What's the second part of the saying "Give someone an inch"?

I've consulted a number of dictionaries, and they all say the second part is "and they'll take a mile."

This is while in real life I've also heard some alternatives. For example:

You give 'em an inch, and they'll walk all over ya!

You give them an inch, you give them a centimeter.

Give him an inch, he thinks he's a ruler.

  • 3
    Well as humans are humans they make up all sorts of stuff. But common expression is as you originally stated, "they'll take a mile." – Zebrafish Mar 21 '18 at 11:07
  • 4
    Give someone a proverb, and they'll mangle it. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 21 '18 at 11:44

give an inch and they'll take a mile

Granting somebody a limited concession will encourage them to take greater liberties wiktionary

Make a small concession and they'll take advantage of you. For example, "I told her she could borrow the car for one day and she's been gone a week - give an inch!" This expression, in slightly different form, was already a proverb in John Heywood's 1546 collection, "Give him an inch and he'll take an ell," and is so well known it is often

shortened (as in the example). The use of mile dates from about 1900. >dictionary.com

From an ell in 1546 to mile ... with 'variations' [sic] to fit all!

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more on creeping changes:

There are a number of other metaphors and expressions which refer to small changes leading to chains of events with undesirable or unexpected consequences, differing in nuances: wiktionary

Creeping normality Foot in the door – a persuasion technique. Slippery slope – an argument, sometimes fallacious. "The thin end of the wedge. Domino effect. For Want of a Nail – the claim that large consequences may follow from inattention to small details. One may as well hang for a sheep as a lamb - deterrence should be proportionate to the incentive to do wrong. Boiling frog – the notion that gradual change tends to go unnoticed until it is too late – often discussed by drawing an
analogy to a false story about what will allegedly happen to a frog.
in gradually warmed water. This concept was the premise of the Children's book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. The Camel's Nose

  • "From an eel in 1546" <-- I think you meant "ell" as in the quote. An "ell" is a unit of measure ~45 inches. – Kelvin May 31 '18 at 17:26
  • @Kelvin indeed, tks. – lbf May 31 '18 at 17:33

Give someone an inch, "and they'll take a mile"

is perhaps the most common way of ending the saying or proverb.

The other suggestions you cite are variations on the theme, and frankly, I like them. I guess you'd call those alternatives the result of "thinking outside the box"!

Thinking outside the box, you could change the following saying

Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my nose begins,

and turn it into

Your freedom to swing your arm ends where my temper begins.

I'm not suggesting that the above variation is very good, but it paints an interesting picture of a person whose nose has just been hit by a swinging arm, and in response he or she loses their temper and swings back!

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