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50 Common Proverbs in English

This is a list of popular English proverbs. Proverbs are also known as sayings. Proverbs give some form of life
advice. Every language and culture has them, and many proverbs exist in more than one language. It is important not
to miss any of the words in most proverbs because the meaning can be lost if even one word is changed or left out.
This list of English proverbs includes definitions and examples, and is meant to improve English vocabulary and
English cultural knowledge.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder


Being away from someone or something for a period of time makes you
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appreciate that person or thing more when you see them or it again
I used to hate going to my aunts house, but now I kind of miss it.
EXAMPLE
Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
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Actions speak louder than words.


What you do is more important than what you say
Dont just tell me youre going to change. Do it! Actions speak louder
EXAMPLE
than words.
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A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step


You must begin something if you hope to finish it; something that takes a
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long time to finish begins with one step
If you want to lose weight, you need to stop eating junk, and you need to
E X A M P L E start exercising. Today. Not tomorrow. A journey of a thousand miles
begins with a single step.
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All good things must come to an end


Everything ends; good times dont last forever
I wish this vacation would go on forever. Its too bad that all good things
EXAMPLE
must come to an end.
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A picture is worth a thousand words


An image can tell a story better than words
I wasnt sure that he loved her, but then I saw them hugging at the
EXAMPLE
airport. A picture is worth a thousand words.
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A watched pot never boils


If something takes time to do, it doesnt help to constantly check on it. You
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just have to give it time.
I know you think hes going to be a great guitar player one day, but stop
E X A M P L E criticizing him so much. He just started taking lessons two weeks ago! A
watched pot never boils.
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Beggars cant be choosers


If youre in a bad situation and someone offers to help you, you have to
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take whatever they give you and shouldnt ask for more
E X A M P L E I was unemployed, and they offered me a job cleaning prison toilets. I
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didnt like the job, but I accepted it. Beggars cant be choosers.

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Beauty is in the eye of the beholder


What is beautiful is different for each person
I think their house is ugly, but they seem to like it. Beauty is in the eye of
EXAMPLE
the beholder.
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EXAMPLE

Better late than never


Its better to finish something late than to never do it at all
Hello, Mr. Jameson. Here is my final essay. Better late than never, right?

Birds of a feather flock together


People who are similar spend time together
I think we all started hanging out because we all liked anime. Birds of a
EXAMPLE
feather flock together.
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Cleanliness is next to godliness


Its good to be clean. God is clean, and you should be too.
Go take a shower before your date. You know what they say; cleanliness
EXAMPLE
is next to godliness.
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Dont bite the hand that feeds you


Dont make someone angry or hurt someone who is helping you or paying
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for you
You had a fight with your boss? Are you stupid? Dont bite the hand that
EXAMPLE
feeds you.
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Dont count your chickens before they hatch.


Dont expect a positive result before you actually see it
A: This idea is going to make me millions of dollars!
EXAMPLE
B: Whoa. Lets slow down. Dont count your chickens before they hatch.
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Dont judge a book by its cover


Dont judge someone or something by appearance alone
Racism is still a problem today, and it will continue to be that way until we
EXAMPLE
learn not to judge a book by its cover.
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Dont put all of your eggs in one basket


Dont put all of your hopes and resources into one goal or dream
I know you really want to be an actor, but dont you think youre being
EXAMPLE
financially irresponsible? Dont put all of your eggs in one basket.
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Dont put off until tomorrow what you can do today


If you can do something today, do it. Dont wait until tomorrow; dont
procrastinate.

You have 6 hours of free time now. You should start on that final
E X A M P L E psychology assignment. Dont put off until tomorrow what you can do
today.
Dont put too many irons in the fire
Dont try to do too many things at the same time; focus on one thing at a
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time
No wonder youre exhausted. Youre trying to work 4 jobs at the same
EXAMPLE
time! You have too many irons in the fire right now.
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Easy come, easy go


When you make money quickly, its very easy to lose it quickly as well
I won $200 at the casino, and then I spent it on a very expensive meal
EXAMPLE
for me and some friends. Easy come, easy go.
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Fortune favors the bold


People who are brave and who take risks are more successful than
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people who are do things safely all the time
Its a risk, but the reward could be great. I say you go for it. Fortune
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favors the bold.
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God helps those who help themselves


Dont just wait for good things to happen to you. Work hard to make them
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happen
If you want a better life, you cant just sit on your butt thinking about it.
E X A M P L E You have to work to make it happen. God helps those who help
themselves.
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Good things come to those who wait


If you are patient, good things can happen
I know youre hungry, but stop being so impatient. We just ordered our
EXAMPLE
food. Good things come to those who wait.
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Honesty is the best policy


Its always better to tell the truth than it is to lie
If you want people to trust you, you need to be honest with them.
EXAMPLE
Honesty is the best policy.
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Hope for the best, prepare for the worst


In any situation, be optimistic about the result, but always be ready for the
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worst outcome
Were going on vacation next week. Its supposed to rain a lot, so were
E X A M P L E bringing our umbrellas and a bunch of board games. Hope for the best,
prepare for the worst.
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If it aint broke, dont fix it


If something is already working well, dont try to change it or improve it
Why are you trying to upgrade your PC again? It was working fine
EXAMPLE
before. If it aint broke, dont fix it.
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If you cant beat em, join em


If you cant change someones behavior or opinion, sometimes its better
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or easier to do what they want to do
I told Mark that we needed to study, but he kept playing video games.
E X A M P L E Eventually I gave up and just played video games too. If you cant beat
em, join em.
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If you play with fire, youll get burned


