33 Proverbs that Translate Well Between English and Mandarin

by carlgene

1. There’s no use crying over spilt milk.
覆水难收 fù shuǐ nán shōu (“Spilt water is hard to recover.”)

2. The early bird gets the worm.
捷足先登 jié zú xiān dēng (“A fast foot is first to climb.”)

3. Misery loves company.
同病相怜 tóngbìngxiānglián (“Patients with similar conditions empathise with each other.”)

4. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
船到桥头自然直 chuán dào qiáotóu zì rán zhí (“The ship will reach the end of the bridge in due course.”)

5. What goes around, comes around.
善有善报,恶有恶报 shànyǒushànbào, èyǒu’èbào (“Kind deeds pay rich dividends, evil is repaid with evil.”)
种瓜得瓜 zhòngguādéguā (“As you sow a melon, so you shall reap one.”)
种豆得豆zhòngdòudédòu (“As you sow a bean, so you shall reap one.”)
媳妇熬成婆 xífù áo chéng pó (“A daughter-in-law who suffers will one day become a mother-in-law.”)

6. Like father, like son.
有其父必有其子 yǒu qí fù bì yǒu qí zǐ (“The son is like his father.”)
虎父无犬子 hǔ fù wú quǎn zǐ (“A tiger does not father a dog.”)

7. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
患难见真情 huànnàn jiàn zhēnqíng (“In adversity, true feelings are revealed.”)

8. No pain, no gain; nothing ventured, nothing gained.
不入虎穴,焉得虎子 bù rù hǔxuè, yāndé hǔ zǐ (“If you don’t enter the tiger’s den, how will you get the tiger’s cub?”)

9. Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.
今日事,今日毕 jīnrì shì, jīnrì bì (“Today’s task, today’s job to complete.”)

10. If you want something done well, do it yourself.
求人不如求己 qiúrén bùrú qiújǐ (“It’s better to rely on yourself than on the help of others.”)

11. Once bitten, twice shy.
一朝被蛇咬,十年怕井绳 yī zhāo bèi shé yǎo, shí nián pà jǐng shéng (“Bitten by a snake on one morning, afraid of the rope by the well for ten years.”)

12. All good things come to an end.
人无千日好,花无百日红 rén wú qiān rì hǎo, huā wú bǎi rì hóng (“There is no person that has 1000 good days in a row, and no flower that stays red for 100 days.”)

13. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
入乡随俗 rù xiāng suí sú (“When entering a village, follow its customs.”)

14. When it rains, it pours.
屋漏偏逢连夜雨 wū lòu piān féng lián yè yǔ (“When the roof is leaking, that’s when you get several continuous nights of rain.”)
一波未平,一波又起 yī bō wèi píng yī bō yòu qǐ (“Just as one wave subsides, another one comes.”)
喝口凉水都能塞牙缝 hē kǒu liángshuǐ dōu neng sài yáfèng (“Even water gets stuck in your teeth.”)

15. Two heads are better than one.
三个臭皮匠,胜过诸葛亮 sān ge chòupíjiàng, shèng guò Zhūgé Liàng (“Three unskilled cobblers are superior to one Zhuge Liang.”)

16. Easy come, easy go.
三十年河东,三十年河西 sān shí nián hé dōng, sān shí nián hé xī (“Thirty years on the east side of the river, thirty years on the west side of the river.”)

17. There’s more than one way to skin a cat.
山不转路转 shān bù zhuǎn lù zhuǎn (“A mountain cannot turn, but a road can.”)

18. Practice makes perfect.
熟能生巧 shú néng shēng qiǎo (“Experience can give way to skill.”)

19. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
冰冻三尺,非一日之寒 bīng dòng sān chǐ, fēi yī rì zhī hán (“Three feet of ice is not the result of one cold day.”)
罗马不是一日建成的 Luómǎ bù shì yī rì jiàn chéng de (literal translation)

20. Heaven helps those who help themselves.
皇天不负苦心人 huángtiān bù fù kǔxīn rén (“Heaven won’t betray people who try their best.”)

21. Beggars can’t be choosers.
饥不择食 jībùzéshí (“The starving can’t choose their meals.”)

22. Speak of the devil and he shall appear.
说曹操,曹操到 shuō Cáo Cāo, Cáo Cāo dào (“Speak of Cao Cao and he arrives.”)

23. The first step is the hardest.
万事起头难 wànshì qǐtóu nán (“The first step in a thousand different matters is always difficult.”)

24. Birds of a feather, flock together.
物以类聚 wù yǐ lèijù (“Similar things are categorised together.”)

25. You get what you pay for.
一分钱,一分货 yī fēn qián, yī fēn huò (“Ten yuan of money, ten yuan of goods.”)

26. Great minds think alike.
英雄所见略同 yīngxióng suǒjiànlüètóng (“The views of heroes are roughly alike.”)

27. One can’t have one’s cake and eat it too.
鱼与熊掌不可兼得 yú yǔ xióng zhǎng bù kě jiān dé (“One cannot get fish and bear’s paw at the same time.”)
又要马儿好,又要马儿不吃草 (“You want a good horse, but won’t give it grass to eat.”)

28. Haste makes waste.
欲速则不达 yùsù zé bùdá (“You desire speed but cannot reach your destination.”)

29. How time flies!
光阴似箭 guāngyīn sì jiàn (“Time is like an arrow.”)

30. Seeing is believing.
百闻不如一见 bǎi wén bùrú yī jiàn (“Hearing something one hundred times is not as good as seeing it once.”)

31. Every cloud has a silver lining.
塞翁失马,焉知非福 sàiwēngshīmǎ, yān zhī fēi fú (“When the old man from the frontier lost his horse, how could one have known that it would not be fortuitous?”)

32. Money talks.
钱可通神 qiánkětōngshén or 钱能通神 qiánnéngtōngshén (“Money is divine.”)
金钱万能 jīnqián wànnéng (“Money is almighty.”)
有钱能使鬼推磨 yǒu qián néng shǐ guǐ tuīmó (“If you have money you can ask for favours.”)

33. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
情人眼里出西施 qíngrén yǎnlǐ chū Xī Shī (“In the eyes of a lover, Xi Shi [one of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China] appears.”

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