The sky is the limit

Discussion in 'All Languages' started by DreamerX, Jan 10, 2014.

  1. DreamerX Member

    In English, whenever we say “the sky is the limit,” we mean that it is always possible to succeed in life if only one makes the necessary effort to do so. Another expression is, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” Is this idiom–the analogy of the sky or something similar–used to express the notion of success being the reward of individual initiative and persistence in your language?
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  2. SuperXW

    SuperXW Senior Member

    At first glance, a Chinese may not understand "the sky is the limit", but there IS a very similar saying, we say:
    心比天高 "heart is higher than the sky", means someone has great ambition.

    For "where there's a will, there's a way", it's often translated into another old Chinese saying:
    有志者事竟成 "For the one who has a will, things finally get done."
  3. learnerr Senior Member

    In Russian environment, I once heard "скай ыз дзы лимит" ("skai yz dzy limit"), but it was used to mean something entirely different: that there is always a room to make something better, no notion of effort or reward. This meaning is natural for our understanding. As for native expressions, here are some:
    - терпенье и труд всё перетрут ("patience and labour grind everything", it is rhymed)
    (в том числе здоровье, as the common joke says: "including the health");
    - капля камень точит (waterdrops wear out rock);
    - курочка по зёрнышку клюёт (hen takes one grain at a time);
    - дорогу одолевает идущий (road is surmounted by one who goes);
    - Москва не сразу строилась ("Moscow was not built at once").

    Do note that perseverance and initiative are entirely different things, so they do not tend to get into the same saying... As for initiative:
    - смелость города берёт (boldness takes castles);
    - there are some more, I don't remember at the moment.
  4. sakvaka

    sakvaka Senior Member

    In Finnish, we say "Vain taivas on rajana." (There's only the sky as a limit.)
  5. ilocas2 Senior Member


    Všechno jde, když se chce. - Everything goes, when is wanted/one wants.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  6. Perseas Senior Member

    If someone argues that he cannot do something, another person tells him: Δεν υπάρχει δεν μπορώ, υπάρχει δεν θέλω. (There is not "I cannot", there is "I don't want"). In other words: you can do everything provided you want to.
    Μόνο του σπανού τα γένια δεν γίνονται. (Τhe only thing that is impossible to happen is a beardless (man) having beard)
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2014
  7. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Hungarian: A határ a csillagos ég. [literally: the starry sky is the limit]
  8. ThomasK Senior Member

    (near) Kortrijk, Belgium
    Belgium, Dutch
    I really wonder what the original meaning is, or the meaning meant here. On the one hand, we in Dutch use it in its English form when meaning: there is always more one can reach (said when someone tells about his/ her performances), but not in the sense that you can whatever you want if you work hard, i.e., the American dream... As far as I can see we don't translate it in Dutch.

    There is also 'Waar een wil is, is een weg' [Where there's a will, there's a way (to get there)], but that is different.
  9. DreamerX Member

    The more I’m reading these responses, the more I’m thinking that I provided an incorrect explanation of the idiom, “the sky is the limit.” I agree that it has nothing to do with individual initiative or reward; I’m not even sure why I included that in my post. Re: the link with perseverance, it is mostly situational. Primarily, people use it in the sense outlined by some of the responses on this thread, i.e., that there is always room for improvement in one’s performance. My reading into this is that a certain degree of perseverance is definitely implied here, since the sky is something one would have to reach for, but the notion of being rewarded for these efforts is not present. Originally, this expression has nothing to do with success, although some people may be tempted to use it in this sense.

    P.S. I found it interesting that the English expression is so well known across the globe, and also that some languages retain the original English form of this expression, whereas others translate it.
  10. learnerr Senior Member

    If you mean also my post, then it was situational, I only encountered it once in my life. Individual performance was not meant, nor any effort, what was meant was a certain kind of thing to develop, I don't already remember what. Generally, there is no English talking in Russian.
  11. arielipi Senior Member

    השמים הם הגבול hashamayim hem hagvul - the sky is the limit

    theres at least one more that i cant recall right now
  12. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    Praha (Prague)
    magyar (Hungarian)
    Italian: Non ci sono limit. L'unico limite è il cielo.

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