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Look before you leap

Look before you leap tests you on English proverbs.

English has a rich store of Proverbs ~ 'pithy sayings' that catch the mood, or perhaps the moral point, of moments in our individual and collective lives. How do these compare with the ones in your own language? How well do you know ours?

... And we advise you to Look Before You Leap ( = be careful, and think a moment before choosing your Answers) !

  1. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'He who hesitates is ... ... '
    This one seems to be a direct contradiction to 'Look before you leap': should one pause and be careful, or should one rush ahead?
    (This doesn't mean that people who are lost are also hesitant, like someone dithering with a map in an unfamiliar city!)
  2. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'Fools rush in where ... ...
    Most of these Answers mean much the same thing, but only No.2 is the genuine 'punchline'.
    Oddly enough, we are back again with the idea of caution and 'looking before leaping'.
  3. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'Too many cooks ... ...
    Answer 2 is the traditional version. The image is a culinary one, but the wider application means that if too many people are involved in a project, it will end up with problems (a bit like the 'camel designed by a committee').
    Answer 4 is a misquote from 'If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen'.
  4. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'Many hands make ... ...
    Contrary to Question 3, this proverb suggests that the more people are on the project, the less each one will actually have to do. The false answer at No.4 sounds rather like another proverb that 'the Devil finds work for idle hands' (i.e., unless someone is busy, they may be tempted to spend their time in mischief).
  5. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    A fool and his money ... ...
    Answer 3 paraphrases the original: someone with no sense is unlikely to resist the urge to spend the money (probably on something extravagant and/or silly).
  6. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    Birds of a feather ... ...
    People who are like each other, tend to like each other (using 'like' in its other sense); or as the French puts it, 'Qui se rassemble, s'assemble' (Things that bear a likeness to one another, group together in large numbers).
  7. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    The road to hell is ... ...
    This means that plenty of people who 'mean well' still end up doing evil or unhelpful things, or failing to do good ones; anyone could walk all the way to the 'gates of eternal damnation', treading only on stones that represented helpful deeds that other people wanted to do, but never actually got round to doing.
  8. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    Slow and steady ... ...
    This alludes to Aesop's fable about the arrogant hare, who was so sure he could beat the slow tortoise in a running race that he settled down halfway for a nap ... during which the tortoise quietly overtook him, and went on to win. There may be further echoes here of earlier mentioned proverbs about whether to tackle a project slowly and steadily (and with or without forethought), or whether to press on quickly.
  9. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'Don't count your chickens ... ...
    This proverb is a criticism of people who assume a result before the project has had time to take its full course. A farmer may reckon he has 100 chicks coming along, but maybe something will go wrong with a few of the eggs. It is better to wait until all the results are in before declaring anything with too much pride or confidence.
  10. Choose the answer to complete the sentence in the best, most stylish and accurate English.
    'Better to cut your coat ... ...
    This Proverb is about living and spending within one's means: if you haven't a lot of money and need a garden shed, you build a smaller one with the cheapest decent materials you can find, instead of doing the job extravagantly and falling into debt. (In terms of language-learning, it may mean: stick to using words and grammar that you are confident with using, rather than getting stuck in the middle of a long story where you can't work out how to tell the rest of it!)

Author: Ian Miles

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