Please imagine someone is going to do an action which is a phase / step of a series of completely related actions, but whereas they have not accomplished the most primary steps properly are there are some lacks in previous steps and prior to beginning of this phase, they cannot fulfill this step too.


Please suppose a government which is taking the necessary measures for some higher steps of a national project in a country, but whereas they have not laid the requisite foundations to the higher steps beforehand, they are unable to go forward anymore or their progress will not be quite satisfactory as it was predicted from the outset.

In the both of the above mentioned scenarios and many similar cases like a soccer team which its responsible have not worked on its youths teams in the past and expect its adult team work well (which consists of those old youths who were not trained well), we can use an identical proverb / saying in our language.

I will put a direct translation of it here. We say:

  • The foundation of the house is shaky.

I am sure it makes sense to you, but I need to no if there is an equivalent for it in (especially American) English?

  • 2
    The English phrasing is that something "is built on shaky foundations".
    – AdrianHHH
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:03
  • 1
    Did you mean "its supervisor" instead of "its responsible" ? "Responsible" is not a noun in English. Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 13:28
  • 1
    @AdrianHHH Yes, 'shaky foundation' is a good one.
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 14:39
  • @TeleportingGoat thank you very much for pointing that out. Very useful post. Good job.
    – A-friend
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 21:06

1 Answer 1


You could use what you have, "We require a firm foundation before we move to other parts of the project."

The idiom you are looking for is probably, :LINK "lay the groundwork".

  • Thank you @Willow Rex. But I was looking for another thing! As you mentioned above, would it be possible to say: "The house is built on shaky foundations"? Does it sound idiomatic and natural in my case?
    – A-friend
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 21:16
  • Yes, I said so above, too. "The house is built on shaky foundations." Or, "The house is built on a shaky foundation." Both work perfectly and AdrianHHH's suggestion was better than mine.
    – WRX
    Commented Feb 8, 2017 at 21:27

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