Practice Makes Perfect: 30 Useful English Proverbs All English Speakers Should Know
Strong conversational skills are an integral part of the successful learning of any language. When you know how to make your speech sound more vivid and natural, you feel confident in any dialogue with different people. Useful English proverbs are one of the best things to make you sound like a native speaker. But knowing how and when to use a particular expression is essential. This article will help you learn the most famous proverbs, understand their meanings, and implement them in daily conversations.
An English proverb – what is it?
Before entering an exciting world of English proverbs, we need to explain this word. According to Cambridge Dictionary, it is a short, widespread expression that states something well-known or advises about something. Many benefits explain the popularity of these phrases. Let's take a look at some of them.
- Foremost, it is simply exciting. How come? Most English proverbs have come to us from ancient times, so they can help you learn some things about the culture, traditions, and history of a particular place.
- Another benefit of learning proverbs is that they boost your conversation level. You will sound like a native, and your speech will be vibrant and natural. This skill can also be handy when you pass an exam – it will show your rich vocabulary and ability to use various expressions when relevant.
- Learning English proverbs can help you master other components of your studying process. Since they look like regular sentences, they can help you to understand grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation rules, etc.
As you can see, proverbs are helpful for English learners of any experience level. They can be handy in various situations, whether talking to a friend or passing an IELTS. If you know how to use them correctly, you will always find the right words to give advice, share your thoughts, or describe any situation.
Proverbs vs. Idioms. Are they the same?
If you are an avid reader of the Promova blog, you probably know many idioms, their meanings, and the best ways to implement them in your speech. And you might think they are very similar to our current discussion topic – proverbs. Well, at first glance, it's true. Both are famous figures of speech, both help English learners sound like natives, and both have a particular meaning. But the truth is, there is a big difference between idioms and proverbs. So let's find it together.
Idioms – definition and examples
The Oxford Dictionary defines an idiom as a group of words that has a non-literal meaning. In layperson's terms, it is an expression or phrase that consists of two or more words that individually have an entirely different sense. So don't be scared if it still sounds hard for you. We will explain it to you better with an example.
What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the phrase "it's raining cats and dogs?" You can imagine hundreds of poor pets falling from the sky on the streets. But, of course, it is complete nonsense. "It's raining cats and dogs" is a widespread idiom that describes hefty rain. As you can see, these words together don't make any sense, while the meaning of the overall expression is fascinating.
If you've never heard a particular idiom, you will probably not understand its meaning. However, it is one of many things that differentiate them from proverbs. And one more interesting fact – most idioms have an exciting backstory behind them that explains why it means what it means. Let's take the phrase "bury the hatchet" as an example.
Nowadays, this idiom means to end the conflict between someone and finally make peace. But it was first used back in the 17th century. At that time, there were countless conflicts between the Puritans and Native Americans. So, when both sides reached a peaceful agreement, they buried all their weapons – knives, tomahawks, clubs, and, as you have already guessed, hatchets.
Main differences between proverbs and idioms
Now that you know the definition of idioms and proverbs, you can see many differences between them. And even though they are both great for your speaking practice, it is important to remember key factors that distinguish them from each other. We highlighted the most important ones below:
- Definition. An idiom is a fixed phrase that consists of a few words. It has a symbolic meaning and doesn't make sense in layperson's language. A proverb is a famous sentence that states a common truth or gives advice.
- Understanding. If you have never heard the proverb, you can easily understand its meaning from the context. But if you have never faced the idiom, you need to research to find out what it means.
- Moral. Idioms don't contain any advice or morals and are used to express an idea or thought. Proverbs, on the other hand, usually have advice or morals based on common knowledge.
- Structure. An idiom is a phrase, while a proverb is a complete sentence. It is the simplest way to understand the difference between them – just check the grammatical structure!
Those are the main factors that explain the difference between idioms and proverbs. But you need to know that both are important in your language learning process. They have many benefits and help you to improve your memory, strengthen your speaking skills, and boost your confidence in various situations. And now, it's time to get back to our main topic and learn the best proverbs every English speaker should know.
30 Best English proverbs with meanings and examples
The English language contains thousands of sayings about different life situations. A day won't be enough to name them all. Some of them are widespread nowadays; others are already considered outdated. Below, you will find the best proverbs divided by topics so that you can easily find one suitable for your conversation.
