Can You Get a High Score on This Common Phrases Drill?



By: Tasha Moore

6 Min Quiz

Image: Skynesher / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Now's the time to test your old adage know-how. Old sayings are the moral reinforcements of a civilized society. These phrases are meant to be easy to memorize and pass on to later generations. Were you fortunate enough to catch wind of these sayings in your lifetime? Are you wise enough to spread these wise words?

Aphorisms are brief statements that express epic life ideals regarding health, wealth, personal conduct and interpersonal relationships. "Early to bed, early to rise...," "All that glitters..." and "Birds of a feather..." start off several of the more common aphorisms. Greek physician Hippocrates was the first to use the word "aphorism" in his book "The Aphorisms of Hippocrates." Hippocrates was dubbed the "Father of Medicine" for a reason. So it befits you to get better acquainted with these common phrases. But not all of these expressions are meant to do good. We've slipped in a few trickster types in this quiz for good measure. Words to live by come in all forms. How many can you spot?

Conquer this common phrases drill and see if you are the master teacher that others seek. Go seek and find out now!

"To every thing there is a ________." What is the missing word in this common phrase?

This common phrase summarizes verses one through eight from the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. In 1952, music group "The Byrds" released the song "To Everything There Is a Season" that mimics the Ecclesiastical verses. The song is more popularly known as "Turn!, Turn!, Turn!"


"Beauty is only skin deep." What do the words "skin deep" mean in this common phrase?

Physical beauty is only an outward characteristic. It is not a good indicator of a person's inner personality. "Beauty is only skin deep" is a phrase authored by English poet Thomas Overbury in the seventeenth century.


"A watched pot never boils." What is the gist of this common phrase?

This phrase is attributed to Benjamin Franklin who wrote the phrase under the pseudonym "Poor Richard." Franklin published the now-popular phrase in his "Poor Richard's Almanack," which was released serially in the eighteenth century.


What is the missing word in this common phrase: "________ makes the heart grow fonder."?

Another variation of this phrase is "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." Both versions of the phrase allude to the human tendency of longing more intensely for a love interest that is missed.


"There's no fool like an old fool." What is implied by this idiomatic phrase?

There is a general expectation that older people are wise, considering the years of experience they've enjoyed. The phrase first appeared in a book by John Heywood. Heywood's original phrase is: "But there is no foole to the olde foole, folke saie."


Fill in the blank: "The ________ is in the details."

When assessing an issue, the details (especially when hidden) are usually the most troublesome. Problematic details prompt revision or outright abandonment of the initial venture.


For whom is the following common phrase best suited? "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

"Absolute power corrupts absolutely" is a common phrase that speaks to the tempting nature of power, particularly when it's unchecked. Another version of the phrase includes the phrase "Power tends to corrupt," and, by degree, total power corrupts more so.


"________ things come to those who wait." What kind of things comes to patient people?

This phrase highlights the virtue of patience. H. J. Heinz Company ran a series of ads in the 1980s with the phrase "Good things come to those who wait" which poked jest at the frustration ketchup lovers often experienced when attempting to extract ketchup from bottles that were then designed with narrow bottlenecks.


"Brevity is the ________ of wit." What is the missing word?

William Shakespeare coined this phrase in the play "Hamlet," published sometime between 1599 and 1602. Shakespeare alludes to how conciseness enhances the element of wit, as a matter of expressive style.


"There's no such thing as bad publicity." According to this phrase, what's the best example of "bad publicity"?

All publicity, good or bad, heightens public curiosity. This fact is especially helpful to people who seek increased fame in the public sphere.


"All that glitters ain't ________." What is the missing word?

Not everything that looks good outwardly is of value or of hastily perceived value. This common phrase suggests that a proper vetting take place before indulging.


What is the meaning of this common phrase: "To err is human; to forgive is divine."?

English poet Alexander Pope penned the phrase "To err is human; to forgive is divine" in "An Essay on Criticism," published in 1711. Pope encourages humans to follow a divine example when regarding the mistakes of others.


"All's well that ends ________." Can you complete the common phrase?

"All's Well That Ends Well" is the title of William Shakespeare's 1623 play. The trials and tribulations of an issue are not so important if it all works out in the end.


"Time waits for no one." What is the gist of this common proverb?

Another version of this common phrase is "Time and tide wait for no man." This phrase is similar to the phrase, "Never put off for tomorrow what can be done today." These phrases discourage needless waiting and encourage taking advantage of every minute.


"A(n) _______ a day keeps the doctor away." There is a fruit missing; which one is it?

It was long believed that eating one apple daily prevented illness. An 1860s issue of the journal "Notes and Queries" published more exhaustive counsel on the topic: "Eat an apple on going to bed, and you'll keep the doctor from earning his bread."


Can you complete this common phrase: "There's a sucker born every ________."?

"There's one born every minute" is another version of this common phrase. It is alleged that American businessman P. T. Barnum coined this phrase, but there is little evidence of this. The phrase is often used in the context of manipulating unsuspecting people, or suckers, to part ways with their money.


