Nice Guys Finish Last


Jing Li from New Zealand had the following questions:
“In (the TV show) Prison Break in the first season, Michael and Sara had a conversation:

Michael: I thought you were a nice girl.
Sara: Oh Michael, we all know nice girls finish last.

I checked dictionaries and the Internet, and I could not figure out what the “finish last” means. Could you please explain the phrase’s meaning for me?”

The speaker, Sara, is referring to the popular saying:  “Nice guys finish last.”  She substituted “girls” for “guys.”  “Nice guys finish last” means that boys/men who are too timid (shy; without courage) will not get what they want.  They have to be a bit aggressive (using attack or confrontation) and courageous (brave) to beat their competitors.  The same is true for “nice girls.”

This saying is often used to talk about romantic relationships, where often the men who are aggressive get the girls.  This doesn’t mean they have to be “bad boys,” however, to attract girls.  Bad boys are those who aren’t nice and polite, and who may not be honest, trustworthy, or treat girls/women very well.  The stereotype (too simplistic image or idea) of a bad boy is someone who rides a motorcycle, has a lot of tattoos (permanent ink images on their skin), doesn’t respect authority, and gets into trouble with the law (police).  He’s the guy you don’t bring home to meet your mother.

Finishing last, of course, means being in last place in a competition and losing the race.  We use this for actual races, for example, where the winner finishes first and others finish second, third…and last; we do the same to describe the game of life.

Note that we say “bad boys” and not “bad guys” to refer to boys/men who are not considered good or polite.  “Bad guys” mean something else; it’s another term for villains, who are the people in a story who do bad things and often fight the “good guys,” or the heroes.  While bad boys can also be bad guys, these two terms don’t mean the same thing.

When people use the phrase “nice guys finish last,” they are not really speaking about men/people who are nice.  Guys who are nice–kind, polite, considerate (thinking of others)–will always finish first in my book (in my opinion).  They mean men/people who don’t go after (pursue) what they want–who don’t get up the courage to ask a girl/woman for a date, who allow others to take credit for (have ownership of) their work, who are afraid to speak up for their own views and ideas.  These are the guys who will finish last.

Thanks for the question, Jing Li, and I hope this was helpful.

~ Lucy

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38 Responses to Nice Guys Finish Last

  1. Vlad says:

    Dear Lucy,

    The word timid (shy) is used for someone who doesn’t have courage to expose themselves for others, or we can use in general sense, like, for instance, not have courage do hurt physically themselves? Please, could you help me on this?

    Thank you


  2. emiliano says:

    Yes Lucy, it has been very hepful, but how different languages are yours and mine.
    It´s really very interesting lesson this one, because if you don´t explain it so clear for me should be impossible to underastand the meaning of shuch expression if I read or hear the phrase “nice guys finish last” or the similar “nice girls”…in a book or whichever situation.

    Here to a boy or girl who is so, we use “to be short” (el o ella es muy corto, o está muy cortado/a….to be shy)…that in English I suppose hasn´t
    the same meaning.

    But now just a question?

    Are there more nice boys who finish last or nice girls?.
    By my opinion I think there are more boys, but what do you or our bloggers think?

    Thank you again Lucy, what I know clearly is that you are a nice excelent teacher, and a nice excelent girl for sure.

  3. peter says:

    Such a coincidence,

    I used it on the last posting now you are explaining it . Lucy ,the discription totally fits the bill . The thing is ,it was originally used by girls as you said ,but once, one of the major leage basebal manger used the word boys as a substitute for the word girls to refer to his good playerers in his team . my friend Jing Li probably has heard the variation of the original expression that refers to players in a baseball game . The problem is I cannot remember the name of the manager . Jeff probably knows. You use guys when a guy is hit on by a girl. Last night I was in the receiving end,but as always,it didnot go anywhere.

  4. peter says:


    I found him. I remebered just the first name . I googled it . the name of the manager who first used the adage is:Leo Durocher


  5. peter says:

    But Lucy,

    Nice guys remain always a girl’s friend, don’t they?

  6. emiliano says:

    Dear Vlad, I think the first is right, in my opinion, to be shy or timid is just what you said.
    But it has nothing to do with being a coward about other things like having enough courage
    to be physically hurt by doing dangerous work, sport or other activities.
    Even to take heavy risks as being married, or having children that is a serious matter.
    No, I don´t think shy or timid people have to be coward doing the usual or risky things of life.

    I don´t think I am shy or timid, but I am a coward to go to see the dentist, for example.

    But we have our teachers, Jeff/Lucy, to confirm or not my assessment.


    I think Sara substituted “guys” for “girls ” and not ” girls” for “guys”

  8. Dr. Lucy Tse says:

    Vlad: Emiliano is right. We use “timid” to mean shy, but not for someone fearing physical pain. If someone doesn’t want to play football because they’re afraid to get hurt, or if they don’t want to try a very spicy hot dish because they worry it will hurt their mouth, we would use the word “wimpy.” You might call this person a “wimp.” This is an insult, of course, and stronger than “timid,” so don’t use it unless really mean to insult someone or if you’re joking among friends.