5 Best proverbs about friendship
Friends are an integral part of people's lives. We share the best and the worst times with them, ask them for help when we are sad, and celebrate when we are happy. In English, there are numerous meaningful proverbs about friendship. Look at our list of the most popular ones.
- A friend in need is a friend indeed.
We have all heard this one many times in our lives. It is one of the first proverbs kids learn at school. It means that true friends are only those who are here for you, not only when you are happy but also when you are at your lowest. So when you have someone always here for you, especially when you need help, you can consider them a true friend. For example:
Anna was the only person with me when I was broke. She even paid for my groceries! You know what they say, a friend in need is a friend indeed.
- It's good to have some friends both in heaven and hell.
It is a modern version of the proverb, "A friend in the court is better than a penny in the purse." In some situations, it is more important to have influential friends than money. You can use it to tell someone about your friend who helped you by using their power in a particular area. For example:
When I lost my job, Andrea hired me in his company. It's good to have some friends both in heaven and hell.
- A man is known by the company he keeps.
Another example of one of the best proverbs English that speakers use when discussing friendship. It is a simplified version of Euripides' quote: "Every man is like the company he is wont to keep." It means that our friends are a great indicator of our personality, character, habits, etc. If you are in the company of four millionaires, you will probably become the fifth. And that is what this proverb means. For example:
Please don't go out with these guys – they are such troublemakers. And you know that a man is known by the company he keeps.
- If you lie down with dogs, you will wake up with fleas.
This proverb came to us from Benjamin Franklin's works. It means that our friends have a lot of impact on us, and when you join a bad company, it can significantly affect your reputation and future. Moreover, it can make us adopt bad habits and improper moral values. For example:
There is no wonder why Nick became so aggressive and rude. He is constantly hanging out with bully Paul. If you lie down with dogs, you will wake up with fleas.
- A friend to all is a friend to none.
Unfortunately, many people out there only pretend to be good friends. If you see a person trying to impress everyone, become besties with everyone in the company, and claim that everyone likes them – you can be sure it's not true. Usually, such people turn out not to be good friends but just hypocrites who are looking for profit. For example:
We all thought Jane was a good girl, but she has been spreading evil gossip about everyone in our company. It turns out it is true – a friend to all is a friend to none.
5 Nice proverbs about work
On the first Monday of September, Americans celebrate Labor Day. It is an excellent holiday created to honor all workers of the country and their contribution to the country's development. And even though the holiday has already been celebrated, we also want to show respect to all the workers. That is why you can find some of the best English proverbs related to work below.
- Practice makes perfect.
You've already seen this one – we hide it in the title of this article. And we think this proverb should become a motto for all English learners. It means that if you want to achieve something or become good at something, you must practice regularly to reach the top. For example:
When I first came to this company, I knew nothing about business. Now I am the CEO of a successful branch. What advice can I give you? Just set up the goal and make some steps to achieve it daily. Practice makes perfect.
- No bees, no honey, no work, no money.
Did you know that Great Britain is the motherland of heather honey? Just an interesting fact for you. The proverb mentioned above precisely appeared many years ago in the heather fields somewhere in Scotland. It shows a causal relationship between the work done and its reward. So if you want to obtain something (e.g., honey), you need something for it (e.g., bees). For example:
I will cut back your bonus payments if you don't send me this report in the evening: no bees, no honey, no work, no money.
- A cat in gloves catches no mice.
Even though this proverb is not commonly used nowadays, you can still hear it in the conversation of native speakers. This expression means that if you are too careful or too polite in some circumstances, you are more likely not to achieve your goal. Sometimes doing unpleasant things is essential on your path to success. For example:
At first, I didn't want to ask my boss about the promotion. But then my mother told me that a cat in gloves catches no mice, so I decided to be more persistent. And you know what? Now I have a promotion, and my salary is significantly higher!
- An oak is not felled by one stroke.
This proverb reminds you that every success story has a solid background of hard work, strong motivation, and hours of practice. Once again, you need to work hard and never stop trying to achieve something. If you aim to master English – spend an hour a day learning new rules and words. If your goal is to lose weight – do a little exercise daily. But remember that everyday actions are better than doing nothing. For example:
I no longer believed I could learn to draw, but my teacher said that oak was not felled by one stroke. That is why I decided to take extra weekly classes and imagine that – now I have my exhibition!
