Picture yourself, the best driver within your group of friends and with a passion for cars, driving in a small Toyota along a narrow windy road at 60km/h. Suddenly after a bend you find yourself behind a Ferrari that is cruising at 35km/h. You shake your head while waiting for an opportunity to take over and tell your friend in the passenger seat "chi ha il pane non ha i denti".

This, in Italian, means that who owns a certain (usually valuable) commodity because he/she could simply afford it, might not have the skills to make the appropriate use of it, whereas who has the skills can't afford it. It directly translates to "who has the bread, doesn't have teeth", implying that who has the teeth, doesn't have the bread (this would usually be the person who is making use of the sentence).

Is there any idiomatic way to express this in English?

  • 3
    Well, the Germans do have similar irony in You get too late old and too late smart. And we do say The cobblers children go without shoes. Dec 14, 2020 at 2:47
  • Difficult question. I occasionally heard “A hammer that cracks no nuts” but can find no reference to it.
    – Anton
    Dec 14, 2020 at 8:09
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    An asset's potential is a little different than a production tool's potential. The investment-grade car would best be not driven at all, ever. (and I think you mean overtake, which is a different idiom from take over). Also see "All the gear and no idea(r)."
    – Phil Sweet
    Jan 16, 2021 at 13:56
  • @YosefBaskin I suspect you meant to say "You get old too soon, and smart too late". ;) Interestingly, I just learned that there's a near-identical saying in English that's attributed to Benjamin Franklin: "Life's tragedy is that we get old too soon and wise too late." Jan 16, 2021 at 22:51
  • 1
    Sorry for the typo. I was quoting a saying that probably keeps the German word order: "You get too soon old and too late smart." I would not edit the original to correct it. Jan 16, 2021 at 23:00

3 Answers 3


The best equivalent is To have the means but not the know-how.

See this link with Italian sayings about food.

Who's lacking in brawn makes up for it in brains also comes close to it.

  • I think that this is the best answer. Also, thanks for the link, it's quite pleasant to see how many sayings we have about food in Italian! Jan 19, 2021 at 12:18

A poser

"If you can't keep up with the big dogs, stay under the porch"

Those with poor driving skills are generally met with "learn to drive will ya?" or possibly "Does your Daddy know you're driving his car?"


The closest colloquialism I can think of to describe those who squander their money on expensive things they don't have the need or wherewithal to use in a manner that justifies the cost, is the punny expression:

He/she has more dollars than sense.

This idiom plays on the acoustic similarity of the words "cents" and "sense", and fact that having more dollars than cents in any applicable currency is literally impossible.

As an aside, while the author of the linked blog post mentions that:

The average human has approximately 100 billion brain cells, so those with over $100 billion literally have “more dollars than sense”,

it should be noted that this is only true if one neglects to include the non-neuronal brain cells in the count.

Also, a person doesn't necessarily have to be financially rich to exhibit the manner of daftness that would qualify them as having more dollars than sense... The term can be applied to anyone who spends their money unwisely.

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