If you get involved in something dangerous or beyond your abilities, you
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will probably experience negative consequences
E X A M P L E Dont make him angry. If you play with fire, youll get burned.
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If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself


Dont depend on someone else to do a good job; do it yourself
I asked my roommate to wash the dishes, but they ended up super filthy!
E X A M P L E I guess its true what they say: if you want something done right, you have
to do it yourself.
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Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer


If someone is your enemy, treat them like a friend so you can be ready if
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they ever try to betray you
We dont trust each other, but we have to be nice to each other because
we work for the same company. Im worried about him stealing my
EXAMPLE
promotion, so Im going to keep being nice to him. Keep your friends
close, but your enemies closer, and all that.
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Knowledge is power
The more you know, the more powerful you can be in different areas of
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your life
When we were kids, our parents taught us how to swim. That knowledge
E X A M P L E helped me to save my cousins life when he was 5 years old. Knowledge
is power.
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Laughter is the best medicine.


When youre in a difficult situation, laughing can make it easier to get
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through that situation
Im sorry to hear about your dog. Want to watch a funny movie?
EXAMPLE
Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.
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Like father, like son

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Said when a son is similar to his father; also, Like mother, like daughter
Ryan started playing hockey at a very young age. Hes just like his dad.
EXAMPLE
Like father, like son.
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No man is an island
No one is truly capable of living alone. We need human connection to be
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healthy
E X A M P L E You cant just abandon your friends and family. No man is an island.
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People who live in glass houses should not throw stones


Dont criticize someone if youre not perfect either; dont be a hyprocrite
Why are you always bothering her about being addicted to her phone?
E X A M P L E Youve been smoking for 20 years and havent been able to give it up.
People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
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EXAMPLE

Practice makes perfect


The more you do something, the better you will become at it
Dont give up on learning the violin. Practice makes perfect.

The early bird gets the worm


People who wake up early or who get to places early have a better
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chance of success
I got to the ticket office before anyone else. I got front row seats to the
EXAMPLE
show! The early bird gets the worm.
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The enemy of my enemy is my friend


If someone whom I dont like doesnt like someone else whom I dont like,
M E A N I N G we can act like friends and unite against the other person (common in
war)
I dont like you, you dont like me. But I think we can agree that we both
E X A M P L E HATE Daniel. Lets work together and get him fired! The enemy of my
enemy is my friend, right?
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The grass is always greener on the other side


People always want what they dont have
A: Im jealous of all the free time my single friends have.
E X A M P L E B: Yeah, but your friends are probably jealous of you too in some ways.
The grass is always greener on the other side.
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The pen is mightier than the sword


If youre trying to convince someone of something, words and ideas are
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stronger than using physical force (common in politics)
We must avoid this war and use diplomacy to solve our problems. The
EXAMPLE
pen is mightier than the sword.
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There is no place like home


Your home is the most comfortable place in the world
What a tiring vacation! Im glad to be back in my own bed again. Theres
EXAMPLE
no place like home.
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There is no such thing as a free lunch.


Nothing is free. Even the things that are free have a hidden cost
His bank gave him $50 for free, but he had to commit to opening a credit
EXAMPLE
card account. Theres no such thing as a free lunch.
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There is no time like the present


Dont wait to do something. Do it now.
Why dont you stop talking about needing to call your mom? Just CALL
EXAMPLE
her! There is no time like the present.
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The squeaky wheel gets the grease


The person who complains in a situation is more likely to get something.
A: I just dont understand why shes received so many promotions, and
E X A M P L E Im still at the bottom of the company!
B: She complains a lot. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
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Time is money
Dont waste your time or other peoples time; also, if you can use your
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time to make money in some way, you should do that.
E X A M P L E Hurry up! Time is money!
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Two heads are better than one


Its easier to do something as a team than by yourself
Im stuck on this project. Can you help me out? Two heads are better
EXAMPLE
than one.
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Two wrongs dont make a right


Trying to get revenge on someone who has hurt you will only make things
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worse
I know she made you angry, but did you have to steal her phone? Two
EXAMPLE
wrongs dont make a right.
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When in Rome, do as the Romans do


When you are in a new place or situation, try to act like the majority of
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people in that place or situation.
A: Youve been eating a lot of bread and cheese on this Paris vacation.
EXAMPLE
B: Hey, when in Rome.
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When the going gets tough, the tough get going


When a situation becomes difficult, strong people dont give up; they work

harder
My great grandfather survived the Great Depression. You know the
E X A M P L E phrase, when the going gets tough, the tough get going? That was my
great grandfather.
Where theres smoke, theres fire
If something seems wrong, it probably is; also, there is usually some truth
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to a rumor
Matilda came to school with a black eye today. She cried when I asked
her about it after class and didnt want to say anything about her parents.
EXAMPLE
I dont want to speculate too much, but where theres smoke, theres
usually fire.
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You can lead a horse to water, but you cant make him drink it
You can try to help someone by giving good advice, but you cant force
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them to accept it or follow it
She tried to help her brother find a job by improving his resume, but he
E X A M P L E didnt do anything with it. I guess you can lead a horse to water, but you
cant make him drink it.
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You cant always get what you want


Dont complain if you dont get what you want
A: I really wanted to see that movie, but I didnt have enough money last
E X A M P L E week
B: It happens. You cant always get what you want, right?
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