What is the meaning and grammar of “them as can’t” in the following text:

"Them as can, do; them as can't, teach." Alas, more teachers fall into this category than ever before


It is a common proverb:

Those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

Prov. People who are able to do something well can do that thing for a living, while people who are not able to do anything that well make a living by teaching. (Used to disparage teachers. From George Bernard Shaw's Man and Superman.)

  • Bob: I'm so discouraged. My writing teacher told me my novel is hopeless. Jane: Don't listen to her, Bob. Remember: those who can, do; those who can't, teach.

(McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs)

For the use of them see Using “them” instead of “those”.

  • I think the usage of as here is probably more opaque than the usage of them (and I have the impression they're linked—i.e. "them as" is a more likely collocation than either "those as" or "them who"—but I don't know if that's correct). Maybe you could go into more detail on that bit? – 1006a Nov 20 '18 at 19:17
  • Thanks. Can you also clarify the use of "as" instead of "who"? – ib11 Nov 20 '18 at 20:08
  • @ib11 - it appears to be a common collocation as in: Them as has, gits. Rur. Rich people can always get more. idioms.thefreedictionary.com/Them+as+has%2C+gits – user240918 Nov 20 '18 at 20:28

It is northern England dialect, most likely Yorkshire.

Them as has/he as can/we as know = Those that have/he that can/We that know.

As @user240918 points out, it is an idiomatic saying, a kind of folk wisdom, especially in northern England.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.