Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

05:07 October 29, 2022

Have Your Cake and Eat It Too

And now, Words and Their Stories, from VOA Learning English.

On this program, we explore words and expressions in the English language. We give examples, notes on usage, and sometimes we use them in short stories.

Today we talk about a popular dessert -- cake.

Cakes are made by baking a mixture of flour, sugar, eggs, and butter. They come in just about any flavor you can imagine – from chocolate, vanilla, and lemon to unusual flavors like cherry, coconut, and pumpkin. And do not forget about the icing. This sweet topping also comes in just about any flavor imaginable.

We often eat cakes to celebrate birthdays, weddings, and other important events. All this talk about cake has brought my attention to a common expression: to have your cake and eat it too.

This expression, or idiom, can be used to describe a couple different situations.

One is where two good things happen at the same time. For example, a friend of mine loves to read so she got a job at a library. Now, she reads all day long and gets paid! Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

We also use the idiom to describe a situation in which two good things happen at the same time, but they don't usually exist together in the same situation.

Here’s an example: My friend just had a baby. She has a good job that pays well. And now she spends more time with her new baby by working from home. We can say that she is having her cake and eating it too!

In both of these examples, we could also use this expression: to have the best of both worlds.

Now, here is another form of our cake idiom. We also commonly use it in the negative form: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

In the negative, it means you cannot have or do two things at the same time that are impossible to have or do at the same time. You must decide which one you want because you can't have both. In other words, you cannot have two conflicting things.

For example, let’s say your friend is complaining about the amount of taxes he pays. But at the same time, he complains about the lack of services the city provides. You could say to him, “Look, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Better services cost money.”

You could also say, you can't have the best of both worlds. Another similar expression is: you can't have it both ways.

You can’t have your cake and eat it too also means we should not try to have more than is reasonable. In other words, you can't possess the cake and eat it at the same time. Once the cake is eaten, it is gone.

And that’s the end of this Words and Their Stories.

If you want to get caught up on world events and practice your English, you can come to VOA Learning English. Here, you have the best of both worlds. You can have your cake and eat it too!

Until next time. I’m Anna Matteo.

Anna Matteo wrote this story for VOA Learning English.


dessert – n. a usually sweet course or dish (as of pastry or ice cream) usually served at the end of a meal

bake – v. to cook by dry heat especially in an oven

flavor – n. the quality of something that affects the sense of taste

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