Proverbs and Idioms Exercise (263)

Choose the answer that best fits the meaning of the proverb in the context of the sentence.

  • When Sallie complained about the color of the car her uncle gave her, I told her she shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

  • When Winthrop asked his mother what he should do with the money if his essay won the $1000 prize, she told him that he could cross that bridge when he came to it.

  • It was only three in the afternoon when George looked up and said, "We’d better call it a day."

  • Lois wanted to her father-in-law’s political remark, but decided it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie and ignore it.

  • When the first-year teacher threw out a stack of once-used file folders, Mr. Walker retrieved them, saying loudly, "Waste not, want not."

Answers and Explanations

1. When Sallie complained about the color of the car her uncle gave her, I told her she shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth.

Correct: be critical of something that hadn’t cost her anything
It is expected behavior for a prospective buyer to look in a horse’s mouth. A person who receives a horse as a gift has no reason to look in its mouth. To do so would be considered bad manners and a sign of ingratitude.

2. When Winthrop asked his mother what he should do with the money if his essay won the $1000 prize, she told him that he could cross that bridge when he came to it.

Correct: decide what to do after he’d won the money
As the boy has not won the money, deciding how to spend it is a waste of effort. The time to decide is when and if he wins it.

3. It was only three in the afternoon when George looked up and said, "We’d better call it a day."

Correct: quit working
This expression means to bring something to an end. Its most literal sense is "quit working for the day." In an extended sense, it can mean to retire or to end a relationship. For example, "After working together for ten years without agreeing on much of anything, my partner and I decided to call it a day."

4. Lois wanted to her father-in-law’s political remark, but decided it would be better to let sleeping dogs lie and ignore it.

Correct: avoid a troublesome reaction
If you enter a yard inhabited by a strange dog and it is sleeping, the wise course of action is to let the dog continue its nap. It may be friendly, but it may be vicious. When there is the possibility that a remark could provoke an angry or contentious reaction in another person, the best course of action in most social situations is to refrain from speech.

5. When the first-year teacher threw out a stack of once-used file folders, Mr. Walker retrieved them, saying loudly, "Waste not, want not."

Correct: You may need these later
In the expression "waste not, want not," want means lack. The idea is that if you are frugal with what you have, you will never lack what you need.

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