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glass half-full or half-empty funny quotes

original funny clever views of life, seen through the famous 'is the glass half-full or half-empty?' looking-glass, so to speak..

The expression "Is the glass half-full or half-empty?.." has for many years highlighted the tendency for two people to see the same situation in different ways.

The standard 'glass half-full or half-empty' saying is commonly used to emphasize the difference between positive and negative thinking, or optimism or pessimism - or a cynic might say, the difference between irresponsible hopefulness and practical realism.

The expression is so well-known that people and personality types are often referred to as 'glass half-full', or 'glass half-empty'.

There are however now lots more examples of different human viewpoints and attitudes, reflected cleverly and amusingly in the long list of adapted versions (below) of the traditional glass half-full or half-empty metaphor.

This wonderful collection of original 'glass half-full/empty' quotes began much smaller some years ago on the main funny quotes webpage.

Many clever and amusing contributions later, the collection expanded to be so big and brilliant that it now deserves a page all of its own.

I am grateful to all those who have sent me their fabulous funny and insightful interpretations and variations of the timeless 'Is the glass half-full or half-empty?' question.

All of life is here, and more besides, and still growing, which is incredible given the simplicity of the original 'Optimist/Pessimist' glass half-full/empty perspective.

Read and enjoy these excellent quotes and sayings, and please contribute your own interpretation, if you are so inspired. There are probably a few stones left unturned, and many more facets of the human condition to illuminate, in this entertaining and enlightening procession of personalities, attitudes, hang-ups, foibles, and philosophies.

If you see spelling/grammar 'errors' please see spelling/grammar notes below.


is the glass half full or half empty?..

(Most recent last)

This collection continues to grow. If you can extend the debate as to whether the glass is half-full, half-empty, in some other state, or in a different space/time continuum altogether, please send me your contribution. The world needs to know.

Recent additions and names of all contributors appear last. So this collection shows the oldest first and the newest last.

The optimist says the glass is half full.

The pessimist says the glass is half empty.

The project manager says the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.

The realist says the glass contains half the required amount of liquid for it to overflow.

And the cynic... wonders who drank the other half.

The school teacher says it's not about whether the glass is half empty or half full, it's whether there is something in the glass at all.

Anyway... Attitude is not about whether the glass is half full or half empty, it's about who is paying for the next round.

The professional trainer does not care if the glass is half full or half empty, he just knows that starting the discussion will give him ten minutes to figure out why his powerpoint presentation is not working.

The ground-down mother of a persistently demanding five-year-old says sweetheart it's whatever you want it to be, just please let mummy have five minutes peace and quiet.

The consultant says let's examine the question, prepare a strategy for an answer, and all for a daily rate of...

The inquisitive troublemaker wants to know what's in the glass anyhow... and wants the rest of it.

The homebuilder sees the dirty glass, washes and dries it, then puts it away in a custom oak and etched glass cabinet that he built himself using only hand tools.

The worrier frets that the remaining half will evaporate by next morning.

The fanatic thinks the glass is completely full, even though it isn't.

The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its potential.

The computer specialist says that next year the glass capacity will double, be half the price, but cost you 50% more for me to give you the answer.

The first engineer says the glass is over-designed for the quantity of water.

The second engineer says (when the half is tainted) he's glad he put the other half in a redundant glass. (Based on a Dilbert cartoon by Scott Adams)

The computer programmer says the glass is full-empty.

The Buddhist says don't worry, remember the glass is already broken.

The logician says that where the glass is in process of being filled then it is half full; where it is in the process of being emptied then it is half empty; and where its status in terms of being filled or emptied is unknown then the glass is one in which a boundary between liquid and gas lies exactly midway between the inside bottom and the upper rim, assuming that the glass has parallel sides and rests on a level surface, and where it does not then the liquid/gas boundary lies exactly midway between the upper and lower equal halves of the available total volume of said glass.

The scientist says a guess based on a visual cue is inaccurate, so mark the glass at the bottom of the meniscus of the content, pour the content into a bigger glass; fill the empty glass with fresh content up to the mark; add the original content back in; if the combined content overflows the lip, the glass was more than half full; if it doesn't reach the top, the glass was more than half empty; if it neither overflows nor fails to reach the top then it was either half-full or half-empty. Now what was the question again?

