The context:
Our manager is always complaining us about using private phones during working hours. However, whenever our General Director is out of the office. This manager keeps using his phone or doing private things the whole day. Supposed that, if he criticize us next time, can we say

You're not capable of criticizing us because you are also using your phone all day long.

I'm not sure if it is correct and natural or not. Could you help me?

About the context, actually I just made it up to speak my mind easily. I might not dare to say that to my manager :)). I will use your suggestions in another similar context with another person.

  • 3
    The rudest would be: Look, a butcher is asking us to have some mercy on animals.
    – Maulik V
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 9:16

7 Answers 7


Setting aside the workplace issues ...

are not capable of criticizing and you are also are grammatical but a tad stiff there. You'd want to say

You can't criticize us since you're using your phone all day long too.

Since you're using your phone all day long too, you can't criticize us.

And if you really want to "get in your manager's face" about it:

Who are you to criticize us when you use your phone all day long too.

P.S. This is a rhetorical question (and thus a kind of assertion) whose answer resolves to You are not anyone to criticize us. In other words, "You have no right to criticize us". It is similar to Who do you think you are, criticizing us! In other words, "What special rights or privileges do you believe you have, that would allow you to criticize us!" And the implied answer is "None!"

  • I don't quite understand the grammar of Who are you to criticize us ...?
    – dan
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 12:58
  • 3
    @dan: Please see the P.S.
    – TimR
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 13:14
  • 2
    @dan "who are you to...?" is (indignantly) stating that you feel that person doesn't possess any special rights that holds them accountable to a different set of rules. Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 23:52

According to the Cambridge Dictionary, capable means having the ability, power, or qualities to be able to do something. Clearly, your boss is capable of telling you not to use your phone, as he is actually doing it.

What you can say is that he is being a hypocrite (someone who says they have particular moral beliefs but behaves in way that shows these are not sincere) or, better, that he has double standards (a rule or standard of good behaviour that, unfairly, some people are expected to follow or achieve but other people are not). You could also simply say that it is not fair to forbid you to do something that he also does.

Whether it's a good idea to say something like this to your boss is another matter. Your boss probably thinks that his position entitles him to certain privileges that you are not entitled to, and would be annoyed if you made it clear that you view things differently.

Note that, for habitual actions, we normally use simple present "you use your phone" rather than present continuous "you are using your phone".

  • 3
    thank you for your answer, It's really helpful to me. About the context, actually I just made it up to speak my mind easily. I might not dare to say that to my manager :)). I will use your suggestion in another similar context with another person.
    – Huong
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 9:49

A couple of idiomatic ways to point out the boss' hypocrisy in this matter would be

  • You're a fine one to talk (This could be shortened to just "You're one to talk"): you are guilty of doing the thing you have just criticized.
    see TheFreeDictionary.com's definition

  • That's rich, coming from you (This could also be shortened, to just "That's rich!"): That's an unfair criticism because the behavior of the person saying it is the same.
    see TheFreeDictionary.com's definition

Again, as noted elsewhere, actually saying these to your boss will most likely get you in trouble. But shifting them to the third person ("He's a fine one to talk" and "That's rich, coming from him!") makes them very well-suited for commiserating with your coworkers about him.


Supposed that, if he criticize us next time, can we say, "You're not capable of criticizing us because you are also using your phone all day long."

As the word "hypocrite" is already discussed, you could also describe such instances using the following idioms:

1) The person does not practice what he/she preaches. - (from one of the search results) to do the things that you advise other people to do.

2) The person does not walk the talk. - (from the link) This phrase indicates that failing to match behavior with talk results in loss of credibility and trust.


"He should not tell me not to do this because he doesn't practice what he preaches." or

"He should not tell me not to do this because he doesn't walk the talk."

  • 3
    This US speaker has never heard anyone say walk the talk - it might vary from country to country. To me, it's always walk the walk (as in "he talks the talk, but he doesn't walk the walk") and "walk the talk" sounds ridiculous because the whole point of the phrase is "doing the action" rather than "saying the words". I'd be curious if non-US English speakers have an opinion on this.
    – stangdon
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 11:21
  • @stangdon British English speaker here and I agree with you 100% - I've never heard anyone in this country say "walk the talk" either and your reasoning seems spot on to me.
    – Spratty
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 15:55
  • @stangdon I agree that it sounds wrong, but many native speakers apparently do use it. See “Walk the walk” vs. “talk the talk” vs. “walk the talk” on EL&U
    – 1006a
    Commented Jul 26, 2018 at 16:35
  • 1
    @stangdon I have heard this used (albeit rarely) in Australia, sort of a lazy contraction of the full idiom. Commented Jul 27, 2018 at 5:28

I don't think capable fits in your examples as he has the capacity to say so. You could try shouldn't instead:

You shouldn't criticize us because you are also using your phone all day long.

You can use shouldn't to give your opinion about the manager's actions. You can simplify it with for:

You shouldn't criticize us for something you do all day long.

If you're interested in an alternate phrase, you could consider look who's talking:

look who's talking
One is guilty of the same thing they have just criticized. A: "Kathy never pays attention in class." B: "Look who's talking! Just today I saw you reading a magazine during the lecture."


Manager: Checking your phone during work hours is bad for productivity!
You: Look who's talking! You're on your phone all day.

As others have mentioned, talking to your manager this way could get you in trouble, so be careful.


I don't think it's natural at all because I don't think a native English speaker would say "criticize" there. Criticize is too formal for a conversation like that, but you might use it in an e-mail or a StackExchange post asking what to do about your horrible boss.

You could use "complain" instead, like "Who are you to complain? You were on your phone all day yesterday." But actually I think most people would just say, "Weren't you on your phone all day yesterday?" and leave the rest of the meaning implied.

If you wanted something more idiomatic, you could say "Isn't that the pot calling the kettle black?" which means roughly that someone shouldn't complain about something they also do.

P.S. As others have pointed out, all of these will certainly get you in trouble at work, so these phrases are more common in social settings.


There is also a statement of "That's the Pot calling the Kettle black." Idiomatically from the way iron cookware can develop black streaks from soot and burning from open flame cooking, the implication is, again, that the person who is criticising you is also guilty of the same thing, or in the same state as you, so cannot speak from a position of superiority.

The only problem you may find with this is in certain cultures and situations, the word black holds a lot of cultural and political overtones that were nothing to do with the original idiom but may be read into it by the listener.

Even this has now been subject to usage contraction, and a simple response of "pot/kettle" may suffice.

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