What's the English idiom for wanting something without the necessary effort to get it? In German, we say "wash me but don't get me wet."
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"You can't have your cake and eat it, too."
"You can't have your cake and eat it, too" is a saying that describes the dilemma faced when you want one thing very much, but you are not willing to give up other things in order to have it. (Source: wordreference.com)
Wikipedia also lists Wasch mir den Pelz, aber mach mich nicht nass – wash my fur but don't get me wet as the German equivalent to "you can't have your cake and eat it, too."
That freeloader wants _____ to be handed to him [on a plate].
give/hand something to somebody on a plate : to let someone get something very easily, without having to work for it
You can't expect everything to be handed to you on a plate - you've got to make a bit of effort. — thefreedictionary.com
Three idioms come to mind:
You can't have your cake and eat it too
Incidently, the wikipedia page on this phrase lists "wash my fur but don't get me wet" as the German equivalent.
Less abstract, but most precise:
Wanting something for nothing
Also applicable, but less specific:
Wanting the best of both worlds
There's no such thing as a free lunch.
Although this is more of a response to wanting something for nothing, rather than meaning to want something for nothing
"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch" (alternatively, "There is no such thing as a free lunch" or other variants) is a popular adage communicating the idea that it is impossible to get something for nothing.
Another related idiom is "free ride"
an opportunity or advantage that someone gets without having done anything to deserve it
Cambridge Dictionary , used for example in "He wants a free ride to success".
"Free ride" has similar connotations to "free lunch" and "something for nothing" mentioned in other answers.
"No pain, no gain" comes to mind...
I had to deliberate about this one since your description points toward the desire of wanting to do something without effort and still earn a reward. However, if "You can't have your cake and eat it, too" is acceptable, then I believe idioms that correspond to the relationship of work and reward also apply.
The expression refers to the fact that some kind of sacrifice must occur before one can receive something of value in return. Whether that sacrifice be time, energy, or funds is up to the discretion of the reader.
Rabbi Ben Hei Hei says, "According to the pain is the gain." — Pirkei Avot 5:21 (aka The Ethics of Fathers)
NO PAINS, NO GAINS. If little labour, little are our gains: Man's fate is according to his pains. — Hesperides by Robert Herrick
Industry need not wish, as Poor Richard says, and he that lives upon hope will die fasting. There are no gains, without pains... — as reprinted in his The Way to Wealth (1758) by Benjamin Franklin
Two phrases come to mind, they are really versions of the same phrase, although the first one can be used literally as well
... not willing to pay the price
... won't pay the piper
but neither of these match exactly (imho) the German idiom quoted.
Also, I can envision circumstances where I would use
your mouth is writing cheques that your body can't cash,
but still not an exact match.
Not an idiom as such, but a single word that describes "wanting something for nothing" almost perfectly is "coveting".
- (transitive) To wish for with eagerness; to desire possession of, often enviously.
- (transitive) To long for inordinately or unlawfully; to hanker after (something forbidden).
- (intransitive) To yearn, have or indulge inordinate desire, notably for another's possession.