Between two stools one falls to the ground

Discussion in 'English Only' started by kra, Oct 1, 2012.

  1. kra Senior Member

    the EU
    Ukrainian/American English
    Does this proverb mean that if one tries to do two different things at once, like accommodate different lifestyles, s/he is destined to fail?
    If it doesn't, is there any other way to express that?
  2. Cagey post mod (English Only / Latin)

    English - US
    Hello kra. :)

    Our dictionary has this definition of the phrase fall between two stools:
    fall between two stools Brit. fail to be or take either of two satisfactory alternatives.

    This is the version I am familiar with. I have heard the version you are asking about. Also, I am a speaker of American English, and it's familiar to me as well.

    I think it may be suitable for the situation you have in mind, but I can't be certain without a more specific description. Please give us more details. What two things is the person trying to accomplish.
  3. heypresto

    heypresto Senior Member

    South East England
    English - England
    I know the expression as simply 'to fall between two stools'.

    If something falls between two stools, it fails because it is neither one type of thing nor another and if someone falls between two stools, they fail because they try to combine two different types of thing that cannot be combined. (copied from

  4. kra Senior Member

    the EU
    Ukrainian/American English
    For example, can it be used to discuss the difficulty of living between two different countries? Like if somebody travels back and forth between two places, trying to live two different lives, but finds it difficult/impossible to accomplish, because he or she does not live a normal in either place?

    Another example: A person is a writer who writes in two languages, but feels that unless he focuses on one, he will never be the best writer in either language?
  5. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    Hello, kra,

    Yes, the meaning of the idiom is as you suggest, and could be used in the contexts you outline.

    The question now lies with the actual wording you have used in your thread title, which is not the usual wording for this. It perhaps seems odd because one is not being used as a number but to denote a generic person, yet it seems odd juxtaposed with the number two. Taking the generic out of it:

    Caught between two stools, Suze fell to the ground,

    would probably be OK.

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