What is the meaning of this phrase?

"No one ever does anything worthwhile for which he is not criticized."

I can't wrap my head around this phrase. Does that mean "if you never do anything worthwhile you won't get criticized", or rather "people get criticized only by doing something worthwhile"?

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  • Where did you find this phrase?
    – Jasper
    Jun 16, 2017 at 17:22
  • If it is not a trivial thing (of which people will take no notice) but something of consequence, you cannot do it without someone criticizing how you have done it.
    – TimR
    Jun 16, 2017 at 18:26

2 Answers 2


It means that no matter what fantastic thing one does, someone will criticize it.

See the similar phrase no good deed goes unpunished.


Those two interpretations are close, but not quite right. It means this:

Anyone who does something worthwhile is criticized for it.

This is an elegantly worded sentence. Here's how it can be broken down:

  1. First untangle "for which" to this easier order.

    "anything for which X is not criticized" → "anything that X isn't criticized for"

  2. Add the adjective "worthwhile" to describe what kind of things you mean.

    "anything that is worthwhile and that X isn't criticized for"

  3. Attach this to subject and verb, and be careful to notice the double negative.

    "No one ever does anything that is worthwhile and that he isn't criticized for"
    → "Whenever someone does anything worthwhile, he is criticized for it"

The rest is just nicer phrasing and cutting out unnecessary words.

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