The phrase you can’t have your cake and eat it too means that there are two options that someone wants, but they can’t have both because the 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 the weekends at work or with your friends?” In other words, his brother was telling him “you can’t have it both ways.”
Synonyms: you can’t have the best of both worlds, you can’t have it both ways
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. Sometimes people get confused when they hear this and so they ask: “Wait, why can’t I do both?” The answer is because if you have a cake and then you eat it, then you wouldn’t have it anymore.
This phrase might be easier to understand if the wording was changed slightly so that it reads: “You can’t eat your cake and also have it.”
This proverb highlights how there are sometimes 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. It appears, for example, 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?”
Examples – ‘You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It Too’
Here is an example of the saying “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” used in a sentence:
- Mike wanted to be more active, so he considered buying a rowing machine. He wanted one that was high quality and also cheap as dirt. But his friend advised:
“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 higher quality, then you’ll also have to pay good money for it.
Did You Know?
There are several phrases in use today that use the word “cake.” For example:
1. A piece of cake
This means something is easy to do.
2. To take the cake
To be a stand out example (e.g., I’ve slept on many beds, but this one takes the cake.)
3. A cakewalk
Another expression meaning something is simple.
4. Selling like hot cakes
Something that’s selling really fast.
5. To have one’s cake and eat it too
You just read about this one!