Idioms Explained #1: ‘A Stitch in Time Saves Nine’

An idiom a day keeps your English okay! In this series we examine English idioms and teach you how to use them.

1. A Stitch in Time Saves Nine

First, let’s look at the vocabulary of the sentence.

When you sew clothes you stitch them.

a stitch in time saves nine explained

You can also use the word stitch about someone who had an accident and went to hospital.

I hit my head and needed 5 stitches!

Even for people who understand every word, this idiom is a strange one. But it’s quite simple when you know it.

Imagine a pair of trousers with a little hole in them. If you do nothing, the hole will get bigger. And bigger.

Now that you’ve waited, the hole is so big it would take NINE stitches to fix it.

If you fix the hole as soon as you notice it, you only need ONE stitch.

‘A stitch in time’ means – if you stitch the hole at the right time – and the right time is NOW

‘saves nine’ means – you won’t have to do nine stitches later on

This Idiom in Real Life


– This sink is leaking. There’s a bit of water coming out. Look.

– Oh, we should get a plumber.

– It’s too expensive. Just leave it.

– A stitch in time saves nine.

– You’re right. It will be cheaper to repair the leak now than wait for it to get bigger.

It seems expensive to call a plumber for a small job, but it’s cheaper than repairing a flooded bathroom!


– I had a big fight with Jack last night.

– Oh?

– Yeah we both said some bad things.

– You should call him now and talk about it. If you leave it too long the problem will get worse.

– You’re right. A stitch in time saves nine. I’ll call him now.

If she doesn’t call Jack, their conflict might get bigger and harder to fix later.