Is she insulting Ken to say:

It is incumbent on Ken to apply that knowledge himself(you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink).

especially, she knows Ken is not reading her words.

Of course, "you can lead a horse to water, you cannot make it drink" is a metaphorical expression that means: "you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it."

However, even it's a metaphorical expression, I feel that the horse well corresponds to Ken in this context because she says "apply that knowledge himself" and she knew that.

Is she insulting Ken or not? How obvious?


  • Without knowing the circumstances, it's impossible to say. Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 15:40
  • 1
    The phrase means exactly what you think: "you can give someone an opportunity but not force them to take it." Using the proverb isn't insulting unless making the non-proverbial statement would be insulting. Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 16:14
  • If you mean that it might be insulting to compare someone to a horse, the idiom is established enough that the comparison would not be felt, any more than in "don't count your chickens before they're hatched." Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 18:34
  • I think this question is off topic. It is not about English Language Usage.
    – Tuffy
    Commented Sep 29, 2021 at 21:32

1 Answer 1


In general, neither the Proverb, nor the comparison to horses, is intended to be insulting. It is a Poetic or Pictorial Statement which is intended to mean : Ken has to take action and nobody can enforce that.

In your Example, we have neither the context nor the characteristics of the concerned Entities; She may be inclined to insult others; Ken may be easy to umbrage. That is not obvious in your short Example.

Here are some web-links which talk about the Proverb, but none of them mention insults:

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