The Lemon Proverb

Students of Connect 英会話 occasionally come into class with bad news, so I teach them one of my favorite proverbial phrases, “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”

What does it mean? Well… it’s quite simple. Not many people like the taste of the sour fruit on its own, but many do like the taste of lemonade. If you had a bag full of lemons, don’t be upset. Turn the situation around and make something nice from it. Maybe some nice, refreshing lemonade.

I always try to look at the positive points in life, no matter how bad the situation is. Not everything is perfect, so we should make the best of what we have. Can we try to look at some bad news in a more positive way? Let’s try!

A: I just got fired from my job. It was only my first week.

B: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. This is a chance for you to find other work or have some extra time to yourself. Enjoy it!


A: I didn’t do well on my job interview. They are not going to hire me.

B: When life gives you lemons… Maybe you wouldn’t have fit well in that company anyway. It’s good that you weren’t offered the job. You would have been unhappy there.

A: You’re right. I should be more positive about it.

The Lemon Slang

In old British slang, lemons would stand for someone being a loser or being incapable of doing anything.

This use of the word lemon made it’s way to America with a slightly different meaning. It has come to represent  machinery that was made faulty, especially a sold car where the seller secretly knew it wasn’t in good condition.

A: The computer I bought from the flea market has just broke.

B: Oh no… I can’t believe you bought a lemon.


A: I love all Nissan cars, but this one is a lemon. The engine keeps breaking down.

B: You should have had a mechanic look at it before you bought it.

As much as I love lemons, people don’t think they are good. Even when you play the slot machines in casinos, getting three “7”s gives you a jackpot, whereas getting 3 “lemons” is a loss.

Now it’s your turn to make lemonade from lemons. If you don’t have lemons, then make some sugar water. If you don’t have sugar, then have some water. If you don’t have any of these ingredients, then I don’t think I can help you…

But lucky you, we can help you with your English! Feel free to write your comments and questions in the section below or to Connect 英会話 and we’ll give you the best answer we can. See you next class!

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