Trying to find a similar phrase to this Chinese phrase:


which basically means if a woman marries a guy, then the guy will provide food and clothing.

I can't think of anything off the top of my head, something like

marry a guy and he'll provide
marry for provision

are there any set phrases/idioms in English?

  • 6
    "traditional marriage" in western culture often implies that the man will provide, and the woman will care for the children and the house.
    – Othya
    Sep 8 '14 at 13:21
  • 10
    I think that references to gold digging and meal tickets really degrades the thought process. user3306356's intent doesn't seem to relate a negative connotation to the process, merely to translate a standard translation for a turn of phrase in another culture that states that a man will provide for their spouse. This practice is still common in the United States, although not as common as it once was, since in many cases both the husband and wife have to provide part of the living expenses.
    – Aviose
    Sep 8 '14 at 19:37
  • 7
    How about: "Marry a man who's healthy and able; he'll put clothes on your back, and food on your table".
    – Erik Kowal
    Sep 9 '14 at 9:27
  • 3
    I don't see why more people aren't voting for Erik Kowals comment. It's the only good answer on this entire page.
    – krowe
    Sep 9 '14 at 12:29
  • 3
    Good call @Placidia. The question needs clarifying, and cultural context placement, if it's to match the intent of the Chinese phrase. There is unspoken nuance here.
    – Bob Stein
    Sep 9 '14 at 22:19

12 Answers 12


While not exactly the same, the phrases "to bring home the bacon" or "put food on the table" are commonly used to mean to provide for the family. So, a phrase such as "find a man who puts food on the table" would be understood to mean marrying a man who will financially support the family.

  • 2
    This is more appropriate than "gold digger" (or even "meal ticket") when the focus is on 'merely' providing food and clothing as opposed to a more luxurious lifestyle.
    – Charles
    Sep 8 '14 at 21:03
  • Thanks, I took the question to refer to a healthy, traditional marriage where the father provides, rather than a more sinister relationship where the woman is only interested in money. I like Erik's rhyme, although as far as I know it's not a common/known phrase (at least in England).
    – Matt
    Sep 10 '14 at 14:16
  • Absolutely no downside to Matt as such, but it is another example of the utterly mindbogglingly bizarre voting on this site, that this (particular) answer happened to get a lot of votes. Who has a clue what sense the OP meant? (the OP having disappeared and provided almost no info).
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 10:49

Quite a common phrase is meal ticket, and TVTropes defines it thusly:

Basically the target of a Gold Digger. Someone the digger pretends to love for the ticket's money, power, or some other thing the digger wants. Usually the meal ticket is wealthy, but they may simply have a dependable income that's enough that the gold digger won't have to worry about supporting themselves.

You would then use it as:

Mary found herself a real meal ticket: John's father is a property tycoon

As bib pointed out, it also appears in dictionaries, such as Collins:

noun, slang - a person, situation, etc, providing a source of livelihood or income

And dictionary.com:

noun, informal - someone upon whom one is dependent for one's income or livelihood

"selfish children who look upon their father only as a meal ticket."

  • 1
    +1 Suggest you add a dictionary link and a definition of meal ticket, such as this one
    – bib
    Sep 8 '14 at 18:07
  • 3
    You really need to explain the connotation of these two words, especially since they're the opposite of what the OP seems to be looking for and you cannot tell that from your answer.
    – user36720
    Sep 8 '14 at 23:33
  • @djechlin Are you suggesting that it's a positive trait that they're looking for? Because that is not clear from the question.
    – MrLore
    Sep 9 '14 at 0:46
  • You cannot truly be serious to forward "TV Tropes" as a "reference" ? Was that a gag? (Sorry if I missed the joke.)
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 10:50

Assuming you're not looking for a negative connotation, it's more uncommon nowadays in the full flower of women's liberation, but "He'll be a good provider" or "look for a good provider" is commonly-heard advice to women looking to not be career professionals themselves.

  • 1
    +1 for being the only answer to take connotation into account.
    – user36720
    Sep 8 '14 at 23:34

Marry him, and you'll always have a roof over your head.

This implies that although the husband-to-be may not be particularly wealthy, the couple will always have a place to live.

  • You've been randomly not-very-high-voted, for this excellent answer.
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 10:50
  • @JoeBlow well, thank you. I answered late in the day.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Sep 11 '14 at 12:31
  • I drink Asti late in the day
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 13:31

There's a reason you can't find an idiom-equivalent to this. Some idioms or quotes are in an "is-and-ought" form, where the tense both expresses suggestive advice and the current state of the affairs. Therefore an equivalent will be hard to find, because in modern American culture, there is a certain disdain for this viewpoint.

For instance, the phrase gold digger exactly describes a woman who expects the man to provide, but is extremely pejorative. Sugar daddy and meal ticket are similarly pejorative.

Even a phrase marry into money is a poor fit, because it's not advice and certainly not advice that communicates that it itself is the way things are and ought to be.

  • 2
    Don't expect any votes for having the only useful answer.
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 10:51

Although it's not an idiom –just a a single word– you can just say "she's/she'll become a housewife" or "stay-at-home parent/wife/husband" if you want to be more pc. If you need something demeaning, for someone marrying exclusively for money you can use "gold digger".

On the opposite, someone who pays most of the bill in a household is a called a "provider", "main income earner", "main wage earner". Look up synonyms for these words and you'll find something suited to your needs.

  • 5
    The provider is also called the "bread winner" to keep with the food theme in the original quote. Sep 8 '14 at 15:55

Another common phrase is "marry into money".

