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Trees in English Expressions and Sayings

Updated on January 28, 2019
Gloriousconfusion profile image

I love the English language, it's so expressive and colourful, with its nuances of meaning, metaphors, puns, proverbs, and regional slang

Autumn Trees


Enjoy The Ride

Enjoy the ride means in effect just relax and enjoy what is going on, even if it doesn't have a particular purpose - simply go with what's happening. It may not last forever, so enjoy it whilst you have the opportunity.

When You Start To Learn A Language Like English, It’s A Bit Like Baby Talk – The Basics Are There, But The Richness And Colour Are Lacking

Ask any English speaker who loves their language, and they’ll admit that learning English is an ongoing process which lasts a lifetime. I am well over 70, and still finding new phrases and sayings which fill me with wonder and pleasure, and being reminded of old ones which define situations so well.

So who is this page for?It’s for everyone who wants to be reminded of English expressions and proverbs, be they native English speakers or those learning English as a second language ( ESL or ESOL , TESOL or even TSL ). You may or may not learn something new but I’m sure you’ll enjoy the ride.

The photographs might help you to remember the phrases, by acting as a sort of cue. If it seems like hard work learning lists of English sayings, I hope that my series of articles on this subject will make the job a little pleasanter. All English speakers use an enormous number of metaphors without really thinking about it, because it's so ingrained into their psyche from an early age.

1. The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree means that children and family members turn out to be like their parents and close family.

E.g. "Jack's father has a mean streak - that's not surprising, because Jack is a bit mean too - the apple doesn't fall far from the tree".

Autumn Apples

Newly fallen apples on the ground
Newly fallen apples on the ground | Source

2. Sometimes People Say "The Acorn Doesn't Fall Far From The Tree"

This has precisely the same meaning as the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

And leading on from this, there is another expression about acorns, which is not surprising, really, as the mighty oak tree is almost symbolic of the English countryside:

An English Oak Tree

A semi-mature oak tree in Autumn
A semi-mature oak tree in Autumn | Source

3. Great Oaks From Little Acorns Grow

Great oaks from little acorns grow means that even the most complex or important things start from modest beginnings.

e.g. "Microsoft started as a small 2-man organization, but look at it now - great oaks from little acorns grow."

Sometimes people use the expression Mighty oaks from little acorns grow instead of Great oaks

But the meaning is the same and the expressions are entirely interchangeable.

4. Root And Branch

Root and Branch means very thoroughly.

e.g. "The failings of the police investigation must be looked into, and the officers responsible should be weeded out, root and branch."

A Dead Tree

Dead tree showing branches
Dead tree showing branches | Source

If You Love The Finer Points Of The English Language, You'll Love This Book:

Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation
I really enjoyed this book - it has humour and intelligence combined, and is a brilliant example of how nuances of English meanings can be changed just by the use of punctuation. Is it "Eats Shoots and Leaves", as all pandas do, or is it "Eats, Shoots and Leaves", which indicates a somewhat more violent panda?

5. Barking Up The Wrong Tree

Barking up the wrong tree means having a mistaken belief about something.

e.g. "If you think I'm going to run around cleaning up after you and your friends, you're barking up the wrong tree, because I'm not."

A Pedigree Schnauzer

This little dog would bark up any tree
This little dog would bark up any tree | Source

6. Can't See The Wood forThe Trees

Can't see the wood for the trees means concentrating on the particulars and small details rather than seeing the whole picture.

e.g. "All this management-speak and ticking boxes is actually holding up teachers and stopping them from doing their job teaching - sometimes management can't see the wood for the trees."

A Row Of Trees Just Before Dusk

Late afternoon sun and a stormy sky
Late afternoon sun and a stormy sky | Source

7. An Old Chestnut

An old chestnut means a story or joke which has become stale because it has been repeated too often.

e.g.Comedian: "Why did the lobster blush?

Because it saw the salad dressing"

Member of Audience: "Oh, not that joke again - it's such an old chestnut!"

Chestnut Tree

An immature chestnut tree flowering in Spring
An immature chestnut tree flowering in Spring | Source

8. To Beat About The Bush

To beat about the bush means to avoid saying something in a straightforward way, for fear it might cause offence.

e.g. "I'm not going to beat about the bush - quite frankly I hate this job, and I'm leaving at the end of the month"

A Yellow Broom Bush Blooming In Spring

A sweet-scented broom bush flowering in Spring
A sweet-scented broom bush flowering in Spring | Source

9. To Nip It In The Bud

To nip something in the bud means to stop something before it grows too big or out of control.

e.g. "If those stories about Fred get out, he'll be ruined, so let's nip them in the bud."