- Little strokes fell great oaks.
This one is connected to the previous one and reminds you that even small steps taken regularly can help you to reach your goals. You don't have to spend 24 hours, seven days a week, only reading English books or running a thousand miles daily. But you can do a little practice regularly, which will help you reach the top. For example:
I thought I would never learn how to cook, but little strokes fell great oaks. So first, I learned how to boil eggs, and now I've made this beautiful pie!
Best of proverbs about health
Our health is our treasure, and no one can argue with it. A healthy person can do everything, achieve all goals, and live their best life without unpleasant illnesses. English people have countless wise proverbs that showcase the importance of good health. And we are happy to share them with you.
- An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Even if you weren't born in an English-speaking country but were studying this language at school, you probably know this proverb. It means that eating only one apple a day can make you healthier, help you avoid sicknesses, and keep the doctor away from you. For example:
I need to eat more fruit because I feel fragile. I don't get enough vitamins. And my mother always said – an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
- Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.
Another great proverb about healthiness. It says that a person who wakes up and goes to bed earlier feels better and stronger daily. And we agree with it – all doctors and hundreds of studies have proved the importance of sleep and its impact on people's lives. For example:
A: I don't know what to do with my life. I feel tired every morning.
B: Early to bed and early to rise make a man healthy, wealthy, and wise. Try to go to bed earlier tomorrow, and you'll feel better.
- Health is not valued until sickness comes.
Try to remember the last time you felt terrible. What were you thinking back then? Probably, how great it was when you were healthy. Most people take good health for granted and don't value it enough. And that is what this proverb is about. For example:
I was working every day for 16 hours straight, and I thought it was fine, but now my back hurts, and I feel awful. My mum was right when she told me that health is not valued until sickness comes.
- A tricolor meal is a good deal.
It is a proverb that has a literal meaning. It says that you need to eat a meal of three colors to feel healthy and strong. Therefore, eating red, green, and yellow fruits is an excellent idea for people of different ages. For example:
I've made you breakfast with salad, eggs, belt pepper, and corn. A tricolor meal is a good deal, you know.
- You are what you eat.
It is one of the most famous sayings about health. It means that your body, physical state, health, and overall wellness depend on the food you eat. And we all know it's true. However. even though it doesn't mean that you can't have any sweets or burgers, you need to remember that when your ration consists of only junk food, it can bring adverse effects. For example:
I've finally realized that I feel terrible because I don't cook at home and constantly order only junk food. So now I'm going to try some new healthy recipes – you are what you eat.
5 Good proverbs about time
In the modern world of hurry, it is essential to realize the actual value of time. English people know well how important it is to spend every minute of your life on crucial things. And that is why there are hundreds of the best proverbs about time. Let's take a look at our favorites.
- Time fleeth away without delay.
This wise saying reminds us about the transience of time. No matter how strong we want to stop it, it remains unstoppable. No power can change, slow down, or turn back the passage of time. And that is why it is necessary to live every moment and truly appreciate it. For example:
It seems like I graduated only yesterday, and now my son is going to college. Time fleeth away without delay.
- An ounce of gold will not buy an inch of time.
As we mentioned earlier, time is an invaluable resource. But unfortunately, you can't buy it with real money. So, it is essential to treat it as a precious treasure and understand how to spend it right. If you know how to make every hour valuable, you won't regret anything in the future. For example:
I wish I had the strength of me in my 20s right now. I made a fortune working around the clock, but now I don't have the energy to spend it on anything exciting. An ounce of gold will not buy an inch of time.
- One today is worth two tomorrows.
Another wise English proverb tells you how precious the present is. If you want to be happy, achieve your goals, and reach the top in every area you wish to, you need to stop postponing your life. Some of us think we will live forever, but sadly, we are not. So again, don't postpone your life. Instead, make every day of it worthwhile. For example:
Don't postpone your duties because you don't know what will happen in the future. One today is worth two tomorrows.
- If you want time, you must make it.
