What are English equivalents for following Russian idiom: "soldier sleeps - the service continues"? In Russian it means that "you have a rest, but your work is still being done".

UPD from comments:

  • For example, you have a rest on the sea, and you still come royalty for previously written a book.
  • you relax, and the money will still come to your account
  • Your text can be paraphrased - do / not do - you have the same result. That is, anything from you does not. That is correct. But I would say that you're doing something, and there comes a time when you have to depend on nothing.
  • Example: you are the boss and taught their employees to do their job without your help. Ride the sea. Relax. Now nothing to depend from you. But you know that your staff will do everything as it should.
  • For example, Joanne Rowling wrote "Harry Potter" books, and may the relax a long time - the money for the books will be coming for a long time, ie hard work you at first, and then you can use the result of a very long
  • For example, you have a rest on the sea, and you still come royalty for previously written a book. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 9:31
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    I'm sorry, but I don't quite understand what the idiom means, and I don't understand your comment at all. Could you please rephrase? Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:14
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    I think he is saying the phrase means that your service (Say, 5 years in the army) passes while you sleep just as quickly as if you were awake?
    – Nick
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:25
  • @Bradd Szonye: you relax, and the money will still come to your account Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 10:48
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    @user2217261, rather than making multiple, repeated comments with (very necessary) clarifications, please collect all these clarifications and add them to the original question. That way, anyone who wants to chime in with an answer can find all the relevant information in the right place, rather than having to look through comments. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 12:25

7 Answers 7


I was offered this: "While the fisher sleeps the net takes"

What do you think?

  • This appears (from a bit of Googling) to be a proverb from Ancient Greek. I’ve never heard it before, but the meaning is clearly quite close to what you describe for the Russian phrase. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 13:45
  • Yes, I like the meaning. Question: How would understand American? Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:02
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    I’d say an American would understand it all right—but it would be something he would have to think about for a moment before he understood it. It would not be instantaneous comprehension as with a familiar idiom. The phrasing is similar to “while the cat’s away, the mice will play”, which has a very different meaning, so a native English speaker might at first think that ‘taking’ is something the net is not supposed to do, but has to wait until the fisherman is asleep to do; and only on second thought would he realise that this makes no sense and then understand the correct meaning. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:11
  • then need a better example Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:17
  • It is quite possible that there is no better example, though—there may not be a corresponding idiom in English at all. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:22

would you consider the idiom fall into one's lap?

alternatively you could say, for instance, that J K Rowling struck gold.

In fact the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary gives exactly this example: strike gold - to find or do something that brings you a lot of success or money - He has struck gold with his latest novel.

Having made a killing J K Rowling might also be sitting pretty and enjoying life.

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    These are both quite different from the meaning of the Russian idiom. ‘Fall into one’s lap’ implies that something good happens to you without you making any real effort to obtain it; ‘striking gold’ implies that you just had great luck; and ‘sitting pretty’ doesn’t necessarily include any work done to get to the pretty sitting situation. Neither describes the particular situation of someone who has done a (good) piece of work, and can now lean back and watch the fruits of his labour roll in, even though the work itself has been finished and no longer requires active working on. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:06
  • I'm more of an example: apple trees grown - lying in a hammock and eat apples. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:09
  • Strike gold: does not necessarily imply great luck - it is also used when you win or you are successful (please see wiktionary for further details)
    – user49727
    Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:12
  • @Janus Bahs Jacquet: You understand me correctly Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:12
  • @user49727: The only example on Wiktionary for ‘striking gold’ that does not imply luck is the one where ‘gold’ refers specifically to a gold medal, which is a separate use of the phrase. In all the other cases, the meaning is that one puts in an effort, but just like when digging for gold, it is luck that makes you suddenly very successful in your endeavour: being in the right place, doing the right thing at the right time. The Russian proverb does not imply that one is hugely successful, as the apple tree scenario exemplifies. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 14:20

Then there's the saying, only a part of which is common in the U.S.:

"Cast your bread upon the waters . . .,"

which is from the Bible in the Old Testament book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 11, verse 1.

Taken by itself, it means your investment will bring you a return only if you release it and not keep it to yourself. In other words, throw your investment into the sea; in faith, release it.

The NET version of the Bible, however, translates the entire verse as follows:

"Send your grain overseas, for after many days you will get a return."

This complete saying makes more sense to me, in that it gives us a picture of the buyer of a large quantity of wheat (from which we make bread) who loads it on a ship and exports it overseas. There is risk in doing this, because the ship could be lost at sea, or the wheat could be ruined if the ship is flooded, or the ship's captain could abscond with the wheat, sell it, and keep the money himself.

However, if things go as planned, the risk is rewarded when the wheat is sold at a good price, and the proceeds come back to the shipper (a farmer, for example). Just as the soldier in your proverb sleeps and forgets about the work he accomplished, so too does the shipper of wheat have to relax and forget about the wheat for awhile. After a time, he will receive a return on his investment.

In Christian circles, Ecclesiastes 11:1 is often linked to the New Testament book of The Gospel of Luke, chapter 6, verse 38. In Jesus' words:

"'Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure--pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.'"

In other words, if you give generously of your hard-earned money to people in need, sooner or later you will be rewarded generously in various ways. Not only that, but your return will be heaped up, pressed down, shaken together, and running over!

Picture two different ways of measuring brown sugar. The first way is simply to put your measuring cup into the sack of sugar and pull it out. The second, and generous, way is to scoop up the sugar, pack it down, shake the container and add more sugar, and then heap even more sugar on top so that the loose sugar spills out of the cup.

A similar thing happens when you release the fruit of your labors (your money) generously. You may not get a return on your investment right away, but when you do, the return will be a generous one. Generous people attract generosity. In other words, you are better off being generous than being stingy and cheap!

  • Good example: Apple tree you planted earlier and you eat apples now. Investing is a good example, but it is better when the boss taught employees and went to rest, when it is not fear that they will not cope with the work.Investing is a good example, but it is better when the boss taught employees and went to rest, when it is not fear that they will not cope with the work. Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 15:23
  • investment = money :( work is good ;) Commented Aug 20, 2013 at 15:24

This is a unique phrase, which I interpret to mean "On duty, the soldier serves. Asleep, the soldier still serves. It is the same either way." It suggests a preference for the latter. Importantly the context is one in which the soldier is conscripted for a set duration primarily consisting of guaranteed boredom, hardship and possible outright misery.

If that is a correct interpretation, it suggests:

"don't stick your neck out"

meaning "don't make yourself a target" (through over-exertion) or

"doing time"

meaning "time matters, effort doesn't."


Living off the fat of the land

Definition: to live on stored-up resources or abundant resources

(He's living) on easy street (USA)

Definition: in a state of financial independence and comfort.

When I get this contract signed, I'll be on easy street.

Have it made; definition: to have succeeded; to be set for life.

He's really got it made since he won the lottery.


Do a search of "Make Money While You Sleep" and you will find that this idiom is quite popular. (I have not read nor do I endorse this book, but it's the first one that popped up on Amazon.)

This phrase would be understood by most Americans as a passive investment that may have taken some effort to get started but continues to pay out, even if one is asleep.


To more or less convey the idea of "hard work you at first, and then you can use the result of a very long":

All things come to him who waits.

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