In Persian we have this proverb which translated literally becomes:

To stretch one's leg more than one's rug

which means that you go beyond the circle of your authorities, or the circle of your capabilities. It simply indicates that you have some limitations, thus don't go beyond them. Like when you don't have enough money, but you want to start an expensive, costly business.

Do we have something similar in English?

  • Could you find a better transltor? Isn't "Persian" normally named Farsi? How sure are you that "To stretch one's leg more than one's rug…" is a better translation than "… beyond one's rug"? Literally, that cannot mean beyond the circles of both "…authorities…" and "… capabilities…" Either, but never both. Either way, that "… you have some limitations thus don't go beyond them…" will never work in English. Since you brought up literal translations, can you see the difference between yours and "…you have limitations beyond which you should not go"? May 13 '20 at 19:39

Bite off more than one can chew

comes to mind

If you want to tell someone not to overreach, you can say

Don't bite off more than you can chew


Don't let your reach exceed your grasp.

  • 1
    I would say that is a quote rather than an idiom/proverb in daily use. But perhaps that is just me. The meaning is there.
    – mplungjan
    Aug 1 '13 at 14:07
  • I came here because I hear this in everyday use.
    – alx9r
    Feb 7 '15 at 14:52

Over-extending oneself happens when we go beyond our limitations.

Over-reaching is when you over-step your boundaries or "circle of authorities".

  • 1
    They are not proverbs or idioms, and there is no hyphen in overreach
    – mplungjan
    Aug 1 '13 at 8:15
  • No they are not. But they work.
    – moonstar
    Aug 1 '13 at 8:17
  • 1
    But not what was asked
    – mplungjan
    Aug 1 '13 at 8:17

For an idiom suggesting the same concept that's also related to legwork, there's also taking baby steps - that is, keep your legs on the rug!


Big for his britches. Eyes bigger than his stomach.

  • This answer does not appear to address the actual question. Certainly it gives no explanation as to why the author considers these terms appropriate - and IMHO they do not seem to be.
    – TrevorD
    Aug 2 '13 at 19:14
  • Well, “Eyes bigger than his stomach” is very closely related in meaning to the accepted answer of “Bite off more than one can chew.”
    – Scott
    Sep 7 '17 at 19:23

Cut your dress according to your cloth


A vaguely similar phrase (in the US, at least) is “Your freedom to swing your fist ends one inch from my nose.”  We use it to qualify the various so-called “freedoms” that we have — stating that one person’s rights extend only up to the point where they impinge on somebody else’s rights — but it clearly indicates that the person being addressed has limitations imposed on him, with the implication that crossing those boundaries will result in trouble.

  • Know your ability
  • Know your boundaries
  • Be realistic

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