    Peter: It does come from baseball, but the team manager was referring to the team’s players (men), and “nice guys finish last” is the standard phrase. Other than this question, I don’t think I’ve heard the phrase “nice girls finish last.”

    Are nice guys always just friends? I don’t know. I’ve only given you my own personal preference for nice guys. I’ve known nice guys who are also assertive and who get a lot of attention from women, but what do I know?


    Hi Lucy!

    THe word Timid is referring to a person who is lacking in self-assurance, courage, or bravery, timorous or shy.
    LIke for example : a timid approach to a problem.

  10. peter says:

    Dear Lucy,

    Thanks for the response. The thing is the first time I came across the saying .I remembered that it was qouted from that manager. My source is not reliable , I leaned it out of a so-called English text book. Honestly , It was against my better judgment to put down the source. But, I did it anyway. I always go by you and Jeff. The problem is I have studied lots of English text books,and some times the materials interfere and throw me totally off. I always trust you and your judgment.

    the problem is, I never walk up to girls to ask them out because the minute I want to do it I starting to feel self-concious.talking with ( thanks Jeff)girls make me totally self-contious, and subsequently hold me back. If you know what I mean.I really apriciate you taking the time /time out of your day to correct me.I never took you guys for granted.

    You humble student peter,
    Lucy , thanks for the concern,

  11. peter says:

    Lucy, if I may
    I guess the best concept for timid is a person who is easily frightened due to lack of confidence, not running into a vampire or so. A Timid person feels threatened by others.

  12. peter says:

    How about wuss

    Lucy dont you think Wimpy is synonomus to pansy

  13. peter says:


    Seems like I m neither a nice guy nor assertive then. I never got attention what so ever.

    Lucy , thanks for dewing a line between bad guys and good guys. But,please consider that a bad guy is another man’s good guy.don’t worry sis coventional wisdom advocates you.

    I just read the last part of the post ,and as always learned a lot

    A bad guy is another man’s good guy means: everybody bears his or her openion.


    What enjoy most about your dialogs are the sentence structuers not the words per se. Taking some raw materials and shaping them into meaningful and educational transcriptions upwards of 600 times. Lucy, you are something ; guys all hats off to Lucy.

  14. peter says:

    500 times
    But it is not the point anyway

  15. Daniele says:

    So, if I got it right I should say: Wimpy guys finish last.

  16. Dr. Lucy Tse says:

    Peter; “Wuss” is a good term to use to describe someone who doesn’t have any courage. It’s a very informal term, even more so than “wimp.” It’s a noun and there is no adjective form. (You cannot say “wussy.”) It can also be used to describe someone who is weak, physically and otherwise. Like “wimp,” it’s an insult.

    I don’t like needles and getting shots at the doctor’s office.
    I can’t move my couch (sofa) and heavy boxes all by myself.
    I don’t like watching movies with a lot of blood and violence.
    I’m a wuss.

  17. elcomandant says:

    About Lucy says, I think that bad boys or guys can attract girls but these are bad girls too. However there are many more girls that they like nice boys. That’s why, I want to say all people who, in theory, finish always last, that don’t worry about it because there are many girls waiting for them. They can be sure. They just have to do a little effort and to pronounce a simple question like this “would you like to go to see this movie or to have a hamburger or to dance with me this song?. They will know when the right moment is and they will be surprised by the results.

    I can remember one day that it had a party in my building. I was very tired, so I went to bed early. The music was so loud that I couldn’t sleep thus I got up and told my wife that I went to the party. I joined with my friends who were there. All of us were more than forty years old. In the dance floor, there were many couples dancing. Among them there was a beautiful twenty-four years old black girl who came from a Caribbean Island (I can’t remember which one it was) where the people speak French. She was dancing with a child whom she had to take care.

    I was in a group of five friends who all of them were saying all kind of crude and vulgar things about this amazing girl. I was hearing them in silence. I wished very much to dance with her. She was so pretty.

    Suddenly it started a new song. It was a Cha cha cha rhythm. She started to dancing again with the same child. She looked like a black angel and she moved like I had never seen. My friends were drooling over and kept saying the same things. I knew a little dancing Cha cha cha. I knew this was the right moment. While I was hearing the silly things my friends was saying, I walked quietly to the dance floor and asked her if she wanted to dance with me. She answered: “enchantée”. She sit down the child on a chair close there and we danced together. That was the best Cha cha cha in my life. My friends only spoke.


  18. magda says:

    Great, Lucy . I Understood all . Very helpful! – Magda – Brazil – SP

  19. Peter says:

    Thanks a million Lucy,

    I have always wanted to know the difference . You are the best.

    My friend Elcomