An easy to follow English lesson about an idiom used when you invest a little of your time, to you save far more. Time is a precious commodity. It’s the one thing we can’t get more of, unless you live in a sci-fi movie. We’re all busy. We all want to save time. And that’s what this idiom is about saving time by spending it wisely. I explain it all with the help of an interesting cautionary tale.
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Today’s idiom is one I used after a minor disaster in my garden. In this lesson we talk about English idioms, how native English speakers would use these idioms in everyday English. As always, there are lots of examples and an interesting story to help you remember the idiom and any unusual vocabulary.
The English language has lots of idioms that offer wisdom on how you invest your time or money. For example, “penny wise and pound foolish,” which means that you’re being cheap when it comes to saving money, but that’s costing you more in the long run. If you spend a little time now to save lots later, then that’s not being penny wise and pound foolish.
Cautionary Tale Foolish Disaster Stitch Instance Homegrown Stake Flop
|A Stitch - (9)|
|You Might - (4)|
|Will Be - (4)|
|Can Be - (3)|
|Look At - (3)|
|Might Be - (3)|
|The Problem - (3)|
|Stitches In - (2)|
|To Solve - (2)|
|English Idiom - (2)|
|Listening To - (2)|
|It Means - (2)|
Hi there. In today's podcast, I'm going to tell you a little story about me gardening, and I'm gonna talk about an English idiom and I'll link the two. So hopefully my little story about gardening will help you remember the meaning of this English idiom. And all the time, all the while, your brain will be listening and learning as you listen to our podcast. Your English will be improving.
Hello, I’m Hilary, and you’re listening to Adept English. We will help you to speak English fluently. All you have to do is listen. So start listening now and find out how it works.
There is a saying in English, 'a stitch in time saves nine'. Let's unpack that, first of all. A 'stitch' S T I T C H. A 'stitch' is something that you would associate with sewing. 'Sewing', S E W I N G. If you 'sew', so 'to sew' is a verb. And if you sew, S E W, you might be repairing clothes or you might be making clothes. You might sew curtains or cushion covers.
And a 'stitch'? A 'stitch' is a single instance of a piece of sewing. So where thread is pulled through fabric, it makes a stitch, it fastens two pieces of fabric or material together. If you look at the clothes that you're wearing right now, they'll have stitches in them. There might be stitches on your shoes, so leather can be stitched too. And you'll find stitches in your dress or on your jeans. Often in jeans, the stitching is a different colour, so that it's a feature. Sewing can be done by machine, or it can be done by hand. Stitches, hold things together. So if you cut your face and you went to A & E or the Emergency Room for treatment, you might get stitches to hold together the wound until it healed.
So 'A stitch in time saves nine'. What does this mean? It means that if you make a stitch in time, so if you address a problem earlier on, sooner rather than later, then you may be able to solve that problem 'with a single stitch' or fairly easily, without much effort. But if you leave the problem and you don't sort it out, then you end up having to work much harder to solve the problem.
So ' A stitch in time saves nine' - it means it saves nine stitches to make it right. So the damage will be greater and solving the problem will be more effort, if you leave something. So deal with problems when you notice them. Don't leave them.
An example of this, that happened to me last week?
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Back to our topic. If you've listened to the Adept English podcast for a while, you'll know that I'm interested in gardening. I grow flowers and I like having a garden because it gives me something nice to look at.
I also think that perhaps more of us ought to be growing our own food, or at least learning how to do that, in case we need to do that in the future. I don't have enough space or the right conditions in my garden to grow lots of vegetables. But one thing I do grow every year is tomatoes.
That's T O M A T O E S. Tomato, just with an O on the end, as a singular.
Digital art showing classical English countryside with surreal tomatoes. An English idiom used when you invest a little of your time, to you save far more.
