Every language has its own unique proverbs. To someone learning the language, they can often seem a little bit strange, and even nonsensical! But they’re a really important part of the personality and feel of a particular language. So learning a few of these proverbs could turn out to be useful, to help add a more natural touch! Right? Here are some of the most common ones you’ll come across in English – and what they actually mean.
First come, first served
This is a really common proverb you’ll come across everywhere – especially in small businesses. It means that you will be served in the order you arrive. This proverb is usually used to express a sense of urgency – if you want to make sure you get the chance to do something or have something, you should get there early.
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Sometimes if you have been wronged, you might be tempted to get your revenge on a person by doing something equally unpleasant. But “two wrongs don’t make a right.” This means that doing something just as bad in response won’t make the situation any better.
Better late than never
Sometimes you can’t always do things on time, but it’s still better to do them anyway. This proverb describes the fact that it’s still a good idea to do something, even if you’ve been delayed.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch
Most things have a hidden cost to them, even if they seem to be free on the surface. You can use this proverb to describe when things have a hidden catch or cost, which is not immediately obvious.
Never look a gift horse in the mouth
If you’ve been given a gift or opportunity, this proverb suggests that you should not question it or challenge it. You could use this to describe any kind of opportunity you might experience, such as having very good luck about something.
You can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs
Proverbs are often a way of explaining or providing comfort in typical situations you experience in life, and this one is about the fact that you’ll often end up upsetting people without meaning to, when you try to do something positive. It means that no matter how hard you try, you can’t please everyone involved, but you should still make an effort and focus on the good things.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
Some proverbs can seem very literal, but in fact have a wider meaning. This one describes the fact that a book’s contents are not always properly represented by what is shown on the outside cover. What this means is that you cannot judge something or someone by outward experiences, as the reality could be very different to what you assumed.
The grass is always greener on the other side
People often imagine that life would somehow be better if they were doing something else, or lived somewhere else. In reality, many of the same everyday problems would be just as likely to happen. This proverb is about the idea that we often imagine things would be better if they were different, but in fact they would not.