2020. The year that many of us will remember as the year of the pandemic. Funnily enough, there’s been an expression in English for a long time, which is “hindsight is 2020.”
In this blog post, we’ll look at the meaning of “hindsight is 2020” and how to use it. We’ll also look at other expressions which mean similar things.
Hindsight is 2020
“Hindsight is 2020” means realizing the mistake you made based on your current situation.
I can’t believe I quit my job before I got another one. Now I’m unemployed, I can’t find a new job, and running out of money! Hindsight is 2020, I guess.
This person quit their job, and now they regret their decision. But, when they quit their job, they thought it was a good idea. They only realize now while looking back that it was a bad decision.
So, hindsight is 2020 means realizing the mistake you made based on the current situation.
The numbers 2020 refer to vision, not the year 2020! If you have 20/20 vision, then you’ve got no problems with your eyesight.
Although the expression hindsight is 2020 has nothing to do with the year, it will be commonly used and could help you remember it.
“Hindsight is 2020” can be used to express regret about anybody’s decision. It doesn’t have to be personal.
The government should have been stricter on lockdown rules to prevent the spread of the virus. Well, hindsight is 2020.
As you can see in the example above, it’s usually used in its own sentence.
You could put “well” at the front or “I guess” at the end. But those three words, hindsight is 2020 carry all the meaning you need. You don’t need to make it more complicated.
I could kick myself
A slightly more violent expression is used in informal situations. It’s used when you regret a decision you have made. It’s usually used to express anger or disappointment. For example:
I can’t believe I forgot your birthday! I could kick myself.
Here, the speaker is disappointed that they forgot their friend’s birthday. Basically, they are saying, “I can’t believe I forgot your birthday! I’m really regretting that I forgot about it.”
I knew I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t buy it. I had to have it!
In this example, the speaker is using the expression in a hypothetical sense. This is a common use. It’s used to justify a decision made based on the regret you would feel if you didn’t do it. So this means, “I would regret it if I didn’t buy it. That’s what I had to have it!”
“I could kick myself” could be used for things that happened in the past that you regret. It could also be used to describe how you might feel in a hypothetical situation.
No use crying over spilled milk
Unlike I could kick myself, this expression is only used to talk about events that have already happened. It’s used to mean “you can’t do anything now, so no point worrying.”
You can see how something negative has happened, but the second speaker has used no use crying over spilled milk to express that it’s not worth worrying about.
So in these dialogues, “No use crying over spilled milk” means “There’s nothing we can do about it, so stop worrying.” It’s a nice expression to use!
In this post, you learned three idioms that are about regret.
- Hindsight is 2020
- I could kick myself
- No use crying over spilled milk
Next time you’re speaking with an English-speaking friend, see if you can fit one of these expressions into your conversation.
Remember to practice them first and memorize the word order.
They’re fixed expressions: that means you can’t say “lots of use wailing over spilled milk” It just won’t make any sense!