"If your dog shows aggressive behaviour, you must nip it in the bud or it might bite someone."


Tiny Grapes on a vine in an English September - it's too late for them to ripen and develop into decent-sized grapes - Some of them should have been nipped in the bud, to allow the rest of them to grow stronger
Tiny Grapes on a vine in an English September - it's too late for them to ripen and develop into decent-sized grapes - Some of them should have been nipped in the bud, to allow the rest of them to grow stronger | Source

10. To Hear It On The Grapevine

To hear something on the grapevine means to hear something which someone else has told you, having themselves heard it informally from a third party. So it could be a rumour, or information passed along down a line from other people.

e.g. "I heard it on the grapevine that the price of petrol is going to increase astronomically."

Let's See The Proportion Of Readers Who Are English Speakers To English Language Students:

Is English your home language?

See results

The Sightless - An Eerie Story Based On A Play By Maeterlinck About Sightless People Abandoned In A Wood. A Short Film Made By Film Students At University

© 2014 Diana Grant

Did You Learn Anything New, Or Remember Any Sayings You'd Forgotten? Can You Think Of Any More I Can Add? Do Leave A Comment

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    • annart profile image

      Ann Carr 

      2 years ago from SW England

      I love my language too and often explore idioms and the use of particular words, including for some of my hubs. We have such a rich vocabulary from so many sources, it's endless!

      Thanks for the reminders of these tree-based phrases.


    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      3 years ago from United Kingdom

      I didn't know that - but I certainly know that roses must be grafted if they are to be like their parent rose

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      The irony about that apple-not-falling-far-from-the-tree metaphor is that the apple tree that sprouts from seed will almost certainly not be like its parent. I can't remember the explanation well enough to recreate it, but I do know that the way to get an apple tree that's like its parent tree is to graft it.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yes, take your time.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      That's sweet!

    • profile image

      Karen B 

      4 years ago

      Enjoyed the images to go along with the text! Nice way to start my morning.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      I'm interested in your all posts! They are so nice! I'd like to read your post at leisure.

    • Gloriousconfusion profile imageAUTHOR

      Diana Grant 

      4 years ago from United Kingdom

      Yes, root and branch is a very good metaphorical expression.

    • chef-de-jour profile image

      Andrew Spacey 

      4 years ago from Near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire,UK

      Enjoyed this informative hub, thank you. I love the way natural things have been/are being incorporated into the English language. If I could pick a favourite it would be root and branch.

    • mrmanners profile image


      5 years ago

      Thank you for the page, and I was hoping for more questions at the end- just great how you manage your green thumb on this hub though!

    • ocfireflies profile image


      5 years ago from North Carolina

      fun hub and love your personal examples



    • tobusiness profile image

      Jo Alexis-Hagues 

      5 years ago from Lincolnshire, U.K

      I love how you used the images to reinforce the message. An interesting and useful article.

    • kerbev profile image

      Kerri Bee 

      6 years ago from Upstate, NY

      Seems like I'm always beating around the bush and barking up the wrong tree.

    • Mel Carriere profile image

      Mel Carriere 

      6 years ago from San Diego California

      Here on this side of the pond we mostly say "Can't see the forest for the trees," but it means basically the same thing. I too am fond of these sayings and it is interesting to see the slight variations that exist in them among different English speaking countries. Great hub!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      You got me this time. I knew most of them, but "an old chestnut" is a new one for me. I'll have to remember it and try it out on my friends. Also, "root and branch" is one I haven't heard in years, but I really like it. I look forward to your next article English expressions.

    • DrBillSmithWriter profile image

      William Leverne Smith 

      6 years ago from Hollister, MO

      Fun and Interesting Food for Thought! Thanks for sharing! ;-)

    • pkmcruk profile image


      6 years ago from Cheshire UK

      English is the richest of languages and something that we have given as a great gift to the World. It's a language that enables us to express ourselves so wonderfully. Thanks fo this wonderful Hub and for exploring the woods that make up so many of our phrases!


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