Often we hear a short saying or English proverb that people use and sometimes we vaguely know the meaning, but aren’t quite sure. You can use the following English proverbs and their meanings a) to understand what people are referring to better, and b) to practise your pronunciation with something a bit different than usual.
You could record yourself as you read the proverbs, meanings and examples aloud and actively listen back, and check that you’re pronouncing things correctly. If you’re working on mastering a particular pronunciation element, you can use the proverbs below to practise it.

Definition of a Proverb

A proverb is a short concise saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.

10 English Proverbs

1) When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

Strong people don’t give up when they come across challenges. They just work harder. For example- “I thought they wouldn’t cope with the strain of the extra work load. I guess, when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

2) Better late than never.

It’s best to do something on time. But if you can’t do it on time, do it late.
For example- They finally finished the report 2 months late! Better late than never. (better late than never doing it at all)

3) Two wrongs don’t make a right

It is not acceptable to do something bad to someone just because they did something bad to you first.
For example- She decided to steal from the company because they hadn’t given her the raise in wages she wanted, and I told her two wrongs don’t make a right.

4) Birds of a feather flock together.

People like to spend time with others who are similar to them and/ or have similar outlooks on life. For example- “I didn’t realise there’d be so many people at this music event. Birds of a feather flock together!”

5) A picture is worth a thousand words.

Pictures convey emotions and messages better than written or spoken explanations. For example- “Even though he told me, I didn’t realise the damage was so bad until he showed me a photo of it! Yes. Sometimes a picture’s worth a thousand words.”

6) There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Things that are offered for free always have a hidden cost- This ‘cost’ can refer to emotional, physical, or mental cost not necessarily a financial cost. For example – I thought she was offering me piano lessons just to be nice, but then in return (for the lessons), she asked me to walk her dog once a week. Mm… There’s no such thing as a free lunch!

7) Beggars can’t be choosers.

If you’re asking for a favor from someone else, you have to take whatever they give you. For example- ‘He asked us to volunteer and help on the front desk from 10am until 6p.m., but we could only do from midday to 6 p.m. Oh well, he’ll just have to understand that beggars can’t be choosers.’

8) Actions speak louder than words.

Just saying that you’ll do something doesn’t mean much. Actually doing it is harder and more meaningful to others. For example- He said he liked me, and wanted to see me, but so far in the last 3 weeks we haven’t met up because he always says he’s busy. I don’t think he likes me as much as he says. His actions are speaking louder than his words!

9) Practice makes perfect.

You have to practice a skill a lot to become good at it. For example – I never thought I’d master that tennis shot, but practise makes perfect!

10) Two heads are better than one.

When two people cooperate with each other, they come up with better ideas. For example- When the children worked in pairs on the assignment, they found it much easier to complete- two heads are better than one.

You can find more proverbs here.

Best wishes, Esther

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