Proverbial Expressions with Examiner’s Comments


Proverbs are wise sayings that cannot be understood literally. Proverbs are important in our every use of a language since they give vigor and vividness to ordinary speech and also to the point of view of adding to the scope of our vocabulary.

Examiner’s Comments on the Uses of Proverbs

If we say what you sow you reap, this will give a vivid meaning that what you give will be given back or what you pay someone will be repaid to you. This proverb teaches us morals and to do well. Let us learn more proverbs with their meanings below.

  Proverbs Meanings
1. A red letter day very special day or a day to be remembered
2. A bolt from the blue completely unexpected
3. A brown study thought that neglected all other happenings around
4. White feature being afraid
5. Time and tide wait time is running out for no man
6. A stitch in time saves nine solve little problems now before they become too difficult to solve
7. Look before you leap think deeply before you take a step
8. Birds of a feather flock together people of similar character easily become friends
9. Charity begins at home what you are at home will reflect outside
10. Make hay while the sun shines do the right thing at the right time
11. A friend in need is a friend indeed one knows one’s true friend in times of trouble
12. Necessity is the mother of invention whenever problems come, you should think of solutions
13. Hand in glove working together
14. All hands on deck joining hands together, agree
15. A finger in every pie interest in everything that is around
16. Hand to mouth one’s means of livelihood is uncertain
17. An iron hand a tyranny
18. Hand off the whole affairs no more interested in the matter
19. At arm’s length with caution
20. Not all that glitters is gold outward appearance/worldly luxury can be deceitful
21. Procrastination is the thief of time unnecessary delay is dangerous
22. Punctuality is the soul of business as the soul is important to man so is punctuality to business
23. An idle hand is the devil’s workshop the hand that does nothing may be enticed to do evils
24. The early birds catch the worm don’t waste your early days
25. A rolling stone gathers no moss one who never settles down gains possessions or be successful in life
26. Blood is thicker than water it is natural to favor one’s relations
27. Evil communication corrupts good manner evil influence has a bad effect on the character
28. A hiss is as good as a smile only true aim counts
29. All is fish that comes to his net he is unscrupulous/not meticulous
30. A wink is as good as a nod to a blind horse any sign is unobserved by him who will not see
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 Examiner’s Uses of Some of the Expressions

 As done in idiomatic expressions, it is important to use some proverbial expressions in sentences. Look at them below. Then make each of them in a sentence to convey the meaning of the expression.

  1. It was bold from the blue.
  2. Bola was in a brown study.
  3. Tomorrow is my red letter day.
  4. I wash my hands off the whole affair.
  5. The principal charges the students to make hay while the sun shines.
  6. The governor said, ‘Let all hands be on deck to uplift up this state’.
  7. The man ruled with an iron hand.
  8. Ladies, be careful! Not all that glitters is gold.
  9. All the employees in that company are hand in glove.
  10. Do what you want to do on time because procrastination is the thief of time.

Practice Questions

Choose the interpretation you consider appropriate for the expressions underlined in sentences.

  1. She tried to throw dust in my eyes.

(a) blow dust into my eyes      (b) fight me     (c) rebuke me      (d) mislead me

(e) make me blind

  1. Our house swept the board in the inter-house sports competition.

(a) prepared a file        (b) came last         (c) was complete

(d) was only partially successful   (e) won a consolation prize

  1. Soyinka has made his mark in the literary world.

(a) become rich  (b) become distinguished     (c) score high marks

(d) stressed his point   (e) won the competition of the author

  1. Amina used to be hand in glove with her boyfriend.

(a) cheat her boyfriend            (b) admire her boyfriend         (c) fight her boyfriend

(d) wear her boyfriend’s glove           (e) be in close relationship with her boyfriend

  1. For us to accomplish the task, all hands must be on deck. This means everybody ______.

(a) should push with his hands (b) will have to travel by sea (c) must cooperate

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(d) should take a rest before continuing the task

  1. The masquerade appears once in a blue moon. This means that the masquerade appears

(a) on very rare occasions (b) when the moon is blue

(c) whenever a special request is made (d) once a month

  1. Okon is quite hardworking but his problem is that he has too many irons in the fire. This means that Okon ________.

(a) is a blacksmith  (b) takes on more problems than he can cope with

(c) is very good at solving problems (d) is a very successful businessman

  1. The peace meeting nipped the crisis in the bud. This means that

(a) the crisis was averted (b) the peace meeting was deadlocked

(c) members disagreed on who should receive the flower pot

(d) the crisis escalated despite the peace meeting

  1. Ugonna passed his examinations with flying colors. This means that Ugonna

(a) did very well (b) wore clothes of different colors

(c) was helped to pass the examination (d) cheated to pass the examination

  1. Akpan does not let the grass grow under his feet. This means that Akpan

(a) does not waste time in doing things (b) is a very wicked man

(c) cuts the grass in his field regularly (d) cares only about himself

  1. The former chairman has no moral right to criticize the present chairman because he has a skeleton in the cupboard. This means that ______

(a) former chairman has an unpleasant secret that is hidden

(b) the present chairman has not done anything wrong so far

(c) the former chairman maintained a very low moral standard during his tenure

(d) former chairman kept a very terrifying skeleton in a large cupboard as usual

  1. When asked to state her side of the story, Bunmi started beating about the bush. This means that Bunmi _______.

(a) went straight to the point (b) was lost in great thought

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(c) followed a bush path (d) approached the subject without coming to the point

  1. The driver smelt a rat when the policemen asked him to stop. This means that the driver was

(a) reckless      (b) suspicious        (c) careful          (d) offensive

  1. The students were advised to face their studies and let sleeping dogs lie. This means that the students should _______.

(a) obey the authorities (b) organize themselves properly

(c) leave matters as they are now (d) be as watchful as sleeping dogs

  1. The debating team was warned to make convincing points and not to play to the gallery. This means that the team should not

(a) be selfish (b) underrate the opponents (c) be over-confident

(d) attempt to win a cheap popularity

  (WAEC June 1989 – 1993)

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