That is the translation (provided by Wikiquote) of the Dutch proverb "Vertrouwen komt te voet en vertrekt te paard." I don't like this translation very much for conversational use. It doesn't "feel" right. Neither does "Trust comes on foot, but leaves on horseback."

The actual, somewhat lengthy, meaning of the proverb is that a single stupidity can ruin trust or reputation that took years to build.

I tentatively prefer "Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose." However, I'm not native-English speaking.

What is the "best" way to succinctly express the idea behind the proverb in English?

  • 2
    There is no best way, only a way that you like. "Trust comes in like a chiton and goes out like cheetah" or "Trust sidles in like a two-toed sloth and vacates like a velocious Valkyrie". Make up your own & ask whether they work. – user21497 Apr 10 '13 at 11:57
  • Trust is hard to gain but easy to lose is what the old saw means, but it's not memorable language. More like last week's pitcher of beer. – user21497 Apr 10 '13 at 12:02
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    Trust arrives like a refrigerator and leaves like a symploce. – Robusto Apr 10 '13 at 12:21
  • The wording of a proverb is usually set by culture. Fashions change though. – Mitch Apr 10 '13 at 12:21
  • There's nothing wrong with simply using the translation you suggest (or Edwin's rewording). It is readily understood, and has a metaphorical flair to it. – Hot Licks Jul 28 '15 at 12:18

Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to fix.

I've never used this, and, if an appropriate situation arose, I'd probably use "Trust comes on foot, but leaves on horseback." Making Gugg famous.

  • "Trust takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to fix." Would that be perceived as corny by a native-English speaker? Is that why you'd prefer the other one? – We oath to creation Apr 10 '13 at 13:05
  • @Gugg: Not corny, but certainly not hip. I'd say over-formal in a conversation where someone was needing reassurance rather than instruction in English constructions. Fine as a comment by the author in a novel. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 10 '13 at 13:09

One related expression I have heard is:

"Trust is gained drop by drop, but lost by the bucketful".

It's a strangely asymmetric process, isn't it? Building trust is incremental, but losing it is binary.

  • One reason why might not have gained any ground in the English (idiomatic) language is that, although it has a nice ring to it in theory - or as an abstraction / generalization if you will - in practice, it really doesn't stand it's ground. Fact is, many people will allow betrayal simply due to the mechanisms of psychological coping (aka lying to yourself). It assumes everyone is equally 'awake' to the many forms betrayal can take place and, when it does, may simply ignore the fact as to not cause any cognitive dissonance (taken to extreme = bipolar) because people/emotions are not 1 and 0. – Rob Jens Jun 5 '17 at 10:19

protected by NVZ Dec 11 '16 at 12:13

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