In Czech there is an expression "hraběcí rada". It refers to meaningless/useless advice - something which is factually true but cannot be meaningfully applied by the recipient of said advice. The best example would be the phrase "Let them eat cake". Another example given in the Czech thesaurus is:

A: Man these loans are killing me. I can barely keep up the payments on time. What should I do?
B: Well if you hadn't gotten a loan in the first place, you wouldn't be in this situation today...
A: Please stop with your <expression I'm looking for>

Is there an equivalent expression in English?

  • 2
    Google Translate renders the Czech as count's council, which if you fix to be count's counsel I really like and wish English had as an idiom.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 23, 2021 at 8:51
  • This question is about a person giving such advice, but some suggestions could be adapted: english.stackexchange.com/questions/79844/…
    – Stuart F
    Apr 23, 2021 at 9:27
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    For the particular example, the appropriate response would be "That ship's already sailed" (other metaphors include bolting of the door on a now-empty barn or chicken coop, restoring broken fragile objects to their original condition, or putting spilled liquid back into its original container)
    – Ben Voigt
    Apr 23, 2021 at 16:58
  • 7
    Your example reminds me of a South Park character, Captain Hindsight. He was a super hero who had the amazing ability to swoop into any bad situation and tell you what you should have done, without actually offering any useful help.
    – Seth R
    Apr 23, 2021 at 20:56
  • I can't post an answer, and I doubt this is even an appropriate word, but I'll post it in the comment because it's not so far either. Trivia: insignificant trifles of little importance, especially items of unimportant information, or alternatively a piece of information or anecdote which is interesting to know but useless
    – Clockwork
    Apr 24, 2021 at 18:27

15 Answers 15


The expression adding insult to injury is applicable where the person's problems are exacerbated, as is certainly true with your example sentence From Grammarist:

To add insult to injury means to make a bad situation worse by adding on to the bad situation with more problems, humiliation, or scorn.

From Farlex Dictionary of Idioms:

  • A: "Well, it's not like you were having a great season before you broke your leg."
  • B: "Thanks for adding insult to injury."

So adjusting your example sentence:

A: "Please don't add insult to injury."

  • This is self-defeatist/submissive/weak/etc, the OP's original phrase seems to be more combative Apr 23, 2021 at 21:48
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    Why is this answer accepted so early when the answers keep pouring in right now (and every single one of them has been more approved by the community)? Apr 25, 2021 at 5:03
  • @NikeDattani because that’s the answer I personally found to be best. Apr 25, 2021 at 15:14
  • Can you elaborate on that please? Apr 25, 2021 at 16:04
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    @EdwinAshworth I'm sorry that you got disturbed by the pings. I suppose you understand that even if I pinged JonathanReez on that comment, both of you would have got a ping, because this is his question and your answer. I guess you wanted me to write my comments on his question rather than on your answer? Fair enough, but it's common for that type of comment to go on the associated answer, and with your ~2000 answers here, I can't imagine you being able to avoid getting a lot of pings, in every instance. Sorry also that you got a downvote, it wasn't from me if that's what you were thinking. Apr 25, 2021 at 20:37

There is a business concept of 'true but useless', more commonly applied to information rather than advice, but it may capture some of what you are looking for. The phrase 'technically correct' also conveys the same idea (the inclusion of 'technically' means that 'useless' can be left out and would be understood).

From here:

I have sat in too many meetings where people have established facts which everyone in the room agrees with. The problem is often that these facts are completely irrelevant to any action that can be taken. “If we had more time we could do this” is said when no time is available. If you can’t do anything about something why focus on it?

It also calls to mind this old joke:

A helicopter with a pilot and a single passenger was flying around above Seattle when a malfunction disabled all of the aircraft's navigation and communications equipment. Due to the darkness and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter's position and course to get back to the airport.

The pilot saw a tall building with lights on and flew toward it, the pilot had the passenger draw a handwritten sign reading, "WHERE AM I?", and hold it up for the building's occupants to see.

People in the building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said, "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER."

The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to SEATAC airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the passenger asked the pilot how the "YOU ARE IN A HELICOPTER" sign helped determine their position.

The pilot responded, "I knew that had to be the Microsoft support building, they gave me a technically correct but entirely useless answer."

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    That joke perfectly captures the spirit of the idiom! :) Apr 23, 2021 at 15:25
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    Technically correct: The best kind of correct! Apr 23, 2021 at 16:28
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    I'm old enough to remember when it was IBM. Apr 23, 2021 at 22:48

You could get close to your sentiment by thanking Captain Obvious. The emphasis is less on how useless the information is and more on how self-evident, but there's often overlap. Your example of "Well if you didn't get a loan in the first place, you wouldn't be in this situation today..." could easily be replied to with a nice sarcastic "Thank you, Captain Obvious". If he's not around, you could go with Captain Hindsight instead, for when the advice is only obvious now and might not have been in the past. Either way, it's technically correct but useless advice, so could work for your scenario.

