Is there an English equivalent to this familiar saying used in India:

Don't speak unless you can improve silence.

The saying loosely means it is better to be silent than prattle on about something.

  • "Don't speak unless you can improve the silence" is English. It's a statement that carries its own meaning, there's nothing idiomatic or proverbial about it. – Vladimir Kornea Jul 14 '15 at 17:18
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    According to goodreads.com, “Don't talk unless you can improve the silence.” is a quote from Jorge Luis Borges. And it is already used in English. – ermanen Jul 14 '15 at 17:35
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    Original attribution of such simple, self-evident statements is nearly impossible. It could easily be both an English and an Indian expression. – ScotM Jul 14 '15 at 17:47
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    Although, some sources like The Routledge Book of World Proverb claims that it is an American proverb. I couldn't find a source that it has an Indian origin. Did you translate an Indian proverb? or do you mean it is used in Indian English? Maybe it is passed through British people. A book mentions that it is a New England proverb. – ermanen Jul 14 '15 at 18:00
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    In fact I have translated an age old Indian proverb.Further,there appears to be common ideas existing between Indian poetry and Western poetry.That is quite natural too,because creative minds are not restricted geographical boundaries! – Syam Kumar. V Jul 15 '15 at 5:06

There's this fairly famous saying:

"Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt."

A quick internet search indicates that this saying has been attributed to Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, and Confucius, among others.

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    Oh, also, this one from the Bible, Proverbs 17:28 (King James Version): "Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding." – Doug Warren Jul 14 '15 at 17:26
  • In the Latin form Si tacuisses, philosophus mansisses, it is found in Boethius (fifth century). I doubt whether there is 'an origin'. – Tim Lymington Jul 14 '15 at 23:06

Our mamas always told us:

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say, anything at all!

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There's a proverb:

"Speech is silver, silence is golden".

  • That’s more about knowing when it’s prudent to keep something to yourself, though, rather than keeping your mouth shut if you’ve got nothing nice to say. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 14 '15 at 17:38

Speech is of time, silence is of eternity.

- Thomas Carlyle, Sartor Resartus

It is the wise head that makes the still tongue.

 - W. J. Lucas

Let not thy tongue run away with your brains

I'm not sure whether it is of English origin, but it has been around for a while, since it can be found in:

Gnomologia: Adagies and Proverbs; Wise Sentences and Witty Sayings, Ancient and Modern, Foreign and British collected by Thomas Fuller; B. Barker ... and A. Bettesworth and C. Hitch, 1732

A modern version can also be found (on-line at least):

Let not your tongue run away with your brains.

Source: http://www.bartleby.com/89/1785.html


it is an old Arabic proverb, in spanish litrature they attributed this saying to the arab way way back in the moorse time. another one from Arabia. if talking is made of silver, silence is from gold.

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