sow the seeds of something

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Senior Member
Korea, Korean
According to the CALD, sow the seeds of something means:
to do something that will cause an unpleasant situation in the future:
He's sowing the seeds of his own downfall.

According to the OED, it means:
to start the process that leads to a particular situation or result: In this way he sowed the seeds of his own success.

Considering those two definitions, I'm confused about what the expression means.
I'd like to know whether "sow the seeds of something" necessarily means something negative or not.
  • cropje_jnr

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    No, it does not necessarily allude to a future negative event, in my opinion - it can be either a negative, positive or neutral event. I agree with the OED's definition.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    I would agree with the OED as well. Sowing the seeds simply means that you're planting something that will grow. This can be positive or negative.


    Senior Member
    The answer is usually very simple. When in doubt, trust the OED!

    And yes, to sowing seeds simply means that you are starting something that will have consequences later. By itself it does not say whether the results will be good or bad.


    Senior Member
    The idea is that whatever seeds you plant, that is what will be produced. You won't get oranges by planting apples, for example. Good seeds, good results; bad seeds, bad results.
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