So I am curious if there is something similar to the proverb that sounds like: You can lead a horse to the water but you can't make it drink.

4 Answers 4


Насильно мил не будешь (you cannot force people to like you).

  • Сердцу не прикажешь

not proverb, just figure of speech:

  • Не всего можно добиться силой
  • Не всё от тебя зависит

or direct translate:

  • Можно привести коня на водопой, но нельзя заставить его пить

The following calque is sometimes used:

Можно подвести ишака к воде, но пить его не заставит даже сам шайтан.

which means

You can lead an ass to water but the devil himself can't make it drink.

In this proverb, the Turkic loanword ишак and Arabic loanword шайтан are used for "ass" and "devil", respectively. Those words are associated with East and Muslim culture. This makes the proverb to sound like a piece of Eastern wisdom.

  • Sounds like a bad joke too me Dec 30, 2012 at 16:46
  • @v'-5o-1's73-: did you mean "to me"?
    – Quassnoi
    Dec 30, 2012 at 20:20
  • I did, stupid phone keyboard Dec 30, 2012 at 21:00

Not really a direct translation, but I've always thought (perhaps incorrectly) that the expression "okhota pushche nevoli" conveys a similar notion...

  • I cant see much similarities. Please elaborate. Dec 30, 2012 at 16:45
  • I think both expressions convey the idea that desire ("okhota") is necessary for accomplishment ("making it drink").
    – DET
    Dec 30, 2012 at 16:58
  • 1
    Охота пуще неволи means another thing, for sure. The proverb which is being discussed means that it's impossible to force an unwilling person. Охота пуще неволи means the opposite thing. Like "if there is a will, there is a way", if you want smth eagerly, you will try hard to get it
    – user1330
    Jan 7, 2013 at 13:30

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