An idiom a day keeps your English okay! In this series we examine English idioms and teach you how to use them.
Don’t Count Your Chickens Until They’re Hatched
What It Means
You are a farmer. You have some chickens. They lay some eggs. You think ‘Hmm… I have 20 chickens and 20 eggs… so now I have 40 chickens.’ You decide to sell 30 chickens to a friend.
Then it’s the day when the chickens should hatch (= come out of their shell). Only 5 of the 20 chickens hatch!
So now you have 20 chickens and 5 chicks (= baby chickens). But you sold 30 to your friend! You have minus 5 chickens! You idiot!
How to Use It
If you’re in a situation where you expect something in the future, but it’s not certain. You might work at a bank and think you should get a bonus. Or you might support a football team who are winning the league by 5 points with 3 games left. (Liverpool fans, my condolences. Not really, lol.) Or you might build a helpful website that explains English to people and think you will get a million visitors a day.
But of course, you might not get that bonus, your team might slip up (lol), or your website might be a total disaster.
Real Life Examples
– When we move to our new flat, what are we going to do with the deposit?
– You mean the money we paid to move into this flat?
– I hadn’t thought about it.
– We should book a holiday to somewhere sexy and exotic. How about Liverpool?
– Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched. We might not get the deposit back.
– Why not?
– Because you broke the bathroom sink, the floors are covered in scratches from where you practiced walking in high heels, and all the doors are off the hinges because you slam them all the time.
– When Liverpool win the league this year Suarez will want to stay, we’ll get more star players from across the world, and we’ll probably win the Champions League next year. It’ll be a new era of dominance, just like the good old days.
– Don’t count your chickens.
– You have to beat Crystal Palace first, before you start planning world domination.
– Ptsch! Crystal Palace? Easy! Anyway, we are winning 3-0. What could go wrong?
– I hear you had a baby. Congratulations!
– Have you chosen a name?
– We’re calling him President.
– He’s so talented already. We’re sure he’ll be president one day.
– So then people will call him President President?
– That’s right! And having the name President will help him to become President. People are more likely to vote for someone called President. Not that he needs any help! He’s so so talented.
– Maybe you shouldn’t count chickens before they’re hatched.
– Why do you say that?
– He looks more like a future Sumo wrestler to me.
– Get out before I call the Secret Service.