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Last updated at 16:57 BST, Monday, 24 September 2012

You can lead a horse to water...

Susan Gell exercises her horse in Loch Lomand, Scotland

Susan Gell exercises her horse in Loch Lomand, Scotland. She regularly lets her horse swim to the mainland from the island she lives on. Photo: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Today's Phrase

'You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink' is a proverb which means that you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it.

For example:

I gave him the email address of the person in charge of recruitment but he still didn’t contact him about the job. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.


We arranged everything for Kate: we paid for the train ticket, ordered a taxi from the station and even made a hotel booking but she still didn’t turn up to the wedding. You know what they say: you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink.

Don't confuse it with

'Horseplay' is rough or boisterous play. For example:

My nephews are always fighting and getting up to all kinds of horseplay.

Interesting fact

Scotland has almost 800 offshore islands which are divided into four main groups: Shetland, Orkney and the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Almost 100 of the islands have people living on them. The largest island is Lewis and Harris, which is over 2000 square kilometres.

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