What is a proverb?
English Proverbs : A proverb is folk wisdom or advice that varies from country to country, expressed through short, pithy sentences. Most proverbs are local, reflecting the knowledge, beliefs and traditions of the place, but some cross cultural barriers and have been adopted globally. They can be figurative or literal.
Proverbs are also an important part of connecting fluently with people of a particular culture. Ask any English tutor from the UK what some common English idioms are, and they will surely differ from an English tutor from the USA.
Common English Proverbs with Meanings and Examples
Here are the proverbs, each with its meaning and example of how it is used in a sentence:
1. Absence makes the heart love.
When we are away from our loved ones, we crave for their company more than at normal times.
Example: He always used to fight with me when I was with him, but now he cries on the phone for me. I think the distance made his heart grow fonder.
2. A cat has nine lives.
The cat can survive seemingly fatal events.
Example: I haven’t seen her for months, but I don’t really care about her.
3. Actions speak louder than words.
Actions are a better reflection of one’s character than words because things are easy to say, but difficult to follow and follow.
Example: The interviewee had an impressive resume, but struggled to perform the job assigned during the interview. Actions speak louder than words, don’t they?
4. A diamond with a flaw is better than a normal stone that is perfect.
A rare, priceless opportunity that comes with a few problems is better than a regular opportunity that appears to be perfect.
Example: I would recommend you to work in a market which is growing faster than the mature market. The former has its own problems, but that’s where you move faster in your career. A diamond with a flaw is better than a normal stone that is perfect.
5. Fasten the helmet after victory.
There is no place for complacency. Get to work after victory. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos calls this the Day 0 mindset.
Example: Our company has won a mega deal of $600 million, but we can’t relax because the competition is nipping at our heels. After the victory, it’s time to tighten the strings of our helmets.
6. The pen of a swan is more dangerous than the claws of a lion.
Wrong, inconsistent words can hurt more than a physical attack.
Example: Even when you are angry, express yourself politely because the quill of a goose is more dangerous than the claws of a lion.
7. A happy heart is better than a full wallet.
What is the use of money if you are unhappy even though you have a lot? Happiness is better than abundance. A 2010 study at Princeton University states that money increases happiness but only to the extent that basic needs are met. Money matters little after that.
Example: My cousin is a millionaire, but he is extremely busy and stressed, he has very little time to spend with his family. I think a happy heart is better than a full wallet.
8. A jack of all trades a master of none.
A person who has knowledge of many fields (jack of all trades) cannot be a master in any of them.
Example: You have moved from marketing to sales to business development in your organization. that’s too many.
9. Better a lean settlement than a fat lawsuit.
In disputes, it is better to settle and get only a part of the possible result, rather than fight a costly lawsuit for years with no guarantee on the result.
Example: We often see that two parties, especially companies, reach a settlement instead of fighting the case in courts. They clearly understand that a lean settlement is better than a fat lawsuit.
10. A leopard does not change its spots.
People cannot change their innate character, especially bad ones.
Example: X: Do you think he will stop cheating once he is caught and punished? Y: I don’t think so. A leopard cannot change its spots.
11. All’s well that ends well.
As long as the result is good, the problems along the way don’t matter.
Example: I’m glad you finally reached here even though your car got a flat tire on the way. All’s well that ends well.
12. Everyone puts the burden on the ready horse.
A person who hesitantly says ‘yes’ to a job will soon find himself overburdened with work.
Example: When I joined the company two years ago, I was too polite to say ‘no’ to the work people asked me to do, and soon I was overwhelmed with work. Everyone puts the burden on the ready horse.
13. Kana is the king among the blind.
A disabled person can gain a powerful position if others are even more disabled.
Example: Despite the risk and his apparent lack of skill, he became the head of the department because he has eyes for the blind.
14. An army of sheep led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
This proverb exemplifies the importance of leadership. A strong army (lion) led by a weak leader (sheep) can be defeated by a weak army (sheep) led by a strong leader (lion).
Example: The next CEO has not held a leadership position in a large organization. I hope the board will not regret its decision because an army of sheep led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep.
15. An empty vessel makes a lot of noise.
Fools and people with superficial knowledge often talk a lot.
Example: He has only a superficial understanding of the topic but did most of the talking in the meeting, without adding any value. An empty vessel makes a lot of noise.
16. One hour in the morning is equal to two hours in the evening.
People are generally more productive in the morning: first, they are fresh after a night’s sleep; Second, there are fewer distractions in the morning.
Example: I wake up at 6:00 in the morning and by the time I leave for the office, I get a lot done. I am a living example of the adage that an hour in the morning is worth two hours in the evening.
17. An ounce of safety is worth a pound of cure.
A little precaution taken before a crisis is better than a lot of fires to be put out after it.
Example: Get vaccinated on priority. An ounce of safety is worth a treat.
