In my mother tongue (Gujarati) there are two phrases describing the adverse effects of doing a favor. What are their English equivalents, if any?

The phrases are:

  • આંગળી આપેને પ્હોંચો પકડે (someone) is offered a finger and (they) grab the hand

  • ધરમ કરતા ધાડ પડી Making a donation and getting robbed. ધરમ કરતા more often means performing religious ceremony, so another interpretation could be to get robbed while doing pooja.

  • Could you list the phrases in your language? That would be interesting. Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:18
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    @BobbiBennett I listed them in Gujarati but I don't know how it can be interesting for someone who does not read the script :) Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:40
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    In Hungarian, the phrase "I offer my little finger and he wants my whole hand" is used exactly in this form. I doubt the two languages are that closely related.
    – vsz
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:16
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    If someone were to offer me the finger, I would take it as a rude gesture. If someone were to suggest I pull their finger, I would expect a rude, flatulent, response (a fart). Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:28
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    In Italian, the phrase reads as "If you give him a hand, he'll take the arm". In same language, "Giving <someone> a hand" is the equivalent of "helping <someone>". Commented May 17, 2012 at 11:58

4 Answers 4


Your first example has a direct equivalent:

Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.

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    I wouldn't call that a direct equivalent (although it was the first thing I thought of too). IME, it is used in more of an "allowing something" than in a doing a favor context.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 18:05
  • I think the OP (Miserable Variable) has asked two questions. I also think this is the best answer for the first phrase. Commented May 16, 2012 at 18:13

No good deed goes unpunished.

(A phrase I really dislike)

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    Indeed it is dislikeable, probably because it is absolute. But when used in a sentence -- "I don't want you to feel you are being punished for doing a good deed" -- it seems ok. Thanks. Commented May 16, 2012 at 17:15
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    dislike is not a compound that requires a hyphen.
    – Kaz
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 19:43
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    No good answer shall go unupvoted +1.
    – Kris
    Commented May 17, 2012 at 8:25
  • @Kaz, thanks for pointing that out. I had wanted to write a -lot- about how I dislike that phrase, and got distracted. Commented May 17, 2012 at 14:27

Another phrase (in addition to those mentioned) could be "biting the hand that feeds".

Here is a literal observation of this phenomenon: my girlfriend was trying to feed a neighbourhood stray cat, and the cat (being rather mean and nasty) scratched and tried to bite my girlfriend's hand.

  • Needs rephrasing -- the 'phenomenon' is not your gf but the cat. Change the word order without changing the meaning.
    – Kris
    Commented May 16, 2012 at 18:09
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    I read everything after "phenomenon is" as being the phenomenon and it sounded ok. Commented May 16, 2012 at 18:11

Camel's nose is a phrase to describe the ill-effect that could result when doing a favour.

It is a reference to the famous Arab fable where an Arab offered a camel's head a place in the tent, but the camel slowly entered completely, thereby pushing the Arab himself out.

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    I don't think this phrase is common enough that it can be used without explanatory text. Commented May 16, 2012 at 20:21

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