She married into money and won't have to worry about working.

Marry into money so you won't have to work as hard as I do

This can be for either male/female (he married into money) and doesn't have the negative connotations of "gold digger".

  • 1
    Marry into money suggests to me that he is rich, and has connotations of it being inherited wealth rather than a salary. Sep 9 '14 at 12:31
  • @starsplusplus that is certainly a common use and I agree it might be overboard for the OPs phrase, but it will work in some use cases. Sep 9 '14 at 22:46

Firstly, this is obviously a rhyme for children. Google translate gives a rough taste:

Jià hàn jià hàn, chuān yī chīfàn

Which translates roughly as:

Marry Han, Marry Han,

Wear clothes, eat rice.

It's not clear to me whether by "marry Han" is meant "Marry a Han (member of the ruling caste)" or "traditional Chinese marriage". I suspect the first, in which case this is advice for ethnically non-Han Chinese to "marry up".

If you want a rhyme something along these lines perhaps:

Marry well, marry up

Eat well, dress up

  • 3
    If you want a (poor) rhyme, how about: If you marry a bread winner; It's winner, winner, chicken dinner. (the latter phrase being a silly idiom in its own right) Sep 8 '14 at 15:55
  • 3
    Han just means man here...
    – Mou某
    Sep 8 '14 at 16:04

There is marriage of convenience

A marriage concluded to achieve a practical purpose. [Oxford Dictionaries Online]

This term is a somewhat broader than the original example, and may include social or political reasons as the basis for marriage, not just economic security.

Somewhat related is the now rarely used reference to woman seeking an MRS degree as a primary goal in her attending higher education (Mrs. being the common honorific for married women).

An MRS Degree is a term used to describe when a young woman attends college or university with the intention of meeting and finding a husband. The term was most commonly used during the mid 20th century, when higher education became more accessible, yet the possibilities for women were still very limited. College was seen as not only a way of maneuvering girls close to bright young men with big futures, but as a way of further refining and educating women, though few ever used their degrees, if they ever graduated at all. But because of the male dominance in the workplace, most degree's were essentially worthless if awarded to a woman.


The significant expansion of women pursuing careers in a wide variety of occupations and positions of power, whether or not married, has made this largely an anachronistic trope.

  • 2
    "marriage of convenience" is totally different man. that's when you have to get married because of, say, getting a passport or some other legal or similar expedition.
    – Fattie
    Sep 8 '14 at 15:08
  • @JoeBlow I think if you explore the range of usage, you'll find it's much broader, but surely not limited to OP original.
    – bib
    Sep 8 '14 at 15:17
  • 1
    "A marriage concluded to achieve a practical purpose. More Example Sentences This marriage of convenience enabled Pamela to stay in the country. It's a marriage of convenience. MAYBE one day they will both come out and admit the marriage was a sham. Maybe they won't. Also in situation when the child is involved the grounds of marriage of convenience shouldn't be used."
    – Fattie
    Sep 8 '14 at 15:19

English and Scottish Sayings About Marrying

Looking at older English and Scottish proverbs, I’m struck by two things: the vast disproportion between the many that offer advice to prospective husbands and the few that offer advice to prospective wives; and the importance of the dowry in considerations of marriage. Both factors reduce the likelihood of finding an established saying comparable to “marry a guy and he’ll provide,” and indeed I didn't find any that came very close to the mark.

I did, however, find some sayings that direct their attention to the woman's motives or (purported) interests with regard to marriage. First, from James Kelly, Complete Collection of Scottish Proverbs (1721, the proverb being followed by the author’s explanation of its meaning):

His old Brass will buy you a new Pan.

An Encouragement to a young Woman to marry an old wealthy Man : because his Riches will get her a new Husband, when he shall dye.

The same source has this:

Marry a Beggar, and get a Louse for your Togher good [that is, for your portion].

although Kelly says that this proverb is used figuratively as “a Dissuasive from joyning in Trade, or Farm, with a poor Man, where the whole Loss must lye on you.”

And this:

Before thou marry, be sure of a House where to tarry.

which may be advice to the prospective bride to look to her future accommodations, or to the prospective groom to ensure that he has a suitable home at the ready for his new wife.

Charles Spurgeon, The Salt-Cellars (1889) has two proverbs that address prospective wives:

Marry a man, not a clothes-horse.


It’s a silly mouse that falls in love with a cat.

Robert Christy, Proverbs, Maxims, and Phrases of All Ages (1887) includes this adage—perhaps coined by an old man—aimed at young single women:

Better have an old man to humor than a young man to break your heart.

and this warning, from a Dutch proverb:

Who weds a sot to get his cot,/Will lose the cot and get the sot.

And Martin Manser, The Facts on File Dictionary of Proverbs (2002) has this gender-neutral recommendation:

Never marry for money, but marry where money is.

To end on a less mercenary note, here, from Christy’s Proverbs, is a quotation from Ovid that I think the wisest counsel of all, for any marriage-minded person:

If thou wouldst marry wisely, marry thy equal.


"嫁汉" means "marry well," (not marry a "random" guy). The second part means roughly, "You'll be clothed and fed."

So a rough translation is, "Marry well, and you're set (for life).


We often use the slang "sugar daddy" to describe the male in this kind of relationship.


  • 6
    Sugar daddy has nothing to do with marriage, however. In fact the sugar daddy is often already married to someone else. Sep 8 '14 at 19:39
  • Absolutely no better or worse than any other answer here. It's utterly unknowable the sense of the original.
    – Fattie
    Sep 11 '14 at 10:52

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