A saying in my language would literally translate like this: ‘As long as one lives one is learning!’

I would like to know whether there is an equivalent in English for this saying.

  • I'd advise visiting sites with proverbs, sayings, quotations, such as goodreads, say: goodreads.com/quotes/tag/learning and goodreads.com/quotes/tag/lifelong-learning By the way, there's a saying "Век живи - век учись" in Russian, that is, to put it roughly, "Live 100 years, learn 100 years" (the mood is subjunctive and a bit imperative). Feb 28, 2014 at 12:41
  • 1
    Though not exactly equivalent, your phrase reminds me of life-long learning. I found many good quotes here: goodreads.com/quotes/tag/lifelong-learning. I particularly like this one: “The education of a man is never completed until he dies.” Feb 28, 2014 at 12:54
  • 1
    We often say "live and learn" when we learn something new. Bob Dylan's "He not busy being born is busy dying" is a poetic version of the same idea, cast in the negative.
    – BobRodes
    Feb 28, 2014 at 15:29
  • 1
    @BobRodes, "live and learn" has a different meaning. While it does mean that you've learned something, you learned it at great cost. In fact, you may have just barely survived the experience that taught you such a lesson (thus the live part of the expression). It's a rueful saying.
    – Phil Perry
    Feb 28, 2014 at 15:35
  • 2
    There is an element of ruefulness in the saying, true, but I would say you're overstating the cost of the learning a bit, at least as I use it. For example: "As it turns out, we are required to fill out the form in black ink. Live and learn." Perhaps I have a bit of a sarcastic streak that you don't. :)
    – BobRodes
    Feb 28, 2014 at 16:39

5 Answers 5


I've found a saying that seems to be related to the meaning described by you:

Live and learn (Wiktionary): An exhortation to gain knowledge from living experiences. Commonly used after an accident or misfortune to indicate a moral lesson.

It is also mentioned as

You live and learn (The Free Dictionary): something that you say when you have just discovered something that you did not know.

There's a sample sentence:

I had no idea they were related. Oh well, you live and learn.

P.S. In Russian, we have a saying "Live for a century and learn century through" (Век живи, век учись - Vek zhivi, vek uchis'). Or, "one lives through one's life and learns all through one's life", since the word век has an antique sense of 'human lifespan'. It is used to be said exactly in the manner of "live and learn", after one has discovered something previously unknown. Sometimes the contemplative ending ".. and still one dies a fool" is added.

  • 4
    Note that “live and learn” has a connotation of the lesson being somewhat (but not very) painful, i.e. it’s a statement that you have learned and won’t make the same mistake again. It doesn’t really apply when you weren’t wrong (you just learned a new thing), and it would be a bit trite to use in a serious situation (particularly if your mistake hurt others).
    – KRyan
    Feb 28, 2014 at 23:36
  • 1
    The saying in question has a similar connotation. Mar 1, 2014 at 8:28

There is a common expression in the US that goes

You learn something new every day.

The usage goes back to at least the mid 1800s and has risen in popularity since the later 20th century.

  • 1
    I also like "every day's a school day".
    – tobyink
    Mar 1, 2014 at 9:02
  • @tobyink As a senior member of my firm, I used to challenge the young staff working with me by posing questions about our rules or how to do something. My line was There's a test every day.
    – bib
    Mar 1, 2014 at 12:45

You're never too old to learn

Which also has a connotation that you're never too old to start something new.


Similar to @PeterBagnall's answer, a related expression in English is:

Even old dogs can learn new tricks.

Interestingly, there is a related, opposite expression in English:

You can't teach an old dog new tricks.

This negative expression apparently dates back to 1534 - and started as a literal rather than figurative assertion, also one that underscored difficulty rather than impossibility.

Both expressions have many modern variants, but all with which I am familiar include "old dog(s)" and "new trick(s)".

Using the positive or negative (variants of these) expression(s) reflects a speaker's general optimism or pessimism about learning as people (figuratively) or dogs (literally) age.

  • 2
    I like this with dogs. We say about horses: ‘You can’t teach an old horse to accept (learn) the collar’, having a similar connotation. Mar 1, 2014 at 8:19

An oft-heard sentiment at commencement ceremonies is:

Graduation is not an end, but a beginning.

Then there's:

The more I learn, the less I know.

That ageless paradox goes back a long time. I've found these quotes online, attibuted to Socrates:

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
“The more I learn, the more I learn how little I know.”

Einstein is said to have said:

“The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don't know.”

while the music group Kansas famously sang:

“And if I claim to be a wise man, it surely means that I don't know.”

My dad was fond of quoting this Dutch proverb:

We grow too soon old and too late smart.

These three are not necessarily well-known sayings, but they are related quotes worth mentioning:

“You'll never know everything about anything, especially something you love.” (Julia Child)

“I am learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.” (Eartha Kitt)

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” (Henry Ford)

  • Much obliged J.R.! Einstein’s quote is identical in our language. Personally, I like and follow Eartha Kitt’s words. Mar 2, 2014 at 8:07

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .