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    #1

    Question to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    I need some help. Please! I am a teacher of English in Australia and am having some difficulty with this idiom.

    I understand the meaning of 'to cry over spilt milk' and I appreciate the different spellings (pronunciation too) of the past tense of 'spill'. What I am interested to know is: When is it appropriate to use it? Can it be applied to a house burnt (also 'burned') down by a bushfire? I don't think so. Can it be applied to a car accident? Perhaps, if no-one was injured. If so, who can say it. The person whose car was wrecked? The person who caused the accident? Can it only be applied to trivial mistakes and not serious ones.
    I usually don't go into such detail when teaching idioms to my students. However, this particular idiom confounds me a bit. As we all know, idioms rely on that 'right moment' before they can be used. Also, there is that sense of what's done is done, let's move forward. Do you agree?
    I think it is much too flippant to tell my students that it means 'to stop complaining about a past loss'. They will want to know what kinds of loss.
    Any suggestions



  1. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    Mostly it used for trivial incidents. It would be insulting for more important things. It contains the idea that one should not dwell on it and should move forward. We use "spilled" in AmE.

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    #3

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    I agree that it includes the sense of 'moving foward' positively instead of 'looking back' regretfully.

  2. MikeNewYork's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    The entire expression is usually "Don't cry over spilled milk".

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    #5

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    The entire expression is usually "Don't cry over spilled milk".
    And yet we might say, "It's no use crying over spilt milk." or "Stop crying over spilt milk. That was yesterday! Let's move forward."

  3. Power English's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeNewYork View Post
    Mostly it used for trivial incidents. It would be insulting for more important things.
    I completely agree here. The phrase refers to the overreaction (in this case crying) to a small problem which really should not be a big deal (spilled milk).

    I believe spilt was used more in old English and spilled has taken over in more modern times.

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    #7

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    In BrE we use "It's no use crying over spilt milk" quite commonly, to indicate there is no point in regretting something that cannot be changed.

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    #8

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    Originally posted by SueSquared
    Can it only be applied to trivial mistakes and not serious ones


    That's it in a nutshell
    . Usually said here in the UK as a response to an overblown reaction to a minor mishap.
    Last edited by emsr2d2; 22-Mar-2015 at 15:45. Reason: Added quote box

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    #9

    Re: to 'cry over spilt milk' - when can it be used and who can say it?

    With regard to the question in your title (Who can say it?), the answer is "Anyone with a larynx can say it".
    Remember - if you don't use correct capitalisation, punctuation and spacing, anything you write will be incorrect.

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