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
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
This wonderful collection of original 'glass half-full/empty' quotes
began much smaller some years ago on the main funny quotes
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
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.
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
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
The fanatic thinks the glass is completely full, even though it
The entrepreneur sees the glass as undervalued by half its
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
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
The computer programmer says the glass is full-empty.
The Buddhist says don't worry, remember the glass is already
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
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
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
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..."
The adolescent student says the glass is just another dirty trick
played by the teacher to prove that students are dumb.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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
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
The actor says, "Whatever the director wants it to be - or not to
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
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
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
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
The glass half-full person is optimistic the barman is still
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). Your collective creative genius is greatly
appreciated. I welcome further additions. Please send
using 'the glass half-full/half-empty' for learning, teaching and
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
Perhaps even more interestingly 'the glass half-full/empty' quotes
illustrate how different people see the same situation in different
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:
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:
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
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
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