Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile

Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile is a proverb that is hundreds of years old. We will examine the meaning of the proverb give him an inch and he’ll take a mile, where the expression came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile is a phrase that means if you make a small concession to someone or do a small favor for someone, he will expect even more concessions or more or larger favors. The idea is that the person in question does not understand boundaries and will try to take advantage. The expression give him an inch and he’ll take a mile has been in use since the late 1800s, though it is derived from a phrase found in John Heywood’s 1546 work, A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the Englishe tongue: “Give him an inch and he’ll take an ell.” An ell was a unit of measurement for cloth that was about 45 inches in length. The expression give him an inch and he’ll take a mile is often expressed using only the first half of the phrase: give him an inch. Related phrases are gives him an inch and he’ll take a mile, gave him an inch and he took a mile, has given him an inch and he’s taken a mile, giving him an inch and he’s taking a mile.

Examples

“He has really done enough freeloading — give him an inch and he’ll take a mile.” (Taipei Times)

“Give him an inch and he’ll take a mile,’’ Sadler said of his father John’s fickle sprinter. (Herald Sun)

We found out on the quick, that he’s the kind of dog that if you give him an inch, he’ll take a mile or more if he can. (Block Island Times)

Help Us Improve!

Help Us Improve!

- Did we make a mistake?
- Do you have feedback or suggestions on how we can improve?

press Enter

Use Shift+Tab to go back