The Dutchman would suggest to both pay for the glass and share the content. Then tells you he will have the bottom half.

The personal coach knows that the glass goes from full to empty depending on the circumstances, and reminds the drinker that he can always fill the glass when he wishes.

The grammarian says that while the terms half-full and half-empty are colloquially acceptable the glass can technically be neither since both full and empty are absolute states and therefore are incapable of being halved or modified in any way.

The auditor first checks whether the empty half is material and then designs the audit procedures to obtain sufficient evidence to conclude that the glass is indeed empty.

The waiter will hurry to replace the glass with a full one. For him there are no doubts: the glass was empty when he took it away; it is full in the bill that he brings you.

The magician will show you the glass with the full half at the top.

The physicist says that the glass is not empty at all - it is half-filled with water and half-filled with air - hence, fully filled on the whole!

The musician says he/she is unimpressed with the promoter of the concert for not providing more alcohol.

The ineffective organization would discuss the question during the board of directors meeting, convene a committee to research the problem, and assign tasks for a root cause analysis, usually without a complete explanation of the problem to those assigned the tasks. The directors would consider the problem to be above the pay grade of those assigned root cause analysis tasks.

And more strangely:

The dog just wonders: can he eat the glass or will you throw it so he can bring it back... The cat wonders why the glass is only half full (or empty)... is it a trick... poison perhaps...

The eternally optimistic eccentric would say, the glass is consistently overflowing (or is that the neurotic?...)

The person who is no longer trapped in The Matrix (whatever one might call him/her) says: "There is no glass..."

More generationally:

The adolescent student says the glass is just another dirty trick played by the teacher to prove that students are dumb.

More scientifically:

The research scientist says that following initial observation and testing a working hypothesis for further research is: "The glass is both half full and half empty," and that these findings warrant further investigation with a more representative sample of glasses and contents, which may or may not be liquid.

The algebraic simultaneous equation theorist says that if the glass is equally half full and half empty, then half full = half empty; therefore ½ x F = ½ x E; therefore (by multiplying both sides of the equation by 2) we show that F = E; i.e. Full equals Empty!

The efficiency analyst says the glass is operating substantially below optimization level, being consistently exactly 50% under-utilized during the period of assessment, corresponding to an over-resourcing in meeting demand equating to precisely 200% of requisite capacity in volume terms, not accounting for seasonal trends and shrinkage, and that if the situation continues there is in theory opportunity for savings or expansion.

The 'perfect' 1950s housewife would not leave the glass sitting there long enough for anyone to consider the question, but would scoop it up, wash it up, dry it to a gleaming shine and put it back in the glass cabinet in a jiffy. No half-full or half-empty in her world... just a full glass or an untidy one.

The obsessive compulsive postpones the question until the level is checked, and checked again, and again, and again...

The phobic says yuck, someone drank out of it and left his germs on the glass.

The psychiatrist would ask you, "Is the half-empty/half-full glass really that important? I mean... really? Think about it. If fact, let's not. Let's set that particular issue aside for a few moments and talk about what's really bothering you.."

The sales person will convince you that even though the glass is half full/empty you are getting more than your money's worth compared to buying a full glass. The full glass is less expensive because of the economies of producing a common standard version in big quantities, whereas the more expensive half full/empty glass represents much better value because it is more exclusive and better quality, and very hard to come by and greatly sought after.

The customer service agent will agree with you that the glass is half full/empty, and he will do anything in his power to fill the glass up at no extra cost. However, after a full investigation you will be informed that you mistakenly received a half full/empty glass since you only paid for a quarter. You therefore received a half full/empty glass at the price of a quarter-full/three-quarters empty glass. You should consider yourself very lucky, and that any further complaints might result in your having to return the half full/empty glass at your own cost, with no guarantee of any refund.

The co-dependent hurries to fill your glass, but not so completely that you would spill it and get upset. Because when you get upset...

The (suggestions welcome for this one) says that's not my glass, mine was bigger.

The radical thankful child of Jesus says, "THE CUP RUNNETH OVER.."

The Taoist sees that the glass is both half empty and half full, that neither half could exist without the other, requiring a point of balance in order to maintain equilibrium in the universe, and therefore, are merely two mirror images of the same realistic concept, so in the purity of absolute truth the glass is neither half full or half empty, the glass simply IS...

