5

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Would you tell me whether I can replace "to fish" with "fishing"?

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man fishing, and you feed him for a lifetime.

3

"Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime" is a proverb. And a proverb is a kind of idiom. We usually don't change words in idioms because those are set expressions. In this particular proverb it may also be necessary to keep "fish" in the second part in order to contrast the first fish and the second - a fish vs. to fish. So, I think it's important to keep it as it is for a better effect, for emphasis, if you will.

In addition, we usually (but not always) say "to teach someone (how) to do something" (Macmillan dictionary):

My uncle is going to teach me to drive this summer.

(but "His mother had taught him some words in Spanish." (note that "words" is a noun, while "drive" is a verb in the sentence above)

All in all, I strongly recommend not to use "fishing" instead of "fish" in the proverb.

  • 2
    Yes, I agree with this explanation. I would just add that "Teach a man fishing..." is grammatically correct, and you would be understood by anyone who knew the idiomatic phrase. However, it would sound strange to change the words - it is sort of a "set phrase" as Enguroo stated, and you would not want to change it if you were using it in conversation. I just wanted to emphasize that the 2nd example is not wrong because it is ungrammatical, and in other contexts it's perfectly legitimate to replace "to fish" with "fishing" in this manner. – J. Taylor Mar 5 at 8:27
  • 1
    @J.Taylor absolutely. It's not that it's wrong to use gerunds after "teach." I didn't mean that in my answer. That's why I said that usually we say "teach to do something." I didn't go into detail on that because that was not the question. – Enguroo Mar 5 at 8:30
  • 1
    Yes, it was nothing you said wrong that made me bring it up. I just wanted to clarify for the OP that in other circumstances it would be ok. – J. Taylor Mar 5 at 8:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.