I have been given a little bit of something which has allowed me to accomplish a lot now. The accomplishments mutually benefit both parties.

I don't want to say "Give me an inch, and I'll take a mile," because that implies that I have gained, while the giver has lost.

Also, I don't think "Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" is quite what I'm after either. I think this is focused around self-sufficiency; I'm not so much thinking of autonomy as I have in mind mutually beneficial accomplishments.

  • 4
    So basically you're looking for a positive idiom for someone who is resourceful? Something like "I can do a lot with a little"? Oct 19, 2016 at 16:55
  • 1
    In your title, did you mean "neutral" instead of "mutual" ?
    – cobaltduck
    Oct 19, 2016 at 18:32
  • 3
    “Take a mile” usually means not only that the giver has lost, but that the taker has taken unfair advantage of their generosity, so it sounds odd if you are trying to express friendly thanks.
    – PJTraill
    Oct 19, 2016 at 23:32
  • Yes, @PJTraill is correct. "Give them and inch and they'll take a mile" means that if you let someone get away with something small, they'll try even worse things later. It does not have anything to do with whether they used what they initially 'took' resourcefully or not. For example, people use this idiom when arguing not to let the government get away with seemingly small violations of the Constitution, as it will just encourage them to try larger ones in the future.
    – reirab
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:08

10 Answers 10


I don't think it's an idiom per se, but something like "You gave me the push that got me rolling" might be a suitable metaphor.

  • Or "I can do a lot with a little."
    – lux
    Oct 20, 2016 at 4:01

He got a good return on his investment in you.

You provided a high ROI to him for his initial modest stake.

It doesn't have to limited to economic value.

Return on investment (ROI) is the benefit to an investor resulting from an investment of some resource. A high ROI means the investment gains compare favorably to investment cost. As a performance measure, ROI is used to evaluate the efficiency of an investment or to compare the efficiency of a number of different investments. [...]


  • 4
    I don't think the ROI formula is necessary for this answer, and while the first sentence seems reasonable, I wouldn't dare abbreviate it as ROI and expect anybody without an economics background to understand.
    – kettlecrab
    Oct 20, 2016 at 4:58
  • 1
    @joshua-lamusga okay removed the calculation.
    – k1eran
    Oct 20, 2016 at 10:30
  • 1
    "You invested in me, and now it's paying off for both of us."
    – talrnu
    Oct 20, 2016 at 15:53
  • 1
    @k1eran Yeah, I made a sweeping statement. :)
    – kettlecrab
    Oct 20, 2016 at 17:42
  • 1
    @JoshuaLamusga I'd think almost anyone in the U.S. with any sort of business management (including IT management) experience will be very familiar with the concept of ROI and will readily understand the acronym.
    – reirab
    Oct 20, 2016 at 18:03

Give me a leg up and you'll never regret it

leg up fits well with the first sentence of the OP's question

I have been given a little bit of something which has allowed me to now accomplish a lot.

From The Oxford English Dictionary, leg up:

b. An act of assistance or aid given in order to help a person improve his or her circumstances; a means of improvement or advancement; (also) the improvement or advancement in a person's circumstances resulting from this. .......

2013 Sunday Times (S. Afr.) 29 Sept. Amakhosi coach Stuart Baxter wants to give emerging talent a leg up.

As the OED says, the origin of the term is to help a rider onto a horse.

A person gives you a leg up, if, for example, she gives you a plum assignment at work, you prove yourself, and your career takes off. The second part of the situation the OP describes is:

The accomplishments mutually benefit both parties.

The requires an addition to leg up, for example:

Give me a leg up and you'll never regret it.

  • "Give me a leg up and I'll throw you a rope." might convey the intended meaning.
    – The Nate
    Oct 20, 2016 at 15:20
  • 1
    "Give me the whip." - "Throw me the idol."
    – Mazura
    Oct 20, 2016 at 15:25

It's a little uncertain without context, but you could look at maintenance and repair metaphors such as "A stitch in time saves nine", though that implies avoiding a loss rather than making a gain. You could also look at gambling, like "One will get you ten".

