Imagine a mother is waiting for his son's arrival at 1 am and her young son has not returned home yet. The family daughter says: let's call police or emergency center; maybe he has had a car accident! Mother gets angry with her daughter and wants to say; "stop talking / thinking about bad things / events etc." Does the sentence bellow work in this sense and does it sound natural and idiomatic? Is it in common use in the US?

  • Don’t foretell dire things.
  • 1
    Foretelling suggest that it should happen.
    – MorganFR
    Aug 2 '16 at 11:23
  • So in my language we do not use verbs like "predict", "forecast", "foresee" or "foretell" in this sense; we just say: "Don't (say / talk about) dire things. What do you have instead in AE?
    – A-friend
    Aug 2 '16 at 11:32
  • 2
    In that particular context, I would just say "don't say (bad) things like that/such (bad) things."
    – MorganFR
    Aug 2 '16 at 11:37
  • "Foretell" a very formal, high-flown kind of word, probably not something that would be used in this context. MorganFR's comment sounds natural to me too.
    – stangdon
    Aug 2 '16 at 12:08

I think that you are having trouble with cultural differences here.

Some people are superstitious about saying bad things in case it happens: I don't know any British people who think like that, so I don't know what such people say.

Most British people don't share this superstitious outlook, but they think it's a waste of effort to worry about bad things before they happen. They wouldn't get angry at all if somebody started getting stressed - they would just say

Don't meet trouble half way

or one of these:

Don't cross the bridge till you come to it
Don't cry before you are hurt
Never trouble trouble till trouble troubles you
Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

and if all else fails, there is

Keep calm and make a nice pot of tea

  • In the same direction, you also have: "don't count your chickens before they have hatched." But all of these relate to saying that it is unlikely to happen, rather than telling someone not to talk about those because they might be superstitious.
    – MorganFR
    Aug 2 '16 at 14:49
  • @MorganFR, Exactly. I am talking about people who are not superstitious. And I left out "don't count your chickens" because IMHO you only use that about positive things.
    – JavaLatte
    Aug 2 '16 at 16:46
  • No, you use it for something negative, it just means "don't talk to soon". It is the equivalent of the french idiom "ne pas vendre la peau de l'ours avant de l'avoir tué", which translates to "do not sell the bear's hide before you killed it". IMO it the French one is easier to understand, and it is certainly negative.
    – MorganFR
    Aug 2 '16 at 23:17
  • @JavaLatte actually what I said has nothing to do with superstition, or at least not always has a connotation of being superstitious. What I am looking for is a sentence in AE which is used when you don't want to hear such bad things about someone / something, because when you imagine such that happening it would bother / disturb you. You just wanna say: "Talk about positive things and don't let negative imaginations come to your mind".
    – A-friend
    Aug 3 '16 at 10:34

Neither foretell nor dire is a word commonly used in general conversational American English, much less in a family conversation. The sentence "Don’t foretell dire things" is not one a native English speaker would use in the situation you describe--or at any other time. It is formal and impersonal in tone, and it sounds like a quotation from a century ago.

An overly worried American mother addressing her daughter in the situation you describe would most likely express her anxiety by saying something such as "Don't talk like that!" or, "Hillary, no!"


A very common idiom used in British English is simply Don't Panic.

You are suggesting that it is a waste of time to worry about nothing.

This is so common as to have become a catchphrase in both Dad's Army and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. That in turn has reinforced its use in common speech.

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