When someone says ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too,’ it means there are two desirable options that a person wants, but it’s impossible for them to have both because these options conflict with each other, so they can only pick one.
Example: Josh was offered a promotion at his job, but if he accepts it, he would have to work on the weekends. However, he liked spending the weekends with his friends. So what would he do?
Josh wants the best of both worlds in this scenario; he wants to take the offer so he can earn more money, but he also wants the time he spends with his friends to remain unchanged. So his brother told him:
“Josh, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You have to make a choice: Do you want to spend your weekends at work or with your friends?” In other words, his brother was telling him “you can’t have it both ways; you have to choose one way or the other.”
The Origin Of ‘You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too‘
According to this proverb, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. When people hear this, they sometimes get confused and ask: “Wait, why can’t I do both?” The answer is because if you have a cake and then you eat it, then you would no longer have it anymore.
This phrase might be easier to understand if the wording was changed slightly so that it read as: “You can’t eat your cake and also have it.”
This proverb highlights how sometimes there might be two desirable things that someone wants, but they can’t have both of those things because they contradict each other (like in the example above). It’s similar to other sayings, such as “you can’t have the best of both worlds” or “you can’t have it both ways.”
Anyways, this proverb is at least over 470 years old. For example, it appears in a book by John Heywood called A dialogue conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the english tongue, 1546:
“Wolde ye bothe eate your cake, and haue your cake?”
Example Sentences: ‘You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too’
Here is another example of the saying ‘you can’t have your cake and eat it too’ used in a sentence.
- Mike sat too much at work, so he decided to buy a rowing machine so that he could be more active. He wanted a high quality machine that was also cheap as dirt, but where would he find such a deal?
His friend said: “You want to have your cake and eat it too, but you can’t do that with rowing machines. If you want one that’s high quality, then it’ll cost you a pretty penny.”
Did You Know?
There are several phrases that use the word “cake.” Let’s look at 5 examples:
1. A piece of cake
This means to do something that is easy.
2. To take the cake
To be a stand out example (e.g., I’ve slept on many beds, but this new one takes the cake.)
3. A cakewalk
Another expression that means something is simple to do.
4. To have one’s cake and eat it too
Hey, you just read about this one! It’s meaning is up at the top!
5. Selling like hot cakes
Something that’s selling really fast.