Now that you know how valuable time is, you need to realize that you only are responsible for it. If you think 24 hours is not enough, try to discover how exactly you spend the day. What are some unnecessary things you're constantly doing, spending a few hours daily? Maybe, you like to scroll your Instagram page instead of doing homework or watch funny cat videos instead of working? This proverb reminds you that only you can prioritize your tasks and set your schedule. For example:
Honestly, how you will make this report is none of my business. I've been asking you to do so since the beginning of the month, and you haven't had time to finish it. Do you know what I'm going to say? If you want time, you must make it.
- The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
Even though we understand how precious time is, it doesn't mean we must suffer doing things we don't like every day. That's what this proverb is about. If you are doing something that brings joy and profit, you are doing the right thing. For example:
You don't have to worry about sketching instead of washing the dishes. I know how much you like to draw, so who knows – maybe you will be a renowned artist in a few years? Don't berate yourself. The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.
5 Top proverbs about money
Whether you like it or not, money is an integral part of our lives. Even though you can't buy health or happiness with them, you can still use some cash to make your life more exciting, enjoyable, and comfortable. There are plenty of famous proverbs about money, and we want to show you some of them.
- A fool and his money are soon parted.
It doesn't matter how much money you earn. If you don't know how to spend it right, you will lose everything in a short amount of time. Most people on the Forbes list don't just buy anything they want (well, they do, but not the things worth all their fortune). They usually invest it in something to make money multiply. That is why you need to know how to spend money to be rich. For example:
I can't believe it! She won $1 million and lost it in a year! My mother was right – a fool and his money are soon parted.
- A penny saved is a penny earned.
You might think this is a complete nonsense since saved and earned money are two different things. But the point of this proverb is slightly different. It means saving money is as important as making them, so you need to understand it for your future financial operations. For example:
I was saving a hundred dollars every week, and now I can afford to buy a new car without any loans. So it's true – a penny saved is a penny earned.
- If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
This proverb is related to the work theme, but since it is about money, we've decided to add it to this category. It means that the quality of work depends entirely on the payment amount. So if you want to hire qualified professionals, be ready to pay enough money for their work. For example:
My boss wanted us to stay late and work above the norm without additional pay, so Jenna and I stayed to drink tea and talk about all that girlie staff. I am not ready to overwork for free. If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.
- A good paymaster never wants workers.
Luckily, countless employers are still paying good money for quality work. And this proverb is opposite to the previous one – it means that people who understand the value of their employees always have a whole team of professionals. For example:
I had been trying to get this job for months, and when I got it, I understood why it was so hard. The working conditions are perfect, the managers are friendly and polite, and the salary is fantastic. No wonder they usually don't have vacancies – a good paymaster never wants workers.
- Money doesn't grow on trees.
Sadly, it's true. There is no easy way to earn cash (we are discussing legal options). So, to build a fortune, you need to work hard and spend smart. Because if you don't want to make an effort, you won't be able to become as rich as you want to be. For example:
All she wants is to lay in bed and wait until dollars start to rain from the roof. And I'm tired of telling her that money doesn't grow on trees and that she needs to find a job at least.
5 wise English proverbs with explanation
Many English proverbs relate to different life circumstances, so assigning them to a single category is tough. But they are so wise that we can't leave you without at least a few of them. That is why below you can find the list of uncategorized sayings that can help you in various situations.
- When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
We want to start with this proverb since it is an excellent example of a saying relatable to different situations. It means that when you are in a company with some people, you must behave as they do to avoid misunderstandings. If we take this proverb literally, we can use it, for example, when traveling abroad – most countries have their traditions, codes of conduct, and laws, so if you don't want to face problems, you have to act appropriately.
But this proverb is also relatable to our daily life. We need to behave in a particular way in different circumstances and adjust to the norms of behavior of a specific company of people depending on the location, purpose of the event, the general mood, and other factors. For example:
All my new colleagues have a strict dress code, so I've decided to buy a new suit tomorrow. I want to make an excellent first impression, which is the easiest way. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
- Two wrongs don't make a right.
Even though sometimes people can be rude and do something terrible to us (intentionally or unintentionally), the point is to not respond with the same actions. If you try to retaliate or do the same thing the other person did to you, you will only worsen the situation. And that is the primary meaning of this proverb. For example:
I know you're mad at Maddy, but you must settle before telling her something. Two wrongs don't make a right, so please be careful when choosing words to say.
