What would be the Russian equivalent of "When All You Have Is A Hammer, Everything Looks Like A Nail", or an idiom of a similar sentiment?

Edit: This idiom means that if you only have one tool, you will use it for everything, even if it is not the right tool for the job.

  • Hi and welcome to Russian.SE! Could you please add an explanation of this idiom to the post? Thank you!
    – Quassnoi
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 12:46
  • 1
    Кто о чём, а вшивый о бане (people talk about different things, a person who is plagued by lice always talks about a bath)
    – Elena
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:52
  • 3
    Чтобы он ни собирал, получался автомат Калашникова (he tried to assemble different designs, but the result was always a Kalashnikov assault rifle)
    – Elena
    Commented Aug 23, 2022 at 20:56

3 Answers 3


I think you can use a literal translation, e.g. (from https://ru.citaty.net/tsitaty/655283-abrakham-maslou-avraam-maslov-ia-predpolagaiu-chto-esli-edinstvennyi-instrument-k/):

  • Когда у тебя в руках молоток, все задачи кажутся гвоздями.
  • Для человека с молотком все выглядит как гвоздь.
  • etc.

The meaning is pretty understandable, and such phrases are actually used (in different forms), e.g. example 1, example 2 (these are the result of some random googling). I actually remember seeing this phrase "in the wild" in some Russian texts before.

Moreover, the English phrase is attributed to either Abraham Maslow or Mark Twain, so it's not exactly an idiom. For a quote by some famous person, it is absolutely ok to use a literal translation.


A somewhat similar (albeit not entirely accurate in meaning) expression, "Стрелять по воробьям из пушки" (shooting sparrows with a cannon), means using unreasonably large resources to solve a small task.

  • 1
    I do not think that this saying conveys similar idea.
    – greatvovan
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 18:57
  • Perhaps you're right... I pointed it out in my answer. Commented Oct 4, 2022 at 23:05

Basically, what the English idiom says is that when you're viewing the world from a particular angle, you're inclined to see certain things, Which reminds me of a similar Russian saying, albeit not quite the same as the English one:

  • Куда шея, туда и голова.

('Where the neck goes, the head follows.')

  • I agree that this variant is good, though it is not as evil as the English one.
    – greatvovan
    Commented Sep 18, 2022 at 18:59

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