Is there an idiom/ phrase/ expression or proverb that conveys this meaning:

"As long as there is a more simple solution for solving a problem don't choose a more complicated one."
or: "when you can do something in a more simple way, why do you use a more difficult way?"

we use this proverb in Farsi:

"When you can open a knot with your hands, you don't have to open it with your teeth!"

Suppose that there are some different ways for solving a problem (and all of them will work), if you choose the most complicated solution among those available ways, instead of trying the more simple ones at first, you'll be criticized by being told this proverb. (It doesn't necessarily mean that your making the problem bigger, it just mean that you postpone solving the problem by using that complicated available solution).

You can use this proverb specially in political issues, for example; as long as negotiation can work, there in no need to use military actions.

Edit( sep 25th):

I just found this proverb: "Cross the stream where it is shallowest."

Do you think that it could be the answer to my question?

  • 1
    I have no idea how idiomatic this is, but "don't use a grenade to dig a hole when a shovel will do" seems spot on. I found references here and here.
    – VampDuc
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:40
  • 1
    KISS -- Keep It Simple, Stupid.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 19, 2015 at 2:28
  • 2
    A mathematics lecturer I once knew always used to say: "Don't use a bazooka to kill a fly"
    – Shai
    Sep 25, 2015 at 11:57
  • 2
    And attributed to Einstein: Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2015 at 12:00
  • 1
    FWIW, I offer you "Wandering for ghee, with butter in hand", a famous Indian saying!
    – BiscuitBoy
    Jan 21, 2016 at 16:51

6 Answers 6


Maybe this one gets close:

Don't use sledgehammer to crack a nut.


To use 'a sledgehammer to crack a nut' means to use disproportionate force or expense to overcome a minor problem

The phrase finder

  • is it used only in British English or is used in Amercican English, too?
    – Soudabeh
    Sep 18, 2015 at 18:02
  • If you read the second paragraph of the link I gave you will see, "this phrase ... first saw the light of day in 1850s America." Sep 18, 2015 at 18:09
  • Yes, you're right. Sorry I didn't notice it.
    – Soudabeh
    Sep 18, 2015 at 18:12
  • I'm right on the edge of downvoting, but I won't. The phrase refers to using too much force, rather than too much effort. Sep 19, 2015 at 3:26
  • @WhatRoughBeast - Note that my first sentence was, "Maybe this one comes close", I didn't ever claim it was perfect. If you want to downvote then do so. Sep 19, 2015 at 9:18

A very common idiomatic phrase used in this context is "the hard way". E.g.:

  • "You really like doing things the hard way don't you?"

  • "Why do things the hard way?"

A similar idiom that refers to making things unnecessarily difficult for yourself in the sense of creating potential future problems, is:


There's actually a single word that conveys this: roundabout. Eg. "That's a roundabout way of doing it it".


I don't think there is an idiomatic expression with that precise connotation; a phrase that is often used in similar contexts is:

  • Why make life difficult?
  • Thanks, we use it, too. But we use that proverb when we are talking about problems and chosen solution, as a sarcastic proverb. :)
    – Soudabeh
    Sep 18, 2015 at 17:30

There are several humorous idioms of the form "Going around your X to get to your Y" which mean you are taking an unnecessarily complicated way to achieve a simple goal. Some of them are crude and might not be appropriate in polite conversation.

...going around your ass to get to your elbow, going around your elbow to get to your nose, going around your elbow to get from your thumb to your pinkie.

  • There is the old expression "Going 'round Robin Hood's barn." No idea where it originated.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 25, 2015 at 12:01

As an exasperated response to who is doing things the hard way, I've run across

You don't have to kill a cat by choking it with cream!

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