Which word summarizes this common phrase: "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth."?

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" is an ancient phrase that dates back to the days of Babylonian King Hammurabi. The fifth chapter of the New Testament book of Matthew in the King James Bible includes the entire phrase: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth."


Choose the option that best conveys the meaning of this phrase: "You shall reap what you sow."

In his epistle, or instructional letter, to the Galatians, which is a New Testament book in the Bible, the Apostle Paul writes: "God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." Paul warns early Christians to consider the consequences of their actions.


"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it ________." What is the missing word in this common phrase?

This phrase touches on the nature of free will. You can lead someone to a valuable resource, but a person may or may not choose to use the resource to enrich their lives.


"There's no such thing as a free lunch." For whom is this common phrase best suited?

"There's no such thing as a free lunch" is based on the economic theory that someone has to pay for someone else's consumption of goods and services. The phrase is so popular that it's often referred to by the acronym "tanstaafl," which stands for "There ain't no such thing as a free lunch."


"Birds of a ________ flock together." Which word completes the common phrase?

The phrase distills the familiar knowledge that people with the same likes tend to gather around similar interests. As far back as 380 B.C., Greek philosopher Plato wrote a version of the phrase in his work "Republic": "Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says."


What does the word "home" in the common phrase "Charity begins at home" represent?

The phrase stresses that those who are the position to help others have a responsibility to take care of their family and close friends before venturing out offering help. The eighth verse of the book of first Timothy in the fifth chapter offers similar advice: "But if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel."


"There's a time and a place for everything." What two things does this common phrase instruct its adherents to do?

The phrase "There's a time and a place for everything" appears in the 1799 story "The Naughty Girl Won," distributed by the Religious Tract Society. However, it is believed that the phrase dates back further than this.


What is another way to express this common phrase: "Beggars cannot be choosy."

This common phrase is also written as "Beggars should not be choosers" or "Beggars can't be choosers." These phrases are very close in meaning to the phrase "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth." Sixteenth-century writer John Heywood is credited for authoring these phrases.


"The ________ is in the pudding." What's in the "pudding"?

This idiomatic phrase is also written as "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." The phrase means that the quality of the details and the planning of a project is determined by the end results.


What does "darkness" represent, according to this common phrase: "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."?

Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius is referenced as someone who used the phrase "Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness." The phrase has been used to imply that it is wiser to remedy problems than to dwell on them before finding a solution.


What is another way to express the following common phrase: "The pen is mightier than the sword."?

The phrase "The pen is mightier than the sword" has reappeared throughout history several times. Statesman Thomas Jefferson, writer William Shakespeare and dramatist George Whetstone have all expressed some form of the phrase.


Can you complete this common phrase: "Out of the ________ and into the fire."

The phrase speaks to the need for assessing one's current circumstances before changing a course of action. Sometimes our perspective is limited from our current position. Poorly scrutinized options that appear sensible may, in fact, cause more harm.


What "more" is the following common phrase referring to: "The more the merrier."?

English writer John Heywood authored the phrase "The mo the merier" in his book sixteenth-century book titled, "A Dialogue Conteinyng the Nomber in Effect of All the Prouerbes in the Englishe Tongue: Compacte in a Matter Concernyng Two Maner of Mariages, Made and Set Foorth." The phrase means that the more people there are who attend a gathering, the more festive the occassion.


"________ is thicker than water." What's thicker than water?

The phrase "Blood is thicker than water" suggests that ones obligations to kin are most important of all. The phrase was printed in the eighteenth-century publication "A Collection of Scots Proverbs" by Allan Ramsay as "Blude's thicker than water."


"Ask a silly question and you'll get a silly answer." What is another way to express this common phrase?

Diplomat and writer William Caxton penned a Middle English version of this phrase in his fifteenth-century revision of "Aesop's Fables": "For to a folysshe demaunde behoueth a folysshe ansuere." Fact-finders who don't furnish intelligent questions won't achieve much success.


"Beauty is in the ________ of the beholder." Where does the beholder behold beauty?

Although conventional standards exist, beauty remains a highly subjective quality. William Shakespeare expresses this best in his late-1500s play "Love's Labours Lost": "Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye, not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues."


What is the English translation of the Latin phrase: "Carpe diem"?

According to Latin experts, "Seize the day" is a very loose translation of "Carpe diem." This current translation is more widely accepted, however. The long version of the Latin quote is "Carpe diem quam minimum credula postero," which is translated as "Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in tomorrow."


Which word completes this phrase: "Early to bed and early to rise, makes you healthy, wealthy and ________."?

It is hard to contest the validity of this common phrase. It's a tried-and-true adage that getting plenty of rest and waking early to accomplish one's tasks leads to intended success over time.


"Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater." What does "baby" symbolize in this popular phrase?

This idiomatic phrase calls attention to the careless deed of mistaking something valuable for something worthless. The phrase also conjures the often-disregarded virtues of patience and discernment.


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