I grow tomatoes for a number of reasons. First of all, I like the taste. Homegrown tomatoes are about 10 times better than supermarket tomatoes, when it comes to their taste. They're just delicious. But another reason I grow tomatoes, I want to learn how to do it and learning how to grow things - the best way is to keep growing the same thing for a number of years, so that you know, all the things that can go wrong with tomatoes. You learn from your mistakes and you try different things and you get better at growing them. It's this consistency that helps you learn how to grow something like tomatoes.
So this year I've been tending to my tomato plants, six of them, as usual. And 2022 isn't a bad year for tomatoes. They were slow to start, but there are plenty of tomatoes there now. Some years are better than others. 2021 was dismal for tomatoes, really bad. But 2020 was a bumper crop. That means there were many, many tomatoes in 2020.
So it varies year on year. If you've grown tomato plants, you'll also know that they grow very fast. In a single season, they've got to get from being a tiny little seed to being quite sizeable plants with lots of fruit on them, lots of tomatoes on them. Because they grow fast, you need to stake them. The verb 'to stake' - that's S T A K E. It means here to put an upright in the ground. And that gives something for your tomatoes to be supported by. 'Stakes' support your tomatoes. You have to tie them to the 'stake' so that they stand upright.
If you don't stake your tomato plants, you'll have a real mess. They will flop everywhere. And 'to flop' means to go 'Booh', like that! That is 'to flop', F L O P. So you need to stake your tomato plants properly. They become unruly, messy, difficult to manage, if you don't stay on top of staking and tying in the new shoots.
Now as many of, you know, I am a very busy person. I have lots to do. And one of the ways that I notice myself managing this is that I sometimes ignore things that I know need to be done. There is only so much capacity in a day. So noticing something needs doing and actually getting around to doing it are not the same thing, not for me!
Rather than keeping on top of staking, my tomato plants, we had actually tied them to the back of the house. They were tied to the building by a very long piece of string. And I had noticed, "Ooh, those tomato plants are all leaning very heavily on that string......if that string was to break, whoops, there'd be a big disaster in tomato plant land".
So addressing the problem at that moment would be 'the stitch in time that saved nine'. But of course that's not what I did. Today the whole string broke and all six tomato plants fell over onto the floor, onto the lawn. A small gardening disaster! It then took me an hour and a half to stand them all back up, to stand them in such a way they wouldn't fall over again and to tie them in and to stake them properly. An hour and a half!
Hmm. An hour and a half. I couldn't really afford. But anyway, there we are. Lots and lots of tomatoes were squished. Lots of green ones fell off that we then couldn't use. And it was a bit of a shame. However, they're all back, upright and growing again, and much better staked than they were before. So hopefully my much loved tomato plants will make a comeback.
So what's to be learned from this little story of my gardening?' 'A stitch in time saves nine'. I hope that my story will help you remember the meaning of this phrase, first of all. And as far as gardening is concerned, 'a stitch in time saves nine' is a very apt phrase. Lots of skill in growing things comes down to your consistency, your regular looking and noticing what's happening with your plants. So keeping an eye on things, as we say in English. Noticing when things need watering, otherwise you might lose the plant. So all that love and care and attention that you've put in previously doesn't count. So picking the ripe tomatoes before they split, tying in the new shoots, watering the tomato plants, feeding them. You have to be consistent. 'A stitch in time saves nine'.
But this story acts as a reminder to me, generally. As I said, I'm very busy. I have a family, a therapy practice, Adept English, and another business that I have to keep on top of. So I don't have a lot of time and I do run on a, 'just in time' basis. Things get done as they need to be done and not before or not usually. So my "dipped headlights approach"! But perhaps I need to change the amount of 'ignoring things that need to be done' that I do.
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It was just a thought, "Hmm the string, which is holding my tomato plants up. It would be a real mess if it broke, wouldn't it?" But I didn't do anything. Perhaps the moral of the story for me is that I need to pay a bit more attention to those thoughts in future!
There you have it - 'A stitch in time saves nine' and a story to help you remember that phrase.
As normal, listen to this podcast a number of times until you understand all the words. And think about how on each listen, you are moving closer to fluency in English. What a good thought!
Enough for now, have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
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