Idiom 126 – to hold a candle

We’re back! After a long, looooong break, it’s time to return to idiom blogging! Here we go:


Two co-workers, Andy and Bill, are talking about the newest member of their sales team, Caryn. She’s in her first week, doing  well, and both Andy and Bill are impressed.

„Hey Bill! How many cold calls did you make in your first week with us? 150, 200?“

„It was 184, and I only closed on 9 sales the whole week. How about you, Andy?“

„For me it was something like 130 calls, and I closed on something like 11 or 12 new customers.“

„How does Caryn do it? It’s Wednesday and she’s already made at least 25 new sales!“

„I dunno, but we can’t hold a candle to her! I hope our manager doesn’t notice…“

Caryn is  a much better saleswoman than Andy. Maybe it’s beginner’s luck or maybe she’s just good with her customers. Either way, she’s much better than either Bill or Andy, who can’t hold a candle to  (ihr das Wasser reichen) Caryn and her sales skills.

The phrase „can’t hold a candle to“ somebody comes from a time when apprentices (Lehrlinge) were expected only to provide light to the older, more experienced tradesmen (Handwerker). If an apprentice was so bad at their job that they couldn’t even hold a candle, then they were useless. We use this phrase to describe how much better someone else is at a skill or a job than we are.