  • 5
    On a similar vein is "no shit, Sherlock". Apr 23, 2021 at 19:47
  • @tea-and-cake A bit less polite, but valid. Apr 23, 2021 at 20:01
  • 1
    Or "no kidding, Sherlock" with slightly more polite audiences
    – AAM111
    Apr 24, 2021 at 17:52

"It's not worth the paper it's written on."

When a suggestion or advice is useless or not important, even in a case where it's not actually on paper, you can say it's not worth the paper it's written on. This usually involves things that are true but simply not helpful or worthwhile. An example from TFD:

Oh, that memo is not worth the paper it's written on. You know the boss is going to completely change her mind about it in a few days anyway!

Definitions include useless, unimportant, insignificant.

  • 4
    This idiom captures the meaning 'useless', but doesn't specifically connote advice, so I'm not sure it does what the OP is looking for. I wouldn't naturally say that 'Let them eat cake' isn't worth the paper it was written on.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 23, 2021 at 8:39
  • 1
    It's even more apropos when it's not written on paper. E.g. "A verbal contract isn't worth the paper it's written on". However, I don't think this meets the criteria of "technically correct", since the phrase could be equally applicable for advice that's just flat-out wrong... Apr 23, 2021 at 16:39
  • @DarrelHoffman FWIW, I've always heard that as "A verbal contract is worth the paper it's written on." Both versions are making the same joke though. Apr 25, 2021 at 16:35

One colloqual answer to that type of advice could be "Tell me something I don't know?".

And the equivalent to your Czech Count in popular english expressions would be "backseat driver" or "armchair coach". So the advice could be characterized as "backseat driver advice", or "armchair coach advice".

You lose the "haughty" aspect of the Czech expression, but it's the best I could come up with.

  • 3
    The defining characteristic of being a backseat driver is that you are giving unwanted advice, on an issue that is not your responsibility, to someone who does have responsibility. In the case the OP outlines, advice might well be desired, but the problem is that the specific advice given is useless while not being wrong.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 23, 2021 at 13:32

There is always the phrase you already constructed to ask the question:

useless advice

A: Man these loans are killing me. I can barely keep up the payments on time. What should I do?
B: Well if you didn't get a loan in the first place, you wouldn't be in this situation today...
A: Please stop with your useless advice.

This is distinct from bad advice, which makes things worse. Useless advice isn't inherently bad, but it doesn't make things better either.

You could say "that isn't helpful", but it doesn't directly translate to a phrase you can fit into your example sentence.

Unhelpful advice would work, but I haven't heard it a lot. Google ngrams shows it's relatively common though.


If the advice is useless because it's bad or misleading, that's called a "bum steer."

There's a vulgarity for that, but the colloquialism my mom uses for useless advice is "bunch of hooey," like if I knew she'd gone to seek someone's advice and asked her how it went, she might say, "All he gave me was a bunch of hooey," meaning all he gave her was a bunch of worthless advice.

  • 1
    I’ve never considered hooey to be worthless advice, but rather BS. In my experience then, giving someone a bunch of hooey would be lying to someone or blowing smoke up their ...
    – Jim
    Apr 23, 2021 at 2:18
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    As a native BrE speaker with pretty wide-ranging reading habits, I've never heard this term and wouldn't understand it without a clear context – worth bearing in mind depending on the OP's target audience. The usage bum to mean bad sounds quite American to my ears (the only other phrase that comes to mind using it is 'bum note').
    – dbmag9
    Apr 23, 2021 at 8:37
  • 1
    "bum steer" is (according to Wikipedia) North American, Australian, and New Zealander, but it's quite widespread at least in the US. Typically it means information that's wrong rather than useless, so it doesn't quite answer the question. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bum_steer
    – Stuart F
    Apr 23, 2021 at 13:35

In mathematics and logic, a Vacuous Truth or "vacuously true statement" is a statement that is only true because the antecedent cannot be satisfied.

Example from Wikipedia:

For example, the statement "all cell phones in the room are turned off" will be true even if there are no cell phones in the room. In this case, the statement "all cell phones in the room are turned on" would also be vacuously true, as would the conjunction of the two: "all cell phones in the room are turned on and turned off". For that reason, it is sometimes said that a statement is vacuously true only because it does not really say anything.

As a side note, using vacuously true statements with insufficient context may invite assumptions about the antecedent, or imply that . As noted in comments by @Gregory Currie, if I heard the statement "All cell phones are turned on", my first assumption is that there is at least one, and probably more than one cell phone in the room. This side effect is sometimes used on purpose, to mislead the audience "without technically lying". For example, a teenager may say to their mom, "No, I promise I didn't come home too late last night!", without mentioning that they actually didn't come home last night at all. In this way, they avoid the sin/crime of lying to their parents, but avoid revealing the incriminating truth.