The optimist says: "The glass is half-full." The pessimist says: "The glass is half-empty". And while they are arguing, the pragmatist takes the glass and drinks it.

The boss expects the half-empty glass to be filled in half the time it took to fill half the glass, at half the going rate.

The drill sergeant says make the glass do push-ups until it sweats itself full!!!

Schrödinger's cat doesn't want anyone to observe the glass to begin with. ('Schrödinger's cat' refers to Austrian physicist Erwin Schrödinger's 1935 paradoxical illustration of an aspect of quantum mechanics theory, basically in which a cat, representing something that can exist in different states, continues to exist in two possible states - i.e., alive or dead - until one of its possible states is measured, which in the case of the cat results in its extinction. I think. I am open to better concise interpretations of the Schrödinger's cat theory..)

The police officer says: "I'll ask the questions."

The (other) pessimist says the glass is half full of shit.

The opportunist says, "Thanks, folks! While you were debating it, I drank it."

The Geordie says, "Did you spill my pint?" (Geordie generally refers to people of the Tyneside conurbation of NE England, centred around Newcastle, known for being very straight talkers. The attribution is however transferable very widely, so adapt it accordingly.)

The marketing professional convinces the buyer that what's left is more valuable than the first half.

The banker says: "I see an opportunity! Let's put a couple of options on the full half and leverage it until it's too big to fail, then sell a tons of it... Heck! While we are at it, let's do the same to the empty half and sell that too!"

Eeyore says (to Winnie-the-Pooh), "Well, at least you have a glass.."

The actor says, "Whatever the director wants it to be - or not to be..."

The politician says that under the last government the glass was half-empty, and becoming emptier, but thanks to his own party's new leadership, the glass is definitely now half-full, and becoming fuller; but if the other party were to return to power, the glass would once again undoubtedly empty rapidly.

The economist says let market forces decide.

The call-centre operator asks if you'd mind holding while she finds out for you. (Your call is important to them...)

The IT support person asks if you've tried emptying the glass and then refilling it.

The insomniac will be up all night wrestling with the question.

The existentialist wonders what is the point of the question.

The nihilist breaks the glass.

The Keynesian argues that the glass is half-empty, and that government needs to intervene to fill it up.

The monetarist, on the other hand, believes that the glass will naturally tend to being full, and that to interfere with it would result in an inefficient use of the contents, with some quite possibly being spilled and wasted.

A certain US president did not, repeat not, have half-full or half-empty relations with that glass, and regardless of whether the glass is half-full or half-empty, another US president takes the opportunity to declare 'Mission Accomplished'.

Certain whaling nations say they will drink from the glass for scientific research purposes only.

The Yorkshireman stares at his half-empty/half-full half-pint glass (bought with loose copper pennies and tuppences from the milk bottle on the kitchen windowsill) then looks you in the eye and says, "It's your round, mine's a pint..." (The attribution is transferable widely, so adapt it accordingly.)

The glass half-full person is optimistic the barman is still serving.

The Welfare Benefits Adviser says, "You're underclaiming. You're entitled to more than that. I can help you fill in a form to claim the rest of your entitlement."

The pyromaniac would set the glass on fire.

Google would try to find out for you in under 0.48 seconds.

The gambler would put all his money on either one.

The car salesman would try and sell you both the half-full and the half-empty glass models, while convincing you that you need all the latest glass handling gadgets.

The philosophy student would say, "What glass?" (see the famous philosophy student and chair story)

The Gestalt psychologist says that the glass is entirely full, of the visible and invisible.

The glass would say, "I'm not 'a glass', I'm a perfectly formed drinking receptacle which happens to be 'made of glass', and if I had a penny for every time someone asked that question I would be overflowing."

The activist stages a protest either way.

