I am looking for expressions or idioms to describe a context where you advise someone not to do something (a favor, give help or advice, lend money, etc.) because by doing so he would probably risk getting involved in potential problems that he is not aware of.

Sort of Don't mix with that issue, or you may regret it.

Idiom - If you play with fire, you'll burn your fingers.

  • Don't mess with the yakuza.. perhaps?
    – Invoker
    May 14, 2014 at 13:36
  • Don't mess with .. is fine!!
    – user66974
    May 14, 2014 at 13:38
  • 1
    Stay clear of, or steer clear of :)
    – oerkelens
    May 14, 2014 at 13:48

13 Answers 13



  • Steer clear of X.
  • The risks outweigh the benefits.
  • Opening a Pandora's box
  • More than you can handle
  • That could backfire on you.
  • Might bite you in the butt
  • Be forewarned.
  • Caveat emptor.
  • The cure is worse than the disease.
  • Sounds good in theory
  • i don't think "The cure is worse than the disease." is right here May 14, 2014 at 19:13

Some idioms that may apply depending on context:

"Don't bite off more than you can chew" - by getting involved with whatever or whomever, you may get something more (work, trouble, entanglement) than you are willing to deal with.

"Avoid X like the plague!" - this is an extreme warning as is this...

"Don't touch X with a 10-foot pole!"

  • "Don't bite off more than you can chew" - Staying within your limits ; not crossing your limits ; knowing one's strengths and weaknesses. --- Isn't that a more fitting explanation to that expression? Although they are certainly close , in our native language , there is an idiom -- "Spread your legs according to the blanket" , same applies here.
    – Invoker
    May 14, 2014 at 14:25
  • @Invoker - yours is certainly another valid explanation for that idiom. I also see how it could be a warning to not get involved with X because you might wind up with more than you can handle. BTW - I like your blanket idiom! :-) May 14, 2014 at 14:31

One way of saying this is, "Don't associate yourself with X."


Maybe you find "stay away from somebody/something" useful as well.



Don't follow with your friends(with x).


Another possible phrase :

Stay out of harm's way.


Keep [X] at arm's length.

Meaning that you can still acknowledge a person but don't get involved with them in anything.


Possible phrases

1) Dont stick your nose in his business, you going to regret it

2) Dont be a busybody


Don't get tangled up in X's mess.


The great line from Big Levowsky:

Don't mess with 'the Jesus'.

  • That doesn't really have the same sense as "don't get involved with".
    – Hellion
    May 14, 2014 at 20:30

You have a choice or combination of three words:

  • indulge
  • pander
  • cater

Example usages:

  • Don't indulge him in his plans to start a restaurant. He has not the experience nor financial wherewithal.
  • Please don't indulge my dog with treats. You are spoiling him with stuffs I cannot afford.
  • My plan is to pander to the far right and the religious extremists to get voted in, in order to silently indulge myself with my true liberal agenda.
  • The IT dept says they don't cater to people who use iMacs, because they have decided to focus their support on Ubuntu.
  • My advice to you is - don't indulge in his already failing business, nor pander to his questionable methods of conducting business, nor cater to any of his whims and fancies by financing his nightmare of a business venture.

Dictionary references ...

in•dulge (ɪnˈdʌldʒ)
v. -dulged, -dulg•ing. v.t.

  1. to yield to or gratify (desires, feelings, etc.).
  2. to yield to the wishes or whims of; be lenient or permissive with.
  3. to allow to follow one's will or inclination: to indulge oneself in reckless spending. v.i.
  4. to yield to an inclination or desire; indulge oneself (often fol. by in): indulged in a bit of humor.

[1630–40; < Latin indulgēre to be lenient (toward), accede] in•dulg′er, n. in•dulg′ing•ly, adv. Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

pan•der (ˈpæn dər)
n. Also, pan′der•er.

  1. a person who furnishes clients for a prostitute or supplies persons for illicit sexual intercourse; procurer; pimp.
  2. a person who caters to or profits from the weaknesses or vices of others.
  3. a go-between in amorous intrigues. v.i.
  4. to act as a pander; cater basely: to pander to vulgar tastes. v.t.
  5. to act as a pander for.

[1520–30; Middle English Pandare Pandarus] Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

ca·ter (kā′tər)
v. ca·tered, ca·ter·ing, ca·ters

  1. To provide food or entertainment.
  2. To be particularly attentive or solicitous; minister: The nurses catered to my every need. The legislation catered to various special interest groups. v.tr.
  3. To provide food service for: a business that caters banquets and weddings.
  4. To attend to the wants or needs of.

*[From obsolete cater, a buyer of provisions, from Middle English catour, short for acatour, from Norman French, from acater, to buy, from Vulgar Latin accaptāre : Latin ad-, ad- + Latin captāre, to chase; see catch.] ca′ter·er n.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.


"Give that the Heisman" (based on the position of the model on the Heisman trophy) is a slangy way to convey that you should enforce some distance between you and something else:

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In common use, this term seems to more frequently be used when one is speaking of the stiff-armee, "You got the Heisman, huh?" rather than the stiff-armer, as in your example, but in theory, it's interchangeable.


You'd be well advised to keep your ass (or butt) miles away from that issue, as you have absolutely no idea the can of worms you'd open up/the kind of trouble you'd stick it into.


If you want to keep your ass (or butt) alive and well/kicking, do not poke it into that issue. It's a whole can of worms.

  • Are these expressions taken from dictionaries, or just slang?
    – user66974
    May 14, 2014 at 20:28