- The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Have you ever caught yourself thinking about how much better your friend's job is? Or how is your younger sister prettier than you? Or maybe how your colleague earned more money than you for a similar project? Envy is also a part of our lives, even though many of us still can't accept it. But we shouldn't be jealous of people's lives since we don't know the truth about them.
You don't know how hard your friend tried to get that job and that his boss is a real jerk. You don't know how much time your colleague spent on the project. For other people, your life looks perfect – but it doesn't mean that you don't have any problems. It is the main point of this proverb. For example:
Stop comparing yourself to Hollywood actresses and become grateful for everything you have. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
- It's no use crying over spilled milk.
This beautiful proverb tells us that we don't have to complain about situations that have already happened, as we can't change them. Sometimes it's better not to waste time crying but spend it looking for a solution. So next time something unchangeable happens to you, remember this advice and implement it in that situation. For example:
I was upset about failing my exam, but then I realized there was no use crying over spilled milk. My teacher is now helping me to strengthen my speaking skills, and I hope to succeed next month.
- Some man goes through a forest and sees no firewood.
The last proverb in our list is here to help you achieve your goals and succeed in any area of your life. Many opportunities can appear on your way, so it is essential to notice and use them all. People miss many possibilities for various reasons. But you must remember that skipping multiple options due to fear of failure or an unwillingness to put in much effort can be a significant barrier to success. For example:
She got almost a hundred excellent job offers but didn't want to work in an office, so she rejected them all. And yesterday she complained about the lack of money! Some man goes through a forest and sees no firewood.
Learning proverbs with Promova – the best way to practice your English
Now you know that proverbs are a great way to become wiser, brighten your conversations, and strengthen your English skills. But how can you remember so many of them? Luckily, we have a solution. Promova is a perfect choice for students of different experience levels. Whether you are going to start from scratch or just expand the knowledge that you already have, you can choose from many options.
For those who seek help from professional tutors, Promova offers lessons with a flexible schedule so that you can study anytime you want. If you prefer company, you can join group classes and have fun with up to six friendly students from different countries. And if you want to master your speaking skills, you can check out an excellent conversation club and discuss various topicsfor free.
A convenient, state-of-the-art application is available for students who wish to study alone. You can install it on different devices and enjoy multiple lessons and topics customized for your experience level. The best thing about the Promova app is that you can access it whenever and wherever you want, so nothing can stop you from mastering your English!
Some people think that proverbs are outdated and do not make sense in today's world. But it is not true! These wise sayings have countless benefits and can become handy in different situations. First, you can use them to cheer up someone, give advice, or help to find the right solution. The main advantage of using such sayings in daily conversations is that there is always a suitable proverb when you don't know what to say.
Another benefit is even more exciting. Using proverbs in your speeches can help you to boost confidence, strengthen your speaking skills, and start to sound like a native speaker. In addition, since these sayings are complete sentences, you can improve your grammar, spelling, and other essential study components. The truth is, they are fantastic from any angle! So, don't hesitate, and learn at least a few because who knows when they may be helpful?
Is the proverb the same as the idiom?
Even though they are very similar, they are not the same. An idiom is a short phrase, while a proverb is a complete sentence. You can easily understand a proverb without the context, but to find out the meaning of an idiom, you need to get acquainted with the situation it is used in.
What is the best proverb about friendship?
There are numerous friendship proverbs in English, but we think the best one sounds like this: “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” It is short and easy to understand, but it makes perfect sense. t means that your true friend is the person who is here for you in times of joy and when you are at your lowest.
What does the “practice makes perfect” proverb mean?
It means that you need to do something regularly to achieve something. For example, if you want to master English, you should study at least a few hours a week. If your goal is to become stronger – exercise more often. Nothing is impossible in this world, so put in a little effort, and you will see the results soon. That is what this proverb is about.
What is the proverb?
A proverb is a brief statement with a literal or figurative meaning. Usually, such sayings provide general knowledge or advice. Most proverbs are based on an experience of a large group of people. Every country has its proverbs, which are an excellent way to learn more about the culture and traditions.