English Proverbs 101: Witty & Wise Sayings

Could you describe this place in 1,000 words? (La Jolla, CA)
Could you describe this place in 1,000 words? (La Jolla, CA)

“A proverb is the wit of one, and the wisdom of many.” – Lord John Russell (British politician).

Proverbs in English, or in any language, are short sayings that express popular beliefs that are based on common sense or the practical experience of humankind. ECSD teachers mix things up by teaching students the meanings behind things like proverbs – that way, students get to know American culture along with the language.

Proverbs are often metaphorical (i.e., they use words/phrases that places ideas alongside others, suggesting a likeness) and thus have remained common & constant parts of our societies. ECSD wants our ESL students to immerse themselves in the life around them – and what better way than to know these proverbs?

Here are some well-known & well-used American proverbs (that you have probably heard, too!):

  • “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” When someone has done something bad to you, trying to get revenge will only make things worse.
  • The pen is mightier than the sword.” Trying to convince people with ideas and words is more effective than trying to force people to do what you want.
  • “When in Rome, do as the Romans.” Act the way that the people around you are acting (in cultural circumstances). This phrase might come in handy when you’re traveling abroad – often people will do things differently than you’re used to. **EC San Diego favorite –  the perfect proverb for ESL students who study English abroad!
  • “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Strong people don’t give up when they come across difficulty. They just work harder!!
  • “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Pictures have that strange ability to create within us strong emotions. They can also carry messages that written explanations may not be able to describe.