You can lead a horse to water

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You can lead a horse to water is the first half of a proverb with roots that stretch back to the 1100s. A proverb is a short, common saying or phrase. These common sayings are language tools that particularly give advice or share a universal truth, or impart wisdom. Synonyms for proverb include adage, aphorism, sayings, and byword, which can also be someone or something that is the best example of a group. Often, a proverb is so familiar that a speaker will only quote half of it, relying on the listener to supply the ending of the written or spoken proverb himself. Speakers of English as a second language are sometimes confused by these pithy sayings as translations from English to other languages do not carry the impact that the English phrases carry. Some common proverbs are the wise sayings better late than never, early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, haste makes waste, blood is thicker than water, and a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. One of the books of the Bible is the Book of Proverbs, which contains words and phrases that are still often quoted in the English language because they are wise. Many current proverbs are quotations taken from literature, particularly Shakespeare, as well as the Bible and other sacred writings. We will examine the meaning of the expression you can lead a horse to water, where it came from, and some examples of its use in sentences.

You can lead a horse to water means you can give someone an opportunity or show him how to succeed, but you can’t force him to take the opportunity or to take your advice. The expression you can lead a horse to water is part of the proverb you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. This proverb is said to be the oldest proverb in the English language that is still in use, dating at least from Old English Homilies, published in 1175.


“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” said high school Principal Brandon Carter at a Wednesday, Dec. 18, board meeting. (The York Dispatch)

If a student needs help beyond what the counseling center can provide, Pinkerton said, “then we need to help out, [but] as the saying goes ‘you can lead a horse to water.’ ” (The CT Mirror)

“You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” is how economist Zhong Zhengsheng describes the predicament facing China’s central bank as it tries to push the country’s banks to cut interest rates and increase lending to bolster flagging economic growth. (Caixin Global)

I thought RW boogieman, Adam Schiff did an excellent job as committee chairman but like the old saying” you can lead a horse to water…but you can’t make him drink.” (The Victoria Advocate)