I'm looking for an idiom (if there is one) which captures the following meaning: trying to do two things with the same tool will never work, since every task requires its own tool.

It is similar to "if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail", but this has the emphasis of over-reliance on one tool. Rather, I'm looking for something that expresses the futility of trying to find a single solution for two different problems.

  • "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball!" - Patches O'Houlihan
    – Skooba
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 13:27
  • Never bring a knife to a gunfight.
    – bib
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:13
  • Using words to describe magic is like using a screwdriver to cut roast beef. – Tom Robbins
    – bib
    Commented Feb 18, 2016 at 15:20
  • THE question is, "the futility of trying to find a single solution for two different problems." This must be known since it isn't impossible to find single solutions. Knowing that, further trying would be foolish; it would be futile. I don't think answers are addressing that question. Maybe I've read it incorrectly. Wouldn't be the first time.
    – user116032
    Commented Feb 20, 2016 at 2:16

1 Answer 1

  • There's a saying that goes, If you run after two hares, you will catch neither.

    (Prov.) You cannot do two things successfully at the same time.

    [The Free Dictionary]

  • There's also this saying - "have your cake and eat it too"

    to do or get two good things at the same time

    [The Free Dictionary]


    "Trying to solve two different problems with the same tactic is like having your cake and eating it too. You simply can't."

  • Or you could simply say that it is foolish to expect a panacea every time you face problems. It's not an idiom per se but conveys what you intend well.

    something that will ​solve all ​problems

    [Cambridge Dictionaries Online]

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