Proverbs: 50+ Useful and Important English Proverbs for ESL Students

Proverbs are short, pithy sayings that express a truth or an opinion based on common sense or experience. They are often used to give advice or to share a moral lesson.  In this post, we’ll learn some common proverbs in English. By using some of these 0ver 50 popular proverbs, you can up your English language by a few notches.

What Is a Proverb?

A proverb is a short, pithy saying that expresses a traditionally held truth or piece of advice, based on common sense or experience. Proverbs are often used to give advice or to share a moral lesson and can be found in many cultures and languages. They are usually passed down through generations and often use figurative language, such as metaphor or allegory, to convey their message.


Proverbs can be used in a variety of settings, including in everyday conversation, literature, and even in educational settings as a way to teach values and lessons. They can provide a quick, concise way to convey a message or a lesson and can be an effective way to impart wisdom or to make a point.

They can also be found in many different forms, including as sayings, idioms, and even as jokes or riddles. Some proverbs are specific to a particular culture or language, while others are more widely known and used.

In summary, proverbs are short, wise sayings that are used to convey a truth or a lesson and are found in many cultures and languages. They often use figurative language and are passed down through generations as a way to impart wisdom and share moral lessons.

Here are a few examples of proverbs and their meanings:

  • “Actions speak louder than words.”

This proverb means that what people do is more important than what they say.

  • “Honesty is the best policy.”

This proverb advises people to be honest, as it is generally the best course of action.

  • “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

This proverb advises people not to make assumptions or form opinions based on appearances alone.

  • “Practice makes perfect.”

This proverb suggests that repetition and practice can help someone improve their skills or abilities.

  • “The early bird catches the worm.”

This proverb advises people to get an early start, as it can lead to success or advantage.

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Common Proverbs in English


  • A bargain is a bargain.
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.
  • A blind man would be glad to see.
  • A cat in gloves catches no mice.
  • After dinner comes the reckoning.
  • Penny-wise and pound-foolish.
  • One swallow does not make a summer.
  • Nightingales will not sing in a cage.
  • Many a good father has but a bad son.
  • Least said, soonest mended.
  • Keep a thing seven years and you will find a use for it.
  • Keep your mouth shut and your ears open.
  • All are not merry that dance lightly.
  • An oak is not felled at one stroke.
  • The camel going to seek horns lost his ears.
  • So many countries, so many customs.
  • As you brew, so must you drink.
  • Best defense is offense.
  • Better be born lucky than rich.
  • Between two evils ’tis not worth choosing.
  • Catch the bear before you sell his skin.
  • Death is the grand leveler.
  • Diseases are the interests of pleasures.
  • Doing is better than saying.
  • Draw not your bow till your arrow is fixed.
  • Everything comes to him who waits.
  • Fair without, foul (false) within.
  • Fish and company stink in three days.
  • Fools may sometimes speak to the purpose.
  • Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell.
  • Good words without deeds are rushes and reeds.
  • Half a loaf is better than no bread.
  • He is not laughed at that laughs at himself first.
  • His money burns a hole in his pocket.
  • If we can’t as we would, we must do as we can.
  • It is good fishing in troubled waters.
  • Make hay while the sun shines.
  • No man loves his fetters, be they made of gold.
  • Politeness costs little (nothing), but yields much.
  • Short debts (accounts) make long friends.
  • The best is oftentimes the enemy of the good.
  • Truth comes out of the mouths of babes and sucklings.
  • Two is company, but three is none.
  • Velvet paws hide sharp claws.
  • Virtue is its own reward.
  • Wait for the cat to jump.
  • What is done cannot be undone.
  • What is got over the devil’s back is spent under his belly.
  • When children stand quiet, they have done some harm.
  • Beggars can’t be choosers.
  • Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
  • No man is an island.
  • People who live in glass houses should not throw stones.
  • The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
  • Two heads are better than one.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
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Types of Proverbs

Descriptive Proverbs

Descriptive proverbs provide a description or observation about a situation. They are used to describe a situation or a person. For example, “Actions speak louder than words” is a descriptive proverb that means that what people do is more important than what they say. Another example is “All that glitters is not gold,” which means that not everything that looks good is actually good.

Instructional Proverbs

Instructional proverbs provide guidance or advice on how to act in a certain situation. They are used to teach moral values and wisdom. For example, “Honesty is the best policy” is an instructional proverb that teaches the importance of being truthful. Another example is “A penny saved is a penny earned,” which teaches the importance of saving money.

Explanatory Proverbs

Explanatory proverbs explain a concept or a situation. They are used to clarify a situation or to provide an explanation. For example, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is an explanatory proverb that means that when you are in a foreign country, you should follow the customs and traditions of that country. Another example is “You can’t have your cake and eat it too,” which means that you can’t have everything you want in life.


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main message of Proverbs?

Proverbs is a book of wisdom in the Bible that teaches us how to live a good and successful life. The main message of Proverbs is to seek wisdom and understanding, and to live a life that is pleasing to God. The book emphasizes the importance of honesty, hard work, and treating others with kindness and respect. It also warns against foolishness, laziness, and immoral behavior.

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What are some of the themes in Proverbs?

Some of the main themes in Proverbs include wisdom, understanding, knowledge, diligence, honesty, humility, and the fear of the Lord. The book also touches on topics such as wealth and poverty, friendship, family relationships, and the power of words. Proverbs encourages us to seek these virtues and apply them to our daily lives.

What are some of the most memorable Proverbs?

Proverbs is full of memorable sayings that have become well-known phrases in our culture. Some examples include “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18), “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6), and “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17). These and many other Proverbs have become popular for their timeless wisdom and practical advice.

Last Updated on November 7, 2023

7 thoughts on “Proverbs: 50+ Useful and Important English Proverbs for ESL Students”

    • This phrase means that once something has been done, it cannot be reversed or undone. It implies that actions have consequences and that people should be mindful of the choices they make. It is a reminder to take responsibility for our actions and to be thoughtful before making decisions that may have lasting effects.


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