I doubt whether my question is worth asking or being answered every time I’m posting a question, and ask myself, “Doesn’t it look too naive or primitive a question?”
However, I keep posting questions anyway, encouraged by the old Japanese saying, “Kikuwa ittoki-no haji, Kikanuwa matudai-no haji” meaning, “To ask a question is a shame of a moment. Not to ask the question is a shame (regret) that lasts for your whole (eternal) life.”

Confucius said, "It's not a problem that you don't know. It's the problem that you don't know what you don't know."

By following this maxim, I think I’m able to build knowledge of English expressions. I’m curious to know whether you have an English counterpart to “To ask a question is a shame of a moment. Not to ask the question is a shame for whole your life”, or any proverb encouraging questions.

  • Here's some quotations on questions: creatingminds.org/quotes/questions.htm Commented Mar 31, 2011 at 4:52
  • Many times in my professional life, I have been the only one in a crowd to ask a question. By the posture and attention of others, it was a question they had but did not ask. Bravo for your tenacious curiosity.
    – Theresa
    Commented Sep 3, 2018 at 0:11

6 Answers 6


I usually hear (and say):

The only stupid question is one not asked.

  • 1
    Well, but this implies that all questions should be asked.
    – Robusto
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 15:21
  • 4
    @Robusto初夢: As does the proverb in the question.
    – Marcin
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 21:39

I can't remember where I heard/read this, but here goes:

Better to ask a question and appear stupid now, than not ask a question and remain stupid forever.

  • However, I have also heard a similar proverb with the opposite meaning: It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt. It seems to be variously attributed. Proverbs 17:28 is similar: Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding. Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 22:05
  • 2
    @Nate: Si tacuisse, philosophus mansisse. If he had kept silent, he would have remained a philosopher. Every proverb has an equally clever and opposite one.
    – Mitch
    Commented Dec 21, 2011 at 22:28
  • @mitch: that would be tacuisseT and mansisseT. But I heard it as tacuisseS, meaning 'if you had kept silent...'; rather more pointed. Commented Oct 3, 2012 at 13:15

I think the closest equivalent in meaning would be:

There are no dumb questions.


There is no such thing as a dumb question.

And I think it's meaning you're after here, not rhetorical structure, correct? (The structure of your example, by the way, is called isocolon.)

  • 1
    The only dumb question is "Will this be on the test?".
    – Mitch
    Commented Mar 28, 2011 at 14:12
  • Robusto-san. Yes. “聞くは一時の恥、聞かぬは一生(or末代の)恥” is a paralleism of "聞く,聞かぬ" and "一時,一生(or末代meaning to one’s offsprings)". Commented Mar 29, 2011 at 0:52
  • I've heard this extended to "There are no dumb questions, only dumb answers". Oops, a dumb comment!
    – BoldBen
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 12:14

I don't think we have an exact equivalent to that expression--at least not one that I can think of at the moment. We do, however, have a saying that focuses on the teacher's role in such an exchange:

If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.

This means that if you simply give someone exactly what they're looking for, you will have solved their immediate problem but won't help them solve similar problems next time. On the other hand, if you show them how to find such things for themselves, they'll be able to continue solving their problems in th efuture.

  • I like the similar phrase: "If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach him how to fish, he'll ask if fish roe is on the exam."
    – Peter K.
    Commented Jun 4, 2011 at 1:48
  • If you give a man a fish, he'll eat fish today. If you teach a man to fish, he'll drink beer all day.
    – MT_Head
    Commented Jun 5, 2011 at 3:17

"Shameful is not the one who doesn't know, but the one who doesn't ask." Azerbaijani proverbs

  • Asker wants the corresponding English maxim. A corresponding Azerbaijani maxim is not what the question calls for, even in translation.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 15:51

This appears to be an old Japanese proverb meaning:

This goes to show the truth of it, if you don't ask you remain stupid.

  • Asker wants the corresponding English maxim, not a translation of the Japanese one.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 11, 2018 at 15:53

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