What Does a Proverb mean?
A proverb is a short statement or saying that is used to give people a piece of advice or to tell them something about life.Almost every culture has its own unique proverbs and there are some proverbs that exist in many languages because people borrow from different cultures and languages they are in contact with.
Where and How Are Proverbs Used?
People use various proverbs in conversations, literature, music, films, drama, advertising etc. Proverbs provides you with better knowledge about a particular culture than any book can. Many native English speakers seldom use several proverbs in their day-to-day life. Every proverb is used in a particular context; you cannot translate it literally. For example, if someone says, “Rome was not built in a day.”, he or she is not particularly talking about Rome, but using it as an expression to tell that one should not hurry to do something because it takes a certain amount of time to complete a task or job properly.
Having a good knowledge of proverbs of the English language will certainly help you with refining your English speaking skills and eventually, help you become a fluent English speaker. So, for your learning, some proverbs are mentioned below that you can use in a conversation.
1. As you sow, so shall you reap
It means that you will bear the consequences based on your actions. In other words, the way you behave or do something in life will dictate or affect the treatment you will get from other people.
2. The grass is (always) greener (on the other side)
This proverb tells us that we should be thankful for what we have and not be jealous of anyone or think about how successful or rich they are or how many luxuries they have. You should not have the thought that their situation is better than yours, because that may not be true.
3. Don’t judge a book by its cover
This proverb gives you the advice not to make a judgement about anything or anyone based on their looks or appearance. Furthermore, you cannot learn about a person’s behaviour or overall personality just on the basis of their clothing or looks. One may look like a celebrity or poor, but there is a lot more to them than just their clothes.
4. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
It simply means that when you visit some place, you should behave or act like the people living in that place. First, you will get to learn about the customs, traditions, and culture of that place and will not get into trouble.
5. Laughter is the best medicine
You must have heard someone say this proverb “Laughter is the best medicine.” and would wonder what this exactly means. When you are ill or sick, you receive treatment and take medicines. The logic behind this proverb is that laughter boosts your immune system, lessens the effect of mood swings, and reduces pain and stress, so the chances of getting sick become less.
6. Honesty is the best policy
This proverb is certainly a great piece of advice. When you are honest, you will easily earn people’s trust. They will trust you and respect you. Also, when you lie and keep lying to someone, you can easily lose someone’s trust and get into severe trouble too.
7. Practice makes perfect
This proverb is used to say that when you keep doing something and practise it regularly, you succeed and become proficient in that particular activity. For example, when you practise Spoken English regularly, you will absolutely become a good English speaker and a skilled communicator.
8. Where there is a will, there is a way
When you are on the verge of giving up, then this is the proverb for you. It is said to motivate and encourage an individual to not give up. There is always a way to overcome your problems or difficulties in life.
9. Charity begins at home
This proverb says that one should look after his family first and then help other people. It is an individual’s responsibility to fulfill the needs of his or her family before helping others.
10. Beggars can’t be choosers
This proverb is said in the situation when a person helps you or gives you things for free. You cannot be picky at that time. You shouldn’t choose; you should just accept what you are offered.
11. Look before you leap
This saying says that you should check what could be the result or what will happen when you decide to do something. You should not hurry. Think carefully about the situation and then move ahead accordingly.
12. An apple a day keeps the doctor away
You have heard of it many a time. It is used to say that one needs to eat healthy food if they do not want to visit the doctor frequently. The apple refers to healthy food in this proverb.
13. Two wrongs don’t make a right
If a person hurts or harms you, or does not treat you well, you should not do the same to them because that will not justify your actions. If they do not behave well, you should not do the same because that is not morally right.
14. Always put your best foot forward
It means to try to be at your best behaviour or make a good first impression when you meet someone for the first time, especially in a job interview. Have a positive attitude and be a good listener too when you communicate with others.
15. It is better to be safe than sorry
As per this saying, it is said that you take precautions in particular and do everything possible to keep yourself away from danger and be safe. If you don’t be cautious, you will regret it later.
16. All that glitters is not gold
Everything that looks or seems great is not that good. The appearance of something does not ensure its quality or nature.
17. The squeaky wheel gets the grease
You can use this proverb when a person complains or causes a lot of problems to grab attention than someone who stays quiet or does not share his or her problems.
18. Do not bite off more than you can chew
It is used to say that you should not take on more work or responsibilities than you can handle just like when you take a big bite, you will not be able to chew it properly and may also choke on your food.
19. You made your bed, now you have to lie in it
This proverb uses bed making as an example to say that you can trade places with anyone when you are in a difficult situation. You must face the problem and accept the consequences.
20. Actions speak louder than words
According to this proverb, a person is not described by what he or she says but by what he or she does. Your actions say a lot about your character, so be careful of your actions.
21. It takes two to Tango
This saying is seldom said when two people fight with each other. When they fight, one person puts all the blame on the other person, but in reality, both of them are responsible. Tango has been used here as an expression, because in this dance form, one person cannot dance alone, a pair is needed and just like that you cannot put the blame on one person alone.
22. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones
This proverb means that people should not criticize anyone or point a finger at them if they cannot handle criticism well for themselves. “People who live in glasses” refers to sensitive people who insult others but cannot tolerate it when the same happens with them.
23. A rolling stone gathers no moss
Factually, a stone that stays in one place gathers moss, but if a stone keeps on moving, it will remain clear of moss. Similarly, if you stay in one place, you will settle, have friends and family, have status or wealth etc., but you cannot have it all if you keep moving from one place to another.
24. Still waters run deep
This proverb is usually said to mean that someone who appears quite unemotional or withdrawn can be thoughtful and interesting.
25. Curiosity killed the cat
This proverb says that if you are extremely curious or inquisitive about other people’s affairs, you can get into big trouble.
26. Learn to walk before you run
When you start doing or learning something, do it step by step by step. Don’t try to take a big leap. For example, if you want to learn and speak English, do not read Shakespeare or Jane Austen at the beginning to learn the language, because you will not succeed that way. So, be patient and learn or do everything in a particular order.
27. No news is good news
As per the saying, if you do not hear the news about a particular thing or person, you can assume that there is no bad news and everything is absolutely well.
28. Ignorance is bliss
“Bliss” means pure joy or happiness. This proverb suggests that when you are unaware of a situation or do not know about a problem, you do not feel anxious about it at all.
29. The forbidden fruit is always the sweetest
This saying is said when you are dying to get something, but you are not allowed to have it or you have been denied. For example, a child wants to have ice cream, but his or her parents do not allow him or her to have it. The ice cream would be the forbidden fruit in this example.
30. You cannot make an omelette without breaking eggs
As per this saying, you cannot please everyone and get the work done too. To get good results, you have to be firm with others. Some might get offended too, but you need to do everything that is necessary to obtain the result in your favour.
In the end, I would like to say that proverbs can help you learn to speak the English language a lot more than you expect. It can make the communication easy for you when you converse with someone in English, especially a native English speaker.