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In my mother tongue (Gujarati) there are two phrases describing the adverse effects of doing a favor. What are their English equivalents, if any?

The phrases are:

  • આંગળી આપેને પ્હોંચો પકડે (someone) is offered a finger and (they) grab the hand

  • ધરમ કરતા ધાડ પડી Making a donation and getting robbed. ધરમ કરતા more often means performing religious ceremony, so another interpretation could be to get robbed while doing pooja.

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Could you list the phrases in your language? That would be interesting. – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 17:18
@BobbiBennett I listed them in Gujarati but I don't know how it can be interesting for someone who does not read the script :) – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:40
In Hungarian, the phrase "I offer my little finger and he wants my whole hand" is used exactly in this form. I doubt the two languages are that closely related. – vsz May 16 '12 at 19:16
If someone were to offer me the finger, I would take it as a rude gesture. If someone were to suggest I pull their finger, I would expect a rude, flatulent, response (a fart). – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 19:28
In Italian, the phrase reads as "If you give him a hand, he'll take the arm". In same language, "Giving <someone> a hand" is the equivalent of "helping <someone>". – Erik Burigo May 17 '12 at 11:58
up vote 26 down vote accepted

Your first example has a direct equivalent:

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

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I wouldn't call that a direct equivalent (although it was the first thing I thought of too). IME, it is used in more of an "allowing something" than in a doing a favor context. – Kevin May 16 '12 at 18:05
I think the OP (Miserable Variable) has asked two questions. I also think this is the best answer for the first phrase. – Bobbi Bennett May 16 '12 at 18:13

No good deed goes unpunished.

(A phrase I really dislike)

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Indeed it is dislikeable, probably because it is absolute. But when used in a sentence -- "I don't want you to feel you are being punished for doing a good deed" -- it seems ok. Thanks. – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 17:15
dislike is not a compound that requires a hyphen. – Kaz May 16 '12 at 19:43
No good answer shall go unupvoted +1. – Kris May 17 '12 at 8:25
@Kaz, thanks for pointing that out. I had wanted to write a -lot- about how I dislike that phrase, and got distracted. – Bobbi Bennett May 17 '12 at 14:27

Another phrase (in addition to those mentioned) could be "biting the hand that feeds".

Here is a literal observation of this phenomenon: my girlfriend was trying to feed a neighbourhood stray cat, and the cat (being rather mean and nasty) scratched and tried to bite my girlfriend's hand.

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Needs rephrasing -- the 'phenomenon' is not your gf but the cat. Change the word order without changing the meaning. – Kris May 16 '12 at 18:09
I read everything after "phenomenon is" as being the phenomenon and it sounded ok. – Miserable Variable May 16 '12 at 18:11

Camel's nose is a phrase to describe the ill-effect that could result when doing a favour.

It is a reference to the famous Arab fable where an Arab offered a camel's head a place in the tent, but the camel slowly entered completely, thereby pushing the Arab himself out.

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I don't think this phrase is common enough that it can be used without explanatory text. – smackfu May 16 '12 at 20:21

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