
The things in life that are really valuable, like love, friendship and good health cannot be bought and paid for.
"A stitch in time saves nine."
Its best to repair something as soon as it is damaged or broken because that only involves a small repair job. If not, you will end up with a much bigger and more expensive repair job in time to come. If you do it now, you'll need only one stitch. If you do it later, you'll need 9 stitches! (Why nine and not seven, eight or ten? Because "nine" rhymes almost - with "time".)
stitch (a noun) means a link made with thread in sewing in time means to not be late
"Still waters run deep."
No two rivers are the same. Some have rough surfaces with waves - usually because the water is shallow and there are rocks near the surface. Deep rivers, however, have no rocks near the surface and therefore the water is smooth and still. "Still waters run deep" is a proverb that refers to peoples personalities. People who are calm and tranquil on the exterior often have a strong, "deep" personality, in comparison to shallow people.
still (an adjective) means calm, motionless deep (an adjective) means going far down, a long way down
"He teaches ill, who teaches all."
This proverb is a little tricky to understand due to its unusual structure. It becomes easier if we change the sentence structure round so that it reads "He who teaches all teaches ill." The word "ill" here means "badly". Therefore, the proverb means that a teacher, who teaches students everything, does not teach very well. A good teacher lets their students discover some things for themselves.
ill (an adverb) means badly
"You can't take it with you when you die."
We come into this world with nothing and when we die we leave behind everything we ever owned on Earth. We do not take anything with us - even the richest people in the world cannot take their money with them after death. This valuable proverb serves to remind us that some material things are not really as valuable as we think. Remember, The best things in life are free!
"Don't cross your bridges before you come to them."
This is a very common proverb and one that is said in everyday speech quite frequently. You may have heard someone say Ill cross that bridge when I come to it. Its essentially the same proverb and means do not worry about problems before they arrive.
"Soon learnt, soon forgotten."
This is a nice reminder for anyone who is learning something they find difficult or trying (such as a foreign language!): Something that is easy to learn is easy to forget.
"Even a worm will turn."
Everyone people and animals - has their limits. Anyone will revolt if pushed too far. Even the lowest of animals will fight and hit back at some stage if provoked too often. Even a worm, the simplest of creatures, will defend itself.
worm (a noun) means a small thin animal with soft body and no bones or legs turn (a verb) means to revolt, fight back
"It was the last straw that broke the camel's back."
This links nicely to the previous proverb. There is a limit to everything and people can only take so much before they snap. We can load a camels back with lots of straw, but finally the amount will be too much and the camel's back will break. And all it takes is a single straw that breaks its back - the last straw. This proverb can be applied to many things in life. People often exclaim "That's the last straw!" when they will not or cannot accept any more of something.
straw (a noun) means a dried stalk of grain (like a dry piece of grass) camel (a noun) means a large long-necked animal used for riding and carrying
goods in the desert
"The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."
This proverb describes how many women have won a man's love by cooking delicious meals for him. They have literally fed his stomach and then found love in his heart.
way ( noun) means path; route
"Where there's a will there's a way."
When we want to achieve something badly enough we usually have the determination to do it. We can always find the path or method to achieve our goal.
will (a noun) means strong determination, desire. way (a noun) means a path, method
"Marry in haste, and repent at leisure."
Many have claimed to fall in love at first sight, but this proverb warns us that if we get married too quickly, without thinking carefully, we may be sorry later. And we will have plenty of time to be sorry!
in haste means quickly repent (a verb) means feel sorry, regret at leisure means slowly, over time
"If you wish good advice, consult an old man."
Old people have a lot of life experience and wisdom, so it is best to ask for the good advice or recommendations of an old person (male or female) rather than a young one.
wish (a verb) means want, desire advice (a noun) means recommendation as to what to do consult (a verb) means to ask; go to for advice or information
"The best advice is found on the pillow."
Problems seem all the more difficult to solve when we are tired or stressed. If we have a problem, it may be easier find the answer after a good night's sleep. People also often say: "I'll sleep on it" when referring to mulling over a problem or decision.
advice ( a noun) means recommendation as to what to do pillow (a noun) means a cushion that you rest your head on while you sleep
"All clouds bring not rain."
There are a multitude of clouds thunder clouds, fluffy clouds, wispy clouds, rain clouds. We can rephrase this proverb as: "Not every cloud brings rain" which is true. Sometimes there are many clouds in the sky but they don't bring any rain. Sometimes it's the same with our problems - or what we consider are problems.
"You can't judge a book by its cover."
This is all about first impressions. We need to read a book to know if it's good or bad we cannot know what it's like just by looking at the front or back cover. This proverb can be applied to everything, not only books.
"Bad news travels fast."
Here, "Bad news" means news about "bad" events such as accidents, death, illness, etc. People are more likely to tell this type of news quickly. But "good news" (such as passing an exam, winning a competition, getting a new, well-paid job etc) travels more slowly. Is this very telling about human nature?
"No news is good news."
This is similar to the proverb "Bad news travels fast." If we are waiting for news about someone or something, it's probably good if we hear nothing because only "bad news" would arrive quickly.
"Live and let live."
This proverb recommends that we should not interfere in other people's lives or business. We should live our own lives and let others live their lives.
"Birds of a feather flock together."
Here, "Birds of a feather" means "birds of the same type". The proverb means that people of the same type or sort stay together, because they feel safer, more comfortable with their own kind. They don't mix with people they consider different from themselves.
feather (a noun) means part of the soft, light covering of a bird's body flock (a verb) means to gather in a crowd
There are many more proverbs in English and hopefully this selection has tempted you to discover other proverbs and what they mean. As for this report, well All good things must come to an end!
KJ LANGUAGE SERVICES