Another possibility might be "A pretty good bang for your buck" or "Return on investment".


The very first thing that popped into my head is something that I say fairly frequently. It's a quote from the movie Willow:

Madmartigan: Let me out of here, Airk. Give me a sword, I'll win this war for you.

I use this quote when I'm trying to say to someone, "Give me your trust, authority, tools, etc. and I'll complete the task."

IMDB: Willow


To mean something like “Give me an inch and I'll take us both a mile”, I suggest:

"Invest in me."


invest verb
to put money, effort, time, etc. into something to make a profit or get an advantage:

He's not certain whether to invest in the property market.
You have all invested significant amounts of time and energy in making this project the success that it is.
France and Germany invest far more per capita in public transport than Britain.


I'd suggest something like "just get me started and I'll take it and run with it".

The phrase as a whole isn't necessarily idiomatic, but the two individual parts are ("just get me started" and "take it and run with it").


If you're trying to reference the common idiom, how about "you gave me an inch, and I grew us a mile"? (Or built, acquired, or some other verb that's meaningful in the line of work you're doing.)

To say something similar without the given idiom, you could use something like "your initial investment in me has paid dividends for both of us".

pay dividends
to produce good results or advantages. My Spanish lessons have finally begun to pay dividends, and I can carry on a simple conversation!

  • Usage notes: often used to refer to something you do now that will benefit you in the future: All your work will pay dividends – you'll see.

  • Etymology: based on the literal meaning of pay a dividend (to pay someone who owns shares in a company a part of a company's profit)

  • "I grew us a mile" doesn't make sense. Oct 20, 2016 at 12:20

Symbiotic relationships are a win-win and mutually beneficial.

"You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours"

(adapted from Quora's Is there an idiom meaning that two persons take advantage from a situation?)

Fig. You do a favor for me and I'll do a favor for you.; If you do something for me that I cannot do for myself, I will do something for you that you cannot do for yourself. I'll grab the box on the top shelf if you will creep under the table and pick up my pen. You scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours. –TFD

"One hand washes the other (and both wash the face)"

All parties involved will benefit from helping each other and/or working together toward the same goal. Look, if you feature our company's logo during your campaign, we get a major boost in advertising visibility, and you get a bump in your campaign funding—one hand washes the other! The criminal organization has several politicians and most of the police force in its pocket, with everyone seeing a profit from illegal activities. One hand washes the other, and both are washing the face!TFD

  • Doesn't this connote corruption? Like, "You don't report me for embezzlement and I'll give you a cut." Oct 20, 2016 at 12:21
  • 1
    @MissMonicaE - No, not necessarily (that's blackmail, which is usually far from mutually beneficial) but it almost certainly does when you include the second part of the other idiom, one hand washes the other.
    – Mazura
    Oct 20, 2016 at 13:26
  • Blackmail is the potential reporter saying "Give me a cut or I'll report you for embezzlement." Oct 20, 2016 at 13:30

"If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants." –Isaac Newton

standing on the shoulders of giants [...] expresses the meaning of "discovering truth by building on previous discoveries"

  • 1
    This isn't really conveying the intended meaning. Note also (from the link you yourself give) that Newton was essentially saying "If I benefited from the work of others, it wasn't from little runts like you", so not really a positive statement.
    – beldaz
    Oct 19, 2016 at 23:23
  • 1
    >This has recently [!] been interpreted by a few writers as a sarcastic remark directed at Hooke's appearance. Although Hooke was not of particularly short stature, he was of slight build and had been afflicted from his youth with a severe kyphosis. However, at this time Hooke and Newton were on good terms and had exchanged many letters in tones of mutual regard. Only later, when Robert Hooke criticized some of Newton's ideas regarding optics, Newton was so offended that he withdrew from public debate, and the two men remained enemies until Hooke's death.
    – Mazura
    Oct 20, 2016 at 0:30
  • It's kinda hard to invent calculus before someone invents arithmetic.
    – Mazura
    Oct 20, 2016 at 0:32
  • Newton was such a jerk. Oct 20, 2016 at 12:21

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