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Popular English expression: “People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

Hello! How are you today?

We are here to give you a quick lesson in another very well known expression:

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

Can you guess when we use it?

people in glass houses

Exactly! As the image above says (in black): we use this expression to say that you should not criticize others if you have similar weaknesses yourself. If you throw a stone in a house made of glass, what happens? It will break the glass. This is the metaphor behind this expression. The idea of karma also comes into play because throwing stones in a glass house could break a window and open up the door to other people doing the same thing or criticizing you for it.

There is a similar expression in English which is: “the pot calling the kettle black”. Both the pot and the kettle are black from the fire so one cannot call the other black since it is also black. Don’t call someone a liar if you also lie.

Examples:

“You shouldn’t tell people that Jane was drinking too much wine at the party. I saw you have a lot of cocktails. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, so if you failed your exam you shouldn’t laugh at Pauline for also failing”

We hope that this post has been useful for you and that you have fully understood the meaning of this well known English expression. If you can, try to incorporate it into your own day to day English to sound more like a native. Did you know that in addition to the Journal, ABA English also has a full online English course which starts at beginner level and goes all the way to business level? It is free to sign up to the course and you will get access to 144 video classes. Start learning with us today.

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6 comments

  1. If you talk too much don´t tell others not to speak a lot, because it is like people who live in a glass house shouldn´t throw stones.

  2. I beg to differ. The meaning of that proverb is not about hypocrisy like ‘the pot calling the kettle black’ or ‘Look who’s talking!’. The proverb means that you should not criticize others when you are vulnerable to their attacks or easily got offended.

    • George Talbot

      Hi Dann,

      Thanks for your comment. You also have an interesting take on how this proverb could be interpreted 🙂

  3. I have never heard an explanation of this foreign proverb but I agree with Dann, that is my first intuitive interpretation.

  4. This proverb is always misinterpreted for having the terminology of hypocrisy. Which is infact incorrect.

    The actual meaning is closer to that of “if you can’t take it, don’t dish it out”.

    If you’re the type of person to get easily offended, then don’t go offending people unless you can handle being offended yourself.

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