So, just what is a proverb exactly? One famous Spanish author defined proverbs as “short sentences drawn from long experience.” In other words, a proverb is a short sentence that is full of meaning and sound advice. These little expressions add richness to our speech and allow us to explore and learn new vocabulary.
PROVERB is a short saying that is commonly known by public, and repeated as a piece of advice or suggestion. A PROVERB usually expresses the common truth. Searching online for Proverbs will result in thousands of results, however, take care! Many sayings are not proverbs; they do not impart good advice or wisdom, and some are even contradictory to each other. In our list that follows we have only included proverbs that state a general truth or piece of advice.
Why not make it a goal to learn at least five of the proverbs below to use in your life sometime in the future?
The Most Common English Proverbs
1. Two wrongs don’t make right
When someone did something bad to you, trying to do something bad to them will only make things worse.
2. A friend in need is a friend indeed
If someone helps you when you have problems, or you are in trouble, that person is a true friend
3. Better safe than sorry
You should always be careful, even if you think it’s not necessary.
4. Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk
Don’t brag about being able to do something, unless you actually know how to do it.
5. Great minds think alike
Smart people usually have the same ideas. This proverb is used when someone has the same idea as you.
6. Haste makes waste
When you try to work too quickly, you usually make mistakes.
7. If you snooze, you lose
You have to act fast to get what you want.
8. Lie down with dogs, wake up with fleas.
If you associate with bad or dishonest people, bad things will happen to you.
9. Look before you leap
Make decisions carefully. Think about it first.
Many people are physically hurt every year because they jump into water without checking what is beneath the surface.
This proverb helps us to understand that no matter what we are doing we should always check for dangers before we do anything that could cause us harm.
10. Measure twice, cut one
It’s hard to change a decision, once you’ve made it.
11. Misery loves company
People who are unhappy want to make others unhappy too.
12. Actions speak louder than words
What you do matters – not what you say.
People today make many promises. Unfortunately, many people never keep their promises, which is why others are more likely to trust a person who says little but does a lot. Their actions speak louder than words and are far more valuable.
13. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder
Everyone has their own ideas of what is beautiful.
A beautiful person is not always beautiful on the outside. They may not be physically attractive, but this proverb helps us understand that we find real beauty inside a person.
14. Better late than never
It’s better if you do something later, than not do it at all.
15. First things first
Be patient. Do the things in their correct order.
16. Honesty is the best policy
It’s better to always tell the truth.
Honesty at the beginning, although hard sometimes, always gives the best results over time. Therefore make being honest your policy or rule.
17. It never rains, but it pours
Bad luck never comes alone. Bad things usually happen all together at once.
18. Love is blind
If you love someone, you don’t notice his or her faults. You think they’re perfect.
19. Mind your own business
Do not interfere with other people’s lives and affairs.
20. Money is the root of all evil
Money is the cause of all problems.
21. No pain, no gain
If you don’t work hard, you’ll never achieve your goal.
22. Seeing is believing
People don’t often believe something, unless they see it.
23. Time is money
The longer it takes to do something, the more costly it will be
24. What’s done is done
You cannot change what has already happened.
25. Too many cooks spoil the broth
If there are many people doing the same job, the result will come out to be bad.
26. Practice what you preach
You should do as you say.
Have you ever met someone who says one thing and does the complete opposite? This proverb tells us to do what we say and not be hypocritical.
27. Opportunity seldom knocks twice
You probably won’t get another chance, so it’s better to take one right now.
28. Once bitten, twice shy
If you had a bad experience trying to do something, you won’t repeat it again.
29. Practice makes perfect
If you want to be perfect at something, you need to practice every day.
Repeatedly doing something will improve our skills and help us to become perfect at doing that action.
30. Leave no stone unturned
To achieve your goal, you should try every possibility.
31. It’s a small world
You usually say it to someone you know when you meet him/her very far away from home.
32. Forgive and forget
Forgive and forget the bad things that have been done to you. Don’t hold the grudge.
33. Easy come, easy go
It’s as easy to make money as to lose it
34. An apple a day keeps the doctor away
You will not get sick if you eat fruit/ healthy food every day.
35. When in Rome, do as the Romans do
When you are in another country, it’s better to behave like the citizens of this country.
36. A picture speaks a thousand words / A picture is worth a thousand words
No matter what language you speak, a picture can tell you more in a few seconds than in the time spent reading a thousand words describing the same thing.
37. Absence makes the heart grow fonder
Have you ever been separated from your loved one for a long time? You probably spent more time than normal thinking about them, which made you want to see that person even more.
Therefore, absence (to be apart) made you think about them even more and increased your feelings of love (fondness) for them.
38. An answer when mild turns away rage
Everyone has arguments and fights. During a heated fight, we might feel angry which may cause us to say unkind things about the other person. If we say something in anger, this will only make the argument worse.
But this proverb tells us to control ourselves and try to say things in a kind way that will not unnecessarily offend the other person. Doing this will help the other person to calm down too.
39. Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word, but the shrewd one considers his steps
Someone who has little experience in life may believe almost anything said to them, but a person who has experience in life doesn’t believe everything he hears. He will think before taking any action based on what was said.
40. Beggars can’t be choosers
A beggar is an individual who is so poor that they must plead, or beg others to give them money. Therefore, a beggar can’t choose between many different things. Beggars can only get what is given to them or buy with whatever money they have at that time.
We use this common proverb when we do not have enough money to get what we want but only what we need.
41. Count the cost
Before buying or building anything, this proverb reminds us to count the cost. How much will it cost me in money, time and energy?
42. Crime doesn’t pay
Many people complain that criminals often get away with their crimes and live the good life, however, often their crimes catch up with them, and they are unable to escape the consequences of their actions.
43. Do to others as you would have them do to you
This proverb is called the Golden Rule by millions of people around the world. It has a simple meaning, treat others the way you would like them to treat you.
If you are kind to someone else, they would normally be kind in return. Mistreat someone, and they will mistreat you too.
43. Don’t bite the hand that feeds you
Most of us rely on someone else for our means of living (money). However, if we betray the trust that person has placed in us, we could find ourselves without a job and in much trouble.
44. Don’t count your chickens before they hatch
When you do something in preparation for another thing that may not even happen. For example, I am going to buy a dress, even though no one has invited me to the party.
45. Don’t place all your eggs in one basket
This proverb warns us about putting all of our trust into one thing that could fail.
46. Don’t judge a book by its cover
Most books have pictures, symbols or other drawings on them to attract readers. However, a book with a beautiful cover may not be an enjoyable book to read at all! While a book with an ugly cover may be an excellent book to read. This proverb is also called a metaphor, to teach us not to judge another person by the way they look on the outside.
47. Early in the year, early in the month, early in the week, early in the day
To stress how important our time is, we are encouraged to do things as soon as possible and not delay.
48. Enjoy it while it lasts
How do you feel on the final day of your vacation? Sad and upset it has already passed? Enjoy it while it lasts, means to make sure we don’t waste our time when we are doing something enjoyable.
49. Failing to plan is planning to fail
It is a tongue twister to say out loud, but it is very clever advice. Success is often dependent on good planning. If we don’t make plans in advance, we are more likely to be unsuccessful.
50. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst
It is an interesting proverb because it is telling us to stay positive but be realistic. We hope that everything always goes to plan and has a good result, but just in case, we should make plans in case something goes wrong.
51. Laughter is the best medicine
Scientists have discovered that laughter has many health benefits and can actually improve our overall health. It is free and fun making it the best medicine for everyone on earth!
52. Love of money is the root of all evil
Perhaps not a proverb as much as it is a general truth. Sadly, the love of money causes many people to lie, steal and cheat from others. Greed, the love of money is sadly the primary cause of many terrible things that happen in the world.
53. Many hands make light work
The more help we have from others, the easier a big job becomes to complete.
54. Money doesn’t grow on trees
Those who spend a lot of money often have to be reminded that money is not easy to get, it is not like the leaves on a tree which grows in abundance. Money takes time and effort to obtain so we should use it wisely.
55. Necessity is the mother of invention
There are situations in life when we can’t get the things we may need. It is often at these moments when we invent something to solve our problem, which is why necessity is the mother of invention.
56. Patience is a virtue
Any virtue, is an excellent, admirable quality that we should all aspire to obtain. Patience is something many of us lack and therefore a quality which most of us find desirable and like to see in others.
57. Shrewd is the one that has seen the calamity and proceeds to conceal himself
A shrewd or intelligent person is someone who is smart and thinks ahead. They will take action to protect themselves from any danger that they think could happen.
58. The early bird catches the worm
Similar to our previous proverb about doing things at the beginning of the day, this proverb explains that a person who takes action sooner rather than later will benefit from doing so.
59. Two heads are better than one
When trying to solve a problem on our own, we may not be able to think of a solution. If someone was to help us find a solution, this is better than trying to do it on our own.
60. Where there is no wood, the fire goes out
Another metaphor which helps us understand that when two people or sides are arguing if one of them were to stop fighting, the argument will die out.
61. You can take a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink
Because a horse has a mind of its own, only the horse can decide whether it wants to drink the water. The same applies to people. We can advise another person, but we can’t make them take the advice and use it, that part is up to them.
62. You cannot serve two masters
This wise proverb tells us that anyone who tries to do two things at the same time will either do well at one thing and not the other or fail at both. It is impossible to do both things well at the same time.
63. You reap what you sow
If a farmer plants potatoes, he will get potatoes, not another thing like tomatoes. Therefore, if we do good things we can expect good results, however, is we do wicked things we should expect the consequences.
Many of these proverbs will work in various situations, some almost daily. Why not try to memorize one Proverb every week and attempt to use it at least three to five times during the week.
Try to use it during a general conversation as this will make it sound more natural and fluent. Take care not to offend anyone also by applying a Proverb to the person directly. It is better to use a Proverb to describe a situation or about a person from afar. Do you know an English proverb? Write it in a comment below! Don’t forget to explain its meaning too!