If you want to sound wise while also sounding like a native English speaker, English proverbs are the way to go.
Proverbs are these cool little phrases that could easily dispense truths or advice. They could come in handy in different situations--just blurt them out when the moment calls for it and wow the people you’re talking to.
Here in this article, we’ll be talking about 20 English proverbs that you can use for different kinds of everyday situations. So if you’re ready, let’s check them out below.
1. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
The situation: You receive a lucrative offer from another company. Should you get it or no?
What it means: What you have now is so much more valuable than something still unknown.Example sentence: “It sounds like a great job offer, but remember, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush!”
2. A rolling stone gathers no moss.
The situation: Your easy-go-lucky 32-year old brother is in town and wants to crash on your couch for a week. You want to give him “the talk” about finding a place to settle down. You can perhaps start talking about a rolling stone that gathers no moss.
What it means: A person who always keeps changing jobs and places to live will not gather responsibilities, wealth, status, and commitments.Example sentence: “I know you love backpacking all over the world but at some point you need to settle down. You’re not getting any younger, you know. And as they say, a rolling stone gathers no moss.”
3. A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for.
The situation: You feel stuck in a rut in your so-so job and your so-so life. It’s time to shake things up and look for growth elsewhere!
What it means: You may feel safe and secure in your comfort zone but you need to get out there and explore your potentials.Example sentence: “I’m tired of working my 9 to 5 job and going home to an empty house. I’m leaving my life here and moving to London. A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what a ship is for, so I have to explore my horizons!”
4. Better late than never.
The situation: You’re finally getting married for the first time at 72 years old!
What it means: It’s better to get something late than not get it at all.Example sentence: “Wow, after five decades of dating each other on and off, these two are finally tying the knot! Better late than never!”
5. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
The situation: You volunteered to work on three new projects at the office and now you realize you can’t juggle your time between all of your commitments. Well, you shouldn’t have bitten off more than you can chew.
What it means: Don’t accept too much responsibility that you couldn’t handle anymore.Example sentence: “Looks like I’ve bitten off more than I could chew. I guess it’s time to back out of this project.”
6. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
The situation: Your boss promised you a raise this year so you went shopping and charged it all to your card. You’ll be able to pay it all off soon. Yikes! You’re counting your chickens before they hatch!
What it means To be making plans already based on something that hasn’t happened yet.:Example sentence: “Let this be a lesson to you now--don’t be counting chickens before they hatch, okay? Look at all the credit card debt you incurred! And there’s no word of a raise, too!”
7. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
The situation: You have a great business idea that you want to implement but it would mean using up all your life savings. Should you put all your eggs in one basket?
What it means:Don’t put all your efforts on investments in one place because if it fails, you’ll lose everything.
Example sentence: “I’m not going to invest all I have in my new venture. I’m not comfortable with putting all my eggs in one basket.”
8. Every cloud has a silver lining.
The situation: You lost your job, your wife---heck, even your dog. Difficult as it may be to think about it, but remember: every cloud has a silver lining!
What it means: Every bad situation has a positive aspect.Example sentence: “I couldn’t find the silver lining when I lost everything, but turns out it was the best thing that happened to me. It led me to an even better life partner and a booming business!”
9. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.
The situation: Your best friend is marrying a guy she met on Tinder just last month. How do you advise her to slow down? Easy. Start with this proverb.
What it means: Only foolish people rush into a major event without properly thinking it through.Example sentence: “Come on, you’ve only known him for a few weeks and you’ve already said yes to marrying him? You know what they say about fools rushing in where angels fear to tread, right?”
10. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The situation: The new hotshot consultant wants to redo some processes at work. These processes have been in place for years and are quite efficient. Should you or should you not?
What it means: If it’s working perfectly, you don’t need to make unnecessary changes.Example sentence: “Changing the processes would be very costly and would set us back for months. I mean, if it ain’t broke, why should we fix it?”
11. Ignorance is bliss.
The situation: You added your mother on social media and now she’s privy to your wild ways. Ignorance is bliss, so she says!
What it means: Sometimes, it’s better not to know.Example sentence: “I can’t believe you--my baby daughter--were sprawled drunk on the floor on a New Year’s Eve party! I should not have added you on Facebook. I didn’t need to see that! Ignorance really is bliss!”
12. Kill two birds with one stone.
The situation: You want to quit your job and get away from your controlling girlfriend. Moving abroad would kill two birds with one stone!
What it means: To do one thing that will help you accomplish two tasks at once.Example sentence: “Moving to Europe was the best decision I ever made---it’s like hitting two birds with one stone! I found a new job and escaped from my witch of an ex. Major win!”
13. Let sleeping dogs lie.
The situation: Your wife has forgotten about a mistake you did last year. Unfortunately, you brought it up during dinner! Oops, you should’ve let sleeping dogs lie.
What it means: Don’t talk about a forgotten topic that could potentially cause trouble!Example sentence: “Remind me to let sleeping dogs lie, man. I casually mentioned over dinner what happened in Chicago and it made her upset all over again.”
14. Once bitten twice shy.
The situation: Your best friend is setting you up in another blind date. Considering how awful the last one went, you’re not gonna fall for it again this time!
What it means: When you had a bad experience the first time, you’re not gonna do it the second time.Example sentence: “The last date you set me up disappeared at the restaurant after ordering an expensive steak dinner that I had to pay for. Now you want me to go on another date with another one of the guys you know? Nah. Once bitten twice shy, you know.”
15. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones at others.
The situation: Your teammate criticizes you for not being able to finish your report on time when she herself has been slacking at work all year long. There’s a proverb for that!
What it means: People who are guilty of the same mistakes shouldn’t criticize others for the same faults.Example sentence: “Sheryl has been late for work all year and has yet to finish a deadline on time. Yet she had the gall to call me out on the report I sent late. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones!”
16. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
The situation: Your friend wants to know how your flirting with your crush at work is progressing.
What it means: The important things take time to finish.Example sentence: “I’m trying to build a solid friendship here while also making sure I don’t fall in the friendzone trap. Don’t rush me, okay, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
17. Strike while the iron is hot.
The situation: You’re on a roll! The products you launched are all huge hits. Time to ask for that raise--gotta strike while the iron is hot!
What it means: To grab or take advantage of the opportunity while it’s still available.Example sentence: “This is the perfect time to ask for a salary increase. I should strike while the iron is hot!”
The situation: You wanted to surprise your boyfriend with a new dog. Turns out he’s deathly allergic to pets. You might have been well-intentioned, but your boyfriend will have to spend the night at the hospital!
What it means: It doesn’t matter if your intentions are good if it results to something bad.Example sentence: “So sorry about that. I saw you looking at dog videos so I wanted to surprise you, but I guess the road to hell is really paved with good intentions.”
19. Where there’s smoke there’s fire.
The situation: There’s a nasty rumor going on about your husband and his secretary. You can’t believe it, but when there’s smoke, there’s fire!
What it means: There might be truth in rumors.Example sentence: “I’m hiring a private investigator to see if my husband and her secretary are having an affair. When there’s smoke, there’s fire, and I need proof!”
20. You can’t make an omelette/omelet without breaking eggs.
The situation: Your small business is growing and you plan to automate which means you’ll have to let go of some of your employees. It’s hard but it has to be done.
What it means: You’ll need to deal with some unpleasant scenarios in order to achieve your goals.
Example sentence: “It’s a difficult decision. But you know what they say, you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.”
There you have it, 20 proverbs that are brimming with wisdom just waiting for you to dole out at the right moments. Let us know in the comment section which ones you like best!