what does "pave the path for sth/sb" actually means? and if possible, please provide some alternatives with the same meaning as well.


I'm not sure that pave the path is an idiom. I think that pave the way might be considered an idiom.

Pave the way for somebody/something means to make it possible or easier for someone or something to follow

Their governors and preceptors also should take care what sort of tales and stories it may be proper for them to hear; for all these ought to pave the way for their future instruction: for which reason the generality of their play should be imitations of what they are afterwards to do seriously. - Aristotle.

The figurative sense of to pave the way is attested from 1585.

One can easily imagine it is related to the path of least resistance in meaning. Alternatives are "make it easy", "clear the path", or "set the stage" for sth/sb.


The phrase is more commonly pave the way.

To pave is to cover something with material, such as stone, which makes it much easier to cover than muddy ground.

The idiom dates to at least 1585 and means that something has been introduced that allows something else to follow; to make it possible or easier for something else to happen.

For example, from a recent news headline:

Crucial vote could pave the way for Wrexham 'super-prison'

So if the vote is passed, the super-prison could follow.


As others have noticed, the idiom is "pave the way", though technically of course, both a path and a way can be paved.

Paving a path or road means you flatten it and put some kind of usually hard material on it, so that the path becomes easier to travel.

Figuratively speaking, when you pave the way for someone, you make it easier for them to do something.

Alternatives could be "help somebody to do something", "enable them to do something", "create the prerequisites for someone doing something".

An idiom in the same direction could be "show someone the way to do something", although this implies some teaching, whereas paving the path does not necessarily have that connotation.


While several answers point out the idiom pave the way suggests that a paved road is easier to walk. However, you really need to conjure images of tradesmen, armies, simple foot traffic slogging in mud in a rainy season to appreciate the importance of the Appian Way and how much advantage a paved path gave to Roman commerce and conquest. Many other cultures, before and after, similarly found paved roads to be their critical arteries.

An alternative idiom in the same vein is lay the groundwork.


As anongoodnurse's answer notes, the standard idiom is "pave the way." Here is the brief entry for that expression in Christine Ammer, The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, second edition (2013):

pave the way Make progress or development easier, as in Her findings paved the way for developing a new vaccine. This expression alludes to paving a road so it is easier to travel on. {Late 1500s}

A search of Early English Books Online turns up two instances of "pave the way" in figurative use from the late 1500s. From John Penry, An Exhortation vnto the Gouernours, and People of Hir Maiesties Countrie of Wales, to Labour Earnestly, to haue the Preaching of the Gospell Planted Among Them (1588):

Secondly to allow of the Popes superioritie, and to affirme that a minister may also be a king, are wicked and absurd assertions, directly against the word as we see. Therfore it is wicked in like manner, to make the Ecclesiasticall gouerment to be an humane constitution. And not vnlikly also by litle & litle, as experience in poperie techeth vs, to paue the way for the vndermining of the ciuill gouernment.

And from Thomas Sparke, The High Way to Heaven by the Cleare Light of the Gospell Cleansed of a Number of Most Dangerous Stumbling Stones Thereinto Throwen by Bellarmine and Others (1597):

For we may be sure, so that he [Satan] any way can get men to misse or to lease this waie whiles we are busying our owne heades and the peoples with other matters of farre lesse importance, though therein we shew neuer so much zeale and learning, he hath the verie thing he desireth. For that doubtlesse hath beene and is still a dangerous stratageme or pollicie of his, when he findeth he cannot as he would preuaile by keeping men in ignorance and carelesse security, then to doe what he can, that they may spend their learning and zeale about matters of the least moment; that in the meane time he may the more quietlie by their silence in matters of greatest weight, by the other contrary way, as it were paue the waie to Atheisme: yea I feare much (to speake plainely what I thinke) that lacke of due consideration hereof in time, in some hath not onelie beene one of the next causes of the phantasticall sectes of the Brownistes, and Familistes, but also of too shamefull encrease, in so great light of the Gospell, both of Papistes and Atheistes amongest vs.

An Ngram chart tracking the frequency of occurrence of "pave the path" (blue line) versus "pave the way" (red line) versus "pave the road" (green line) for the period 1700–2019 shows an overwhelming preference for "pave the way"—quite aside from the question of whether the expressions are being used in a literal sense or figuratively:

A spot check of the underlying Google Books matches indicates that the vast majority of instances of "pave the way" are figurative, whereas most instances of "pave the path" and "pave the road"—at least since the early 1800s—are literal.

With regard to alternative idiomatic expressions, Cambridge Dictionary of American Idioms (2003) offers "lay sb/sth open to (sth)." However, this option strikes me as being far less apt than anongoodnurse's suggestions of "clear the [or a] path" and "set the stage" or bib's suggestion of "lay the groundwork [or foundation]."


It means to 'make preparations for', with a more specific connotation of allowing things to be possible, e.g.

This new legislation paves the path for same-sex marriage

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