Materials for language lessons

Posts tagged ‘Saying’

Sayings about justice

A just war is better than an unjust peace

Fighting between countries for a fair and good cause is better than no fighting in a situation that is unfair.

Comparisons are odious

Comparison (especially of people) is not productive and can have unpleasant consequences. People should be judged on their own merits.

Fair exchange is no robbery

Swapping one thing fairly in return for another is not the same as stealing.

Give credit where credit is due

The implication is that even if we are reluctant to praise someone, we should do so if the praise is deserved.

Give the devil his due

We should admit the good qualities of even a bad or undeserving person.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse

It is no defence to say that we didn’t know that something we did was illegal.

Share and share alike

Give everyone an equal portion.

There are two sides to every question

In any dispute or discussion, we should acknowledge that people have different points of view.

There’s one law for the rich, and another for the poor

The legal system treats people with money better than people without money.

What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander

In any question, what is appropriate in one case is also appropriate in the other case.
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Sayings about danger

Any port in a storm

In times of danger, any shelter is better than none. In an emergency, we have to accept whatever solution presents itself (for the time being).

Better safe than sorry

We should be careful in a dangerous situation. It is better to stay safe than to have an accident (and be sorry about it). The full “grammatical” sentence would be: “It is better to be safe than to be sorry.”

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket

If all your eggs are in one basket and you drop the basket, you lose everything. Don’t put all your money in one bank. Don’t put all your faith in one person.

He that will learn to pray, let him go to sea

The sea is supremely powerful, and can be a terrifying and awe-inspiring place.

If you play with fire you get burned

If you fool around with something that is potentially dangerous, you must expect to get harmed.

It is best to be on the safe side

1) Don’t take risks. Be careful and cautious. 2) It’s best to be sure. It’s best to be absolutely certain.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained

We can’t expect to achieve anything if we never take any risks.

Out of debt, out of danger

When we no longer owe money to anyone, we are safe and secure. The implication is that it is dangerous to owe anyone.

Out of office, out of danger

The implication is that people in high government or official jobs are not safe. They will be safe only when they leave their job.

There is safety in numbers

You are safer as part of a group of people than as an individual. Being in a group makes people more confident about taking action.

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Sayings about looks

All cats are grey in the dark

The implication is that beauty, or physical appearance, is unimportant.

All clouds bring not rain

We can rephrase this: “Not every cloud brings rain.” And that’s true. Sometimes there are many clouds in the sky, but it doesn’t rain. Don’t judge things by appearances.

All that glitters is not gold

The attractive exterior of something is not a good indicator of its real nature. It may look valuable, but not be valuable.

Appearances are deceptive

The way something or someone looks from outside may give us the wrong impression.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Different people see beauty in different ways. What one person finds beautiful may not appeal to another person.

Beauty is only skin deep

Physical beauty is superficial. A pleasing exterior is no guide to a person’s interior or character.

Handsome is as handsome does

Good character and behaviour are more important than good looks.

Still waters run deep

Some rivers have rough surfaces with waves. That’s usually because the water is shallow and there are rocks near the surface. But deep rivers have no rocks near the surface and the water is smooth and still. “Still waters run deep” means that people who are calm and tranquil on the outside, often have a strong, “deep” personality.

Things are not always what they seem

Things may look like one thing but be another thing. This saying is often applied to situations, not just things or people.

You can’t tell a book by its cover

You cannot judge what something or someone is like by looking at the exterior.
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Sayings about death

As soon as man is born he begins to die

The process of dying starts at birth. This saying reminds us of our own mortality, whatever our age.

Dead men tell no tales

People who are no longer living cannot give evidence.

Death is a remedy for all ills

When we die, all our problems are solved.

Death keeps no calendar

In this saying, “Death” is personified as a spiritual being who may call upon us at any time – he has no appointment book. We never know when we will die.

Death pays all debts

Dying cancels everything, including anything that we owe to other people.

Graves are of all sizes

People die at all ages; no one is too young to die.

Let the dead bury the dead

This is generally taken to imply that we should spend our time and energy on living people, not on dead people. (But see Origin below.)

Look upon death as a going home

We may consider dying to be a kind of returning to house and family.

