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Introduction to English Proverbs

May 12th, 2010

In many world languages today, there are certain common sayings people use again and again. Some common sayings are used to remind a person of a kind of wisdom and are given as advice in a situation. Such sayings in the English language are called “proverbs.” A proverb is often a kind of common sense that is presented as a short conceptual story. Proverbs may occasionally sound rather ridiculous, since they are usually a kind of metaphor. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept of a metaphor, this basically means that a description of one situation is meant to be applied to another situation being spoken about. Let’s look at some common proverbs to better clarify.

“Good things come in small packages.”

This is a proverb that is often spoken to someone who has received a small gift box when they were possibly expecting a large gift box. The basic concept is that things like engagement rings and other jewelry come in a small package. They are small, but valuable. Imagine a child who is expecting a video game console for their birthday, but instead receives an envelope with a thousand dollars inside. The saying can also be used for a variety of other situations. For instance, if someone is speaking about a small car that has good fuel efficiency, they could also use this common proverb to say how good it is.

“The bigger, the better.”

This is an interesting proverb to follow the previous proverb with. When a person wants to say how much they appreciate the size of something relatively large, this proverb is appropriate to use. This phrase is really good to use when describing something like a movie screen or a computer monitor. The popularity of the concept possibly got pushed too far with cars and trucks in America at some point.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

A person may like something more than another person may like the same thing. One person may like a kind of flower more than another person likes that kind of flower. One person may like kittens, while another person likes puppies. If the person who likes puppies says that puppies are cuter than kittens, the other person can use this proverb to say that beauty may be according to personal tastes.

“Better safe than sorry.”

This is a common saying that is used when a person is considering whether or not to do something that may or may not be necessary. One possible situation would be when a person is considering whether or not to lock their car door when going into a store for a moment. A friend may use this proverb as a reminder that it is best to be safe, considering how easy it is. The person may occasionally also say this proverb to themselves as a reminder to play it safe. Another possible situation would be packing luggage for a weeklong trip. A person would possibly be better safe than sorry if they packed an extra pair of socks for the journey.

Hopefully this has been a good introduction to English language proverbs that will make your English conversations more natural and understandable.