18. A timely stitch saves nine.
It’s better to deal with problems right away, rather than waiting for them to worsen and become too big.
Example: Because we anticipated and responded to a potential change in the Facebook algorithm, referral traffic to our website dropped significantly compared to some of our competitors. a stitch in time saves nine.
19. A work started is half done.
A good start makes it easier to complete the rest of the project.
Example: He has already taken the first set in the match, and should win the match from here. After all, a well begun is half the job done.
20. Beauty is only skin deep.
A person’s character, intelligence and other inner qualities are more important than his physical appearance.
Example: The actress behaved so rudely with the driver – after all, beauty is skin deep.
21. Start knitting and God will give the thread.
When one takes up a task which has no guide to follow, we plan a lot and think a lot but do not act. In such a search, you cannot see everything in advance and many assumptions will come to naught. What is needed is action. Plan, but act. New avenues often open up as we move forward.
Example: The path to develop a human settlement on Mars is challenging, but people have started working on it. Hopefully, things will move forward. If you start knitting, God will give you yarn.
22. Be slow to choose, but slow to change.
Choose things or people after diligence, but once chosen, stick to them for a long time.
Example: Don’t be quick to choose friends, but once you’ve made friends with someone, don’t be quick to change them. You must be slow to choose, but slow to change.
23. Better late than never.
It is better to get something (desire) late than never to get it.
Example: I’m attending graduate school at age 35, but I think it’s better late than never.
24. Birds of a feather fly together.
Like-minded people find each other’s company.
Example: You usually hang out with people with a background similar to yours. Birds of a feather do come together, after all.
25. Blood is thicker than water.
Family relation is stronger than other relations.
Example: My friends invited me for a picnic on Sunday, but I have to go to my cousin’s birthday instead. Blood is thicker than water, isn’t it?
26. Clothes don’t make the man.
The character of a person cannot be judged by his clothes and external appearances.
Example: X: I can’t believe he’s been charged with insider trading. He always seemed so professional and impeccable. Y: Well, clothes don’t make a man.
27. Curiosity killed the cat.
Checking other people’s work can be dangerous. One should be concerned with one’s own work.
Example: I know curiosity killed the cat, but I can’t stop investigating until I know exactly where Dan is going.
28. Curses, like chickens, come to roost in the house.
The wrongdoer always gets the result of wrongdoing.
Example: Politicians may fool some people for some time, but in the end when the votes are counted, the chickens come home and roost.
29. Doctors make the worst patients.
It is difficult to advise a person in a matter in which he is an expert. It’s because he thinks he already knows best what to do.
Example: When I tried to give my friend advice on how to increase revenue from his gas station, he argued about why my suggestions wouldn’t work.
30. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Do not behave badly towards the person who has helped you or from whom you have received some benefit, because in future you may lose those benefits.
Example: Don’t bite the hand that feeds you by bashing your mentor for something so small. If he pulls away from you or talks badly about you, it can make you feel bad.
31. Don’t throw pearls in front of swine.
Don’t give anything valuable to someone who doesn’t value it.
Example: Serving them French cuisine is like casting pearls before swine.
32. Don’t cross the bridge until you’re over it.
Deal with a situation as it occurs and don’t unnecessarily worry about it in advance.
Example: I know you’re worried about the mortgage payment in January, but don’t cross the bridge until you’re over it.
33. Do not empty the water pot until it rains.
Do not leave a task, such as a job, before taking its place.
Example: After receiving an average review in his annual performance appraisal, my friend left the organization without finding another job, and then struggled to find another for several months. Do not empty the water pitcher until it rains.
34. Don’t kill the hen that lays the golden egg.
If you kill the hen that lays the golden egg, you destroy something that makes you a lot of money.
Example: Tourists mainly come to this city to see this monument. By opening it up for commercial use, the city council can kill the hen that laid the golden egg.
35. Don’t open a shop until you know how to smile.
It’s hard to attract customers without a pleasant personality.
Example: Since my friend’s demeanor is neutral, if not cold, I advised him not to open a shop until he learns to smile.
36. Do not think that there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.
Everything being calm and peaceful does not mean that there is no danger around.
Example: Even though the industry looks stable with predictable market share and revenue, there are always obscure start-ups that may threaten your company in the future. Don’t think that there are no crocodiles because the water is calm.
37. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Don’t give up something valuable in order to get rid of something worthless.
Example: Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater, don’t properly plan the project for a subcontract.
38. Eagle does not catch flies.
Eagles catch prey bigger than flies, don’t they? Do not take trivial matters to senior leaders in your organization. You have to solve them, not them.
Example: You shouldn’t be calling an AVP for such a small disruption in the supply chain. Solve it yourself. After all, eagles don’t catch flies.
39. Early bird catches the worm.
One who starts work early has more chances to succeed.
Example: I arrive early for the season-ending sale so that I can choose from a wider selection and get a better piece. Eventually the early bird gets the worm.
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