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1 This month s lesson will help you become familiar with a number of common English proverbs. You will also learn how proverbs are used in English and when it may be appropriate to use them.

2 What is a Proverb? Proverbs are short, memorable phrases that give advice about life. Virtually all languages have them. From ancient times people have argued about how to suitably define a proverb. Here are some possible definitions. Proverbs contains wisdom that has been handed down from one generation to the next. A proverb consists of a short sentence or phrase that contains a general piece of wisdom. Proverbs are phrases expressing knowledge about aspects of life that are universally familiar to mankind. A Proverbs is a colloquial saying that is easily memorized, and contains traditional beliefs about life. These are all good attempts to explain exactly what a proverb is. The following is a more comprehensive definition. A proverb is a phrase or saying which contains wisdom, truth, experience, lessons and advice concerning life and which has been handed down from generation to generation. However, do proverbs necessarily contain wisdom? Many obviously contradict each other. E.g. Birds of a feather flock together but Opposites attract and There is no place like home but The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. For the language learner proverbs are useful and enjoyable to know and understand, but as with all idiomatic expressions, care should be taken when using them. This lesson will introduce some common proverbs and show you how and when they are used in conversation.

3 Exercise 1 A. Below is a list of common English proverbs. Can you match a beginning on the right with an ending on the left? The first one has been done for you. Beginnings Many hands When it rains Don t put all your eggs The early bird People in glasshouses Where there is smoke Too many cooks Kill two birds One man s meat Don t look a gift horse Endings it pours shouldn t throw stones there is fire make light work spoil the broth catches the worm in one basket is another man s poison with one stone in the mouth Scroll down and check your answers B. After checking your answers, look at the following questions. 1. Have you heard any of these proverbs before? 2. What do you think they mean? 3. Do you have the same, or similar proverbs in your language? 4. Do you know any other English Proverbs?

4 C. Look at the statements below that explain the ten proverbs above. Choose the correct proverb for each. The first one has been done for you. 1. Being early is a good thing The early bird gets the worm. 2. Rumours are usually based on truth 3. You should be appreciative when something is offered 4. It is unwise to put all your energy into one thing 5. When there is one problem, often many follow 6. It is dangerous to criticise others if you are not perfect yourself 7. A lot of people helping makes a job easier 8. What is good for one person may be bad for another 9. Doing two things at the same time is an excellent way to save time 10. Too many people working on one job can be a bad thing Scroll down and check your answers

5 Proverbs are often used at the end of a true story someone has told, or in response to some event. Consider the following example conversation. John: How was your day, Sarah? Sarah: Terrible! This morning I woke up late and missed the bus. I took a taxi to work, but I left my mobile phone in the taxi. When I finally arrived at work I spilt coffee all over a really important document. John: What a disaster, but as the saying goes, when it rains it pours. Note: Proverbs are used sparingly in native-speech. They are useful and enjoyable to know and understand, but should be used with care. Exercise 2 Look at the following situations and choose an appropriate proverb from today s lesson. Situation 1 You are organising a ski trip with some friends, but everyone has different ideas and opinions about what they want to do and where they want to go. In the end it becomes impossible to agree and make plans. You say.. Situation 2 Your friend has just graduated from high school and you ask her about which different universities she has applied to. She says that she is only applying to one university because she is sure she will be accepted. On hearing this, you say to her

6 Situation 3 You are walking down the street with a few friends and see a man trying to move a heavy piano into his new apartment. He is having a very difficult time. The three of you go over and help him. With your help the piano is soon inside. The man thanks you and says Situation 4 You want to buy some clothes that are heavily discounted at an end of summer sale. You arrive late and everything has already been sold. You go home and complain to your friend. She says. Situation 5 Your brother who doesn t speak English is going to Australia to live. He wants to learn how to cook because he will be living alone. He complains that he is so busy studying English he doesn t have time to learn to cook. You suggest he buy an English cooking book, so he can learn English and cooking at the same time. You say, Why don t you.. Situation 6 Steve often criticises people when they are late, but he is sometimes late himself. You tell him that Scroll down and check your answers

7 Exercise 1 1. Many hands make light work A lot of people helping makes a job easier 2. When it rains it pours When there is one problem, often many follow 3. Don t put all your eggs in one basket It is unwise to put all your energy into one thing 4. The early bird catches the worm Being early is a good thing 5. People in glasshouses shouldn t throw stones It is dangerous to criticise others if you are not perfect yourself 6. Where there is smoke there is fire Rumours are usually based on truth 7. Too many cooks spoil the broth Too many people working on one job can be a bad thing 8. Kill two birds with one stone Doing two things at the same time is an excellent way to save time 9. One man s meat is another mans poison What is good for one person may be bad for another 10. Don t look a gift horse in the mouth You should be pleased and appreciate what is offered to you Exercise 2 Situation 1 Situation 2 Situation 3 Situation 4 Situation 5 Situation 6 Too many cooks spoil the broth Don t put all your eggs in one basket Many hands make light work The early bird catches the worm Kill two birds with one stone People in glasshouses shouldn t throw stones

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