Open main menu

Wiktionary β




work; worker; skill; profession; trade; craft; labor
desire; longing; appetite; wish
his; her; its; theirs; that; such; it (refers to sth preceding it)
matter; thing; item; work; affair
certainly; must; will; necessarily
early; prior; former; in advance; first
advantage; benefit; profit; sharp
his; her; its; theirs; that; such; it (refers to sth preceding it)
device; tool; utensil
simp. and trad.
Literally: “If a workman wishes to do a good job, he must first sharpen his tools.”


The Analects:

子貢:「工欲善其事必先利其器大夫。」 [Classical Chinese, trad.][▼ expand/hide]
子贡:“工欲善其事必先利其器大夫。” [Classical Chinese, simp.]
From: The Analects of Confucius, circa 475 – 221 BCE, translated based on James Legge's version
Zǐgòng wèn wéi rén. Zǐ yuē: “Gōng yù shàn qí shì, bì xiān lì qí qì. Jū shì bāng yě, shì qí dàfū zhī xián zhě, yǒu qí shì zhī rén zhě.” [Pinyin]
Zi Gong asked about the practice of virtue.
The Master said, “The mechanic, who wishes to do his work well, must first sharpen his tools. When you are living in any state, take service with the most worthy among its great officers, and make friends of the most virtuous among its scholars.”




  1. One must have good tools in order to do a good job.