The Aristotlian contemplater says "If I thirst for the logos of this glass, then it is half-full; if I do not then it is half-empty." (Aristotle's concept of 'logos' represents the persuasive strength/relevance of the content of a communication - see Aristotle's Three Modes of Persuasion)

Thanks to the following contributors: P Deer (realist and cynic lines), C Trafford (school teacher line), J Benad ('next round', and Eeyore), R Wishin (professional trainer), MH (ground-down mother), R Langley (consultant), Lance and Lee (troublemaker and homebuilder), C Bacon (worrier), D Spira (fanatic and entrepreneur), J Cooper (computer specialist), D Dutcher (first engineer), C Marriott (second engineer), M Lemma (computer programmer), A Curwen (Buddhist), J Crawshaw (logician), J Crothers (scientist), H Bas ten Brinke (Dutchman), R Stalenberg (personal coach), James (grammarian), Z Mammadov (auditor), GGC (waiter), R Huff (magician), H Arora (physicist), Rosalie (musician), D Thompson (ineffective organization), S Keenaghan (dog and cat), L Moon (eternally optimistic eccentric), W Snethlage (no longer trapped in The Matrix), P Keogh (research scientist), Sumit M (adolescent student), S Ainscough (algebraic simultaneous equation theorist), S Billbess (efficiency analyst), S Clayden (1950s housewife), T Reed (obsessive compulsive), S Buis (phobic), A Johnson (psychiatrist), H Terblanché (sales person and customer service agent), G Roberts (co-dependent), M Brooks (suggestions welcome for this one), George (radical thankful child of Jesus), D Ward (Taoist), M Berkal (pragmatist), (Schrödinger's cat), T Boughen (boss), N Garcia (drill sergeant), A McKelvey (Schrödinger's cat), A Clarke (police officer), T Robison (other pessimist), B Latanville (opportunist), N Cowley (Geordie), P Ballaro (marketing professional), C Lim (banker), J Benad (Eeyore), R Aravind (actor), M Stone (politician, economist, call-centre operator, IT support person, insomniac, existentialist, nihilist), Keynesian, monetarist, US presidents, whaling nations), A Kiddell (Yorkshireman), J Dyksra (glass half-full person), L Willars (Welfare Benefits Adviser), D Avé (pyromaniac, google, gambler, and car salesman), R Bubb (philosophy student), Kappa Dasao (Gestalt psychologist), A Kiddell (glass) L Rauch (activist), Princess Leah (Aristotlian contemplater). Your collective creative genius is greatly appreciated. I welcome further additions. Please send them.


using 'the glass half-full/half-empty' for learning, teaching and training

This article and the quotes and ideas within it can be useful in learning and teaching.

The 'glass half-full/empty' quotes, especially the many interpretations below, offer insights and ideas as to the way that we see the world and life in different ways.

Whether the glass is half-full or half-empty is not just about optimism and pessimism - it's about how different people relate to the world and to each other - in different jobs, roles, and situations - in different ways.

Perhaps even more interestingly 'the glass half-full/empty' quotes illustrate how different people see the same situation in different ways.

This point - that different people see one situation in different ways - is central to what we seek to learn and teach, in life and work, notably affecting for example:

  • relationships
  • mutual undershanding
  • teams
  • cooperation
  • partnerships
  • motivation
  • conflict
  • empathy
  • selling
  • negotiating
  • leadership
  • and more.


Here are some useful reference materials to support, underpin or extend ways of using the glass half-full/empty quotes in learning, presentations, exercises, etc:

Johari Window model

Personality theories

Leadership theories

McGregor's XY-Theory

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Stories for learning and teaching

The shoes story also provides a simple, quick and amusing illustration of how people can see the same thing in different ways.

And if you like the idea of extending a theme, and the glass half-full/empty collection offers no gaps for you to fill, see the much newer early bird gets the worm theme on the main quotes page.


Spelling and grammar notes:

Spellings of certain words can vary in UK-English and US-English, for example colour/color, organise/organize. If you produce any learning materials using these materials please alter spellings accordingly for your own purposes/audience.

The use of the words 'they' and 'their' when referring to a single person of unknown gender (instead of he or she) can be confusing to people for whom English is not a main language, because 'they' is considered plural. Accordingly the words 'he' or 'she' are used in the quotes on this page rather than 'they' when referring to a single person of unspecified gender. The use of 'he/she' would spoil the rhythm of the writing. Whatever, the choice of 'he' or 'she' is not to be regarded as significant or discriminatory in any way.

All that said, if you see genuine errors here or anywhere else on this website please use the contact page to tell me, thanks.



see also


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Please see additional referencing/usage terms below.