How to use Proverbs in Your Composition
Proverbs are phrases that are commonly used and widely understood. They can also be mantras that are passed down for generations. Proverbs can be used to convey advice.
Here’s a common proverb that you may have heard before:
“Practice makes perfect.”
As children, we hear them from our parents and teachers. And as we grow up, we use some of the more common proverbs in our everyday conversations, sometimes without even realizing that the phrase that comes naturally to us is actually a proverb.
“He has tattoos all over his body, but you know what they say, don’t judge a book by its cover.”
“Having started work straight after my diploma to make ends meet, I only fulfilled my dream to pursue further studies after a good ten years in the workforce. But better late than never, for I can now proudly say that I am a degree holder; the first in my family.”
Proverbs can be in the form of a phrase or a sentence, for example, “The early bird catches the worm.” This one is frequently used to encourage the lazy bunch of us to rise or start early because it is believed that those who do so gain an advantage over others.
Another point worth noting about this proverb, and many others, is that it is in the form of a metaphor. Many proverbs use figurative language to personify their meaning. When we say “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”, we are not literally referring to eggs, but rather the fact that you shouldn’t concentrate all your risks or efforts in one area.
Interestingly, proverbs make it easy and effective to teach your child lessons, or give him words of advice pertaining to concepts that are actually quite sophisticated.
More importantly, for your child, proverbs are a simple yet powerful tool to convey a strong message in his compositions.
Proverbs can be used throughout a composition, whether as an introduction, as a concluding statement, or even in the dialogue between the characters in the composition. The key is to use them moderately or even sparingly. They are like the spices you add to your dishes for additional flavour; whether it is a pinch of cinnamon or a dash of paprika, proverbs are not meant to be ‘spammed’.
Proverbs add spice to your child’s composition.
Use a Proverb in the Introduction
Starting your composition with a proverb immediately captures the reader’s attention. A proverbial introduction can give insight into the gist of your child’s composition in a single line, or it can invoke questions and spur the reader to find out what the story is about. Either way, a proverb is a powerful tool to begin a composition as it leads the reader on to the rest of the story.
Because there are so many different types of proverbs, starting with one not only provides your child a unique introduction to her composition, but it also adds some depth and sophistication to the story that she’s writing.
Of course, the key is to use an appropriate proverb that is related to the crux of the story, or one that “teaches the lesson” in your child’s composition.
Consider this example:
Honesty is truly the best policy. I could not imagine how things would have turned out had I lied instead…
I’ve used this simple proverb combined with a flashback. In two sentences, I have basically told you the lesson I have learnt, about being honest. At the same time, I have hopefully intrigued you enough to read on to find out exactly what situation caused me to learn that lesson.
Use a Proverb in the Conclusion
You could also end your composition with a thought-provoking proverb, to leave a lasting impression on the reader. Instead of explicitly stating the “lessons learnt”, your child can display his maturity by ending with an inspirational proverb.
Consider this example:
I reminisced onthe early days, recalling how everyone was sceptical about the route I was embarking on.
No one truly saw the vision that I saw. Yet now, I sat on the balcony of my penthouse overlooking the sea, soaking up the breeze of freedom, of accomplishment, of success.
The success that I dreamed of, that I willed myself to achieve.
No, it didn’t come easy; I suffered, I endured, but at every juncture where there was a will – the will to overcome any obstacle, the will to keep going – whenever there is a will, there will always be a way.
I’ve used the proverb “Where there’s a will, there’s a way” to show that determination and willpower can overcome all obstacles.
Use a proverb in the dialogue
Using a proverb in a dialogue is another way to boost your child’s language marks. Adding a proverb further showcases your child’s breadth and depth of vocabulary. It also conveys more complicated messages or wisdom that your child may have difficulty expressing in “normal phrases”.
Consider this example:
“Mr. Tan has got to be the most boring Math tutor I’ve ever had!” Peter exclaimed. “I really think we should leave and go to another tuition centre. I’m sure they also have Math tutors there.”
“I’m not so sure,” John cautioned. “Better the devil you know than the one you don’t.”
