We all believe that telling the truth is fine. But sometimes there are some occasions in which you'de better keep someone in the dark about something (possibly on their own or someone else's favor) or at least do not reveal the entire matter to them!

For instance, please imagine a naive person who discloses whatever they hear or know about a specific case (with a completely good intent), ignoring the fact that revealing the whole story to that particular person they are talking to and on that special time frame is not at all logical neither for him nor for the hearer!

How an English native speaker would allude to this reality and what proverb/expression they probabely would use to convey this message to such a person:

You shouldn't always tell the truth, irrespective of the fact that telling the truth is an admirable deed.

The only sentence that comes to mind is:

All truth will not bear telling. (Perhaps a Hungarian proverb!)

  • [correction: How would a native English speaker allude to [etc]. You need to invert the verb for questions. Also, I suggest regardless instead of irrespective].
    – Lambie
    May 29, 2019 at 14:57
  • Thank you @Lambie but please tell me more; why "regardless" is a better choice here?
    – A-friend
    May 29, 2019 at 15:14
  • 1
    Some things are better / best left unsaid is the nearest one IMO Some truths don't bear telling would also work. It's not an English proverb, but it sounds as though it could be. The meaning is a little ambiguous though - when we say it doesn't bear thinking about about something, we mean that makes us very uncomfortable to think about that thing, so some truths don't bear telling might be taken to mean that it would make us very uncomfortable to speak those truths.
    – user96060
    May 30, 2019 at 1:11

2 Answers 2


Cynical sentiments don't usually lend themselves to proverbs, since most preach virtue over restraint. For example:

Tell the truth, or someone will tell it for you.

warns someone against telling lies, suggesting the truth will come out eventually.

Of course, most proverbs exist in an ideal world where negative acts always have negative consequences. In the real world people lie and get away with it all the time, even when others know (and can prove) they are lying. Cynicism seems a more realistic philosophy.

But I digress. The point is that there is no simple aphorism to suggest that it's best not to tell everything you know to be true. So make one up:

Tell the truth -- but don't tell the whole truth.


Certainly you should tell the truth -- but not all the time.

  • Thank you @Andrew, but what about the more important pert? I need to imply you shouldn't "always" tell the truth!
    – A-friend
    May 29, 2019 at 16:03
  • @A-friend Edited my answer. There are many ways to say this, though.
    – Andrew
    May 29, 2019 at 17:22

I can't think of any proverbs that say it's better to lie (usually these are the other way around - "better a terrible truth than a kind lie"), though we do have ones alluding to keeping people in the dark.

Let sleeping dogs lie.

Leave a situation alone so as not to make it any worse.

Least said is soonest mended.

The less you say about a situation, the easier it will be to recover from it.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, and discerning if they hold their tongues.

Proverbs 17:28.

What he doesn't know won't hurt him.

It's better not to tell someone a hurtful truth.

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