This effect is similar to Lying by Omission, in that it's commonly thought of as a type of deception, but somehow not as bad as telling an outright lie. As noted by @dbmag9, these are ways of slightly violating one or two of the Maxims of the Cooperative Principle, just not the specific Maxim that requires not telling lies.

This phrase is, unfortunately, not that common among people who didn't study math or logic. So perhaps this Answer itself is vacuously true, in the sense that the phrase technically fits, but likely doesn't solve your need.

  • I don't know why (maybe secondary question for the experts) but "all cell phones in the room are turned off" sounds invalid to say when the no phones in the room. I feel like "There are no cell phones in the room that are on" in such a situation is more... valid, I just don't know why. Apr 23, 2021 at 14:04
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    @GregoryCurrie That's a common intuition because in natural language we have a norm (the cooperative principle, or Grice's maxims) that we phrase things in order to be understood, so 'all the Xs are P' is understood as 'there are some Xs, and they are all P'. But definitions which allow vacuous truths turn out to be more natural and fruitful in logic and mathematics.
    – dbmag9
    Apr 23, 2021 at 14:17

If it's meant to be aggressive, if person A is annoyed by B and wanting to express that, then it would be extremely idiomatic to use sarcasm instead.

A: Man these loans are killing me. I can barely keep up the payments on time. What should I do?
B: Well if you didn't get a loan in the first place, you wouldn't be in this situation today...
A: Wow! Thanks for your outstandingly useful and helpful advice, you're truly a genius!

The more excessive the praise, the ruder the retort.


The phrase "you're not wrong" (or "they're not wrong") seems appropriate. It is used in reference to any statement that is true but not applicable, and/or incomplete.

Compared to most of the other answers, which have been in the vernacular for decades or more, I believe "you're not wrong" is a relatively recent/new phrase.

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    Maybe this is a Minnesota thing, but here "he said the coleslaw is great, and he's not wrong" imdicates total agreement, roughly the same as "this coleslaw's not bad". Apr 23, 2021 at 15:02
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    This is perhaps the best answer so far. I've edited it to put emphasis on the actual suggested expression, like everyone else is doing in the remainder of the answers. Apr 25, 2021 at 5:07
  • @OwenReynolds - It's not said like that. It's an expression in its own right, spoken with a certain intonation and not tagged on to other sentences. Mom: For the last time, stop breaking her toys! Child: Calm down; it's OK. Santa will just bring her some more. Aunt: He's not wrong. Young people (in their 20s–30s) use it a lot. Mar 21 at 23:51

"Hindsight is 20/20 vision" comes fairly close, as the information of the future is not known in the past and it's easy to know what you should have done now.

Also, "teaching someone to suck an egg" is also an English expression used for describing unneeded advice.


An equivalent American English idiom would be smart ideas, although it doesn't really fit in with your example

A: Man these loans are killing me. I can barely keep up the payments on time. What should I do?

B: Well if you didn't get a loan in the first place, you wouldn't be in this situation today...

A: Please stop with your smart ideas

A better example for this term would be

A: Man these loans are killing me. I can barely keep up the payments on time. What should I do?

B: Well you could rob a bank and pay them all off at once...

A: Please stop with your smart ideas

  • 3
    I wouldn't exactly call that an idiom. Your example works, but it only works on the principle of sarcasm. Like saying "Thanks, you're a lifesaver" because in this case the advice didn't help at all.
    – user45266
    Apr 24, 2021 at 3:12

Please, spare me your platitudes.

A platitude is a trite and obvious observation, in particular, one that's expressed as if it were fresh and significant. —Richard Nordquist [ThoughtCo.]


How is that germane?

That is what a math professor of mine would write in the margin of my proof, next to a line that was true but extraneous to the proof.


germane: being at once relevant and appropriate


In Czech there is an expression "hraběcí rada". It refers to meaningless/useless advice - something which is factually true but cannot be meaningfully applied by the recipient of said advice.

In English, this type of advice is known as "a counsel of perfection"

MW counsel of perfection

1: instruction given for the attainment of perfection

2: an unrealizable ideal


counsel of perfection

excellent but unrealizable advice

We concede that this may be a counsel of perfection, but nevertheless you should realise that a good pension is an expensive commodity. Times, Sunday Times (2014)

Other examples:

1909 A. Bennett Lit. Taste 87 Every Englishman who is interested in any branch of his native literature, and who respects himself, ought to own a comprehensive and inclusive library of English literature, in comely and adequate editions. You may suppose that this counsel is a counsel of perfection. It is not.

1938 W. S. Maugham Summing Up xlviii. 186 Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul. This is a counsel of perfection.

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