Nothing is certain but death and taxes

This saying may be seen in three ways: 1) We cannot be 100% sure about anything (except dying and having to pay the taxman – in this case the latter idea being added for humour). 2) We cannot escape taxation (in this case the idea of death serving only to highlight the certainty of taxes). 3) We can be absolutely sure that we will die (in this case the idea of taxes being added for humour). The first interpretation seems to have been the original intent .

Nothing so certain as death

We can be 100% sure that we will die.
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Sayings about patience

A watched pot never boils

If you want to heat water until it boils, and you watch it while you wait, then it seems to take a very long time. In the same way, anything that we wait for with eager attention seems to take a very long time: like waiting for someone to arrive, waiting for the phone to ring, waiting for a letter to come.

All things are difficult before they are easy

The implication is that we should be patient with learning, and with learners. It takes time to learn to do things. What seems easy to us now may have been difficult at first.

Beware the fury of a patient man

The implication is that the anger of people who are normally slow to anger is, when it eventually comes, terrible.

Everything comes to him who waits

Patient people eventually receive all things.

First things first

1) Be patient: do things in the logical order. 2) Do the most important things before the less important things.

Patience is a virtue

The ability to wait for something without getting angry or upset is a valuable quality in a person.

Patience surpasses learning

1) The ability to wait for a long time without getting angry is even better than education. 2) the capacity to accept delay without getting upset will achieve more than study in the end

Rome wasn’t built in a day

All things take time to create. And great things like the city of Rome take a very long time. So we shouldn’t expect to accomplish something or achieve success immediately.

They also serve who only stand and wait

We all have a place in this world and we all perform a function, regardless of our ability or disability. The word order of this sentence may make it more difficult to understand. In normal English it would be something like: “They (those people) who only stand and wait, also serve.”

We must learn to walk before we can run

We have to be patient when learning. Babies crawl before they walk. And children walk before they run. We cannot do difficult tasks before we can do easy tasks.
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Sayings about men and women

A good husband makes a good wife

If a woman is happy with her husband, she will be a good mate for him.

A good man is hard to find

This saying talks about the difficulties for women in finding a suitable male partner.

A man is as old as he feels, and a woman as old as she looks

This somewhat sexist saying suggests that men age better than women.

Behind every successful man is a woman

Many men owe their achievements in life to women.

Boys will be boys

This somewhat humorous saying is often used to excuse male behaviour (of both boys and adult men).

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

A woman rejected in love can be very angry and dangerous.

It’s a man’s world

Everything in life is arranged to the advantage of men. Life is tough for women.

One tongue is enough for a woman

Some people think that women talk too much. If they already talk too much, they don’t need another tongue. One tongue is sufficient (but see Origin below).

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach

Many women have won a man’s love by cooking delicious meals for him. They fed his stomach and found love in his heart.

Women will have the last word

A man cannot win an argument with a woman. Women talk more than men. They can always add something more to what they are saying.
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Sayings about chance


Every dog has his day

1) Even the lowest of us at some time has a chance to get revenge on an oppressor, no matter how powerful that oppressor may be. 2) We will all have good luck or success at some point in our lives.

Fortune knocks once at every man’s door

We all get at least one good opportunity in life; everybody has the opportunity to be successful in life.

He who hesitates is lost

The person who waits too long loses the opportunity; or, more seriously, delay or indecision may have disastrous results.

Make hay while the sun shines

If we want to make hay, we need sunny weather, so when the sun comes we should take the opportunity to make hay. Thus the proverb suggests that we should make good use of any opportunity while it lasts.

Opportunity only knocks once

We should take an opportunity (or chance) when it comes. According to this saying, it will not come again.

Opportunity seldom knocks twice

Take any opportunity or chance when it comes – it may not come again.

Strike while the iron is hot

Seize the opportunity! When we have the chance to do something, we should do it immediately. Otherwise it will be too late.

The tide must be taken when it comes

We should use all opportunities when they come, before it’s too late.

Time and tide wait for no man

1) Nobody can stop the progression of time. 2) We should act on favourable opportunities immediately, without delay.

When one door shuts, another opens

An optimistic view on life, in which a refusal or failure is always followed by another opportunity.
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