I’ve used the proverb to highlight what John thinks about Peter’s suggestion to leave the tuition centre. Without explicitly saying it, I am able to convey John’s doubt towards Peter’s idea.
Common Proverbs for Your Composition
Here are some proverbs that your child can start using in his compositions to impress his or her teachers in school!
- A watched pot never boils.
Waiting for something to happen will make time pass even slower.
Example: John stared out the window at the long winding road, waiting for any sign of a car approaching in the distance. But he knew that a watched pot never boils, and he tried to turn his mind towards the book in front of him again, in a bid to distract himself.
- Beggars can’t be choosers.
When you receive help, you have to be content with and accept whatever you get.
Example: Hunger-stricken, I walked up to the first tiny house with their lights turned on and pounded on the door. An old lady with the kindest eyes perused my sorry state before inviting me into her warm living room. My shame was overwhelmed by my starving belly as I blurted, “Do you have anything to eat, please?” The old lady shuffled slowly into the kitchen whilst I sat and watched in anticipation, knees together, arms wrapped around my stomach as if it would help calm down the desperate growls from within. As she returned, cupping a bowl delicately in her hands, I almost lunged out to grab that delicacy. However, I froze when I saw all that she had to spare – a half-filled bowl of plain white rice. Beggars can’t be choosers, I thought, as I wolfed down the rice in seconds.
- Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.
Do not be overconfident, or make plans based on something good that you think will happen, before it has actually happened.
Example: Julie was already shopping around for a car as a self-reward for her upcoming promotion, but I told her not to count her chickens before they hatched.
- Don’t cry over spilt milk.
Do not be upset over something that has already happened that you cannot change.
Example: Tim was dejected; he had just failed his test. As I patted him on the shoulder I tried to encourage him. “Look, Tim, this test is already done, so don’t cry over spilt milk. There’s still the finals at the end of the year, and I know you can do it.”
- Many hands make light work.
This proverb is about teamwork. If everyone works together to help in something, the task is accomplished much quicker.
Example: At first, we were intimidated by the actual area of the wall we had to paint. It was a huge, old bungalow and the paint was practically peeling from every corner of the house – all three levels of it! But everyone was so cooperative, and since many hands made light work, we managed to finish painting the whole house before sunset.
- There is safety in numbers.
When people tend towards something together as part of a group, either in thinking a certain way or in doing something, they are less likely harmed or blamed for it.
Example: We gathered in a group of about twenty and marched up to the principal’s office to make our complaint, thinking that there was safety in numbers.
- There’s no smoke without fire. (variation: Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.)
This proverb is saying that there might be truth in rumours, because rumours, no matter how twisted they are, must have been grounded in some underlying fact.
Example: Our new teacher appears very friendly and gentle, but some claim they have seen her ex-students sent out of the classroom in tears during her lessons. There’s no smoke without fire, so let’s wait and see.
- Too many cooks spoil the broth.
When too many people are involved, they can do more harm than good and ruin something instead.
Example: Everyone was throwing in ideas and giving opinions, and by the end of the day we could not even decide where we wanted to host the event. There were clearly too many cooks spoiling the broth.
- We never miss the water till the well is dry.
We tend to take things for granted, and only realize how important something / someone is until we lose it.
Example: Now that I’m past forty, and my joints creak and ache every time I get up from my bed. I realize how we never miss the water till the well is dry. I can barely remember what it feels like to be young again!
- You can’t make bricks without straws.
You cannot accomplish something without the right information or necessary tools.
Example: “But I hate training!” I exclaimed. My coach grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me in the eye. “Boy, are you lazy!” he reprimanded me. “If you want to get a gold medal, you need to build up your strength. You need to build up your core. You need to understand that you can’t make bricks without straws.”
There are tons of other proverbs. Just prowl the net and you’ll be amazed how many everyday sayings that you use regularly are actually proverbs. That said, it will take your child some effort to understand many of these proverbs. Then your child can use them in his or her compositions.
The best way to use proverbs is to let them fit naturally into a sentence. Don’t force them in. Afterall, Rome wasn’t built in a day – the key is to consistently practise, revise and repeat!
(You might also want to check out this post >>> How to Use Good Phrases In your Composition)
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wiki, Cambridge dictionary