According to Wolfgang Mieder, author of the book "Proverbs Are Never Out of Season," the definition of a proverb is a "a phrase ... which contains above all wisdom, truth, morals, experience, lessons, and advice concerning life and which has been handed down from generation to generation." A proverb can help you perfect your conversational English skills, as proverbs often come up in conversation. An example is "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Proverbs can also deepen your understanding of American cultural and folklore history.
Acquire a comprehensive list of proverbs. You could purchase a book that categorizes proverbs into sections, such as proverbs on work, love, money, health, etc. Alternatively, you could visit a website like Syvum.com/proverbs or Learn-english-today.com.
Look carefully through the list or chapters of proverbs, highlighting the ones that you like and carefully reading their explanations. Put a star next to the proverbs that still don't make sense, even after reading the explanation.
Use one new proverb each day. Pick a proverb that you genuinely like, either because you find it funny or wise. If you like the proverb, you won't find it tedious trying to use a new one each day. Use your new proverb in conversation, in text messages, type it in e-mails and write it on a sticky note and put it by your computer or bathroom mirror.
Keep a record of each proverb that you use each day by logging it in a journal.
Ask a native speaker of English or a knowledgeable individual about the meaning of the proverbs that you don't understand. Next to each of those proverbs, write a better, clearer definition in your own words.
- Helping You Learn English: Can English Proverbs Improve Your English?
- "Proverbs Are Never Out of Season: Popular Wisdom in the Modern Age"; Wolfgang Mieder; 1993
- Syvum: Proverbs
Lane Cummings is originally from New York City. She attended the High School of Performing Arts in dance before receiving her Bachelor of Arts in literature and her Master of Arts in Russian literature at the University of Chicago. She has lived in St. Petersburg, Russia, where she lectured and studied Russian. She began writing professionally in 2004 for the "St. Petersburg Times."