In my language, when there is a capable or malicious or any other person who is potentialy able to do something ("usually" a negative act), but they just don't have the needed requirements to do what they want, or the situation is not so good that it should be to make them able to perform their desired act, we say metaphorically:

  • He's a good swimmer, just lacks a swimming pool (water) [which I think literally it's quite clear in meaning]

The only close concept I found in a translation web page was:

  • He / she just lacks sunshine to make the hay!
    Or just,
    • He / she just lacks a hay!

How would you normally describe such a person/situiation in English using an expression/saying?

  • 1
    Spelling "Hay" if you mean the dried grass, or "Hey" if you mean "Hello"
    – James K
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 9:40
  • Many thanks @James K for pointing that out. Sorry for the typo.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 15:37

1 Answer 1


Proverbs don't tend to be a common part of natural speech.

A criminal is said to need "motive, means and opportunity". So you could say "He has the means, but lacks an opportunity".

I've never heard the "hay" example (there is a saying "make hay while the sun shines", but that is unrelated). I like would understand the swimming pool metaphor. It isn't a proverb in English, but its meaning is clear.

  • Many thanks JK; I know the sunshine saying well! :) I really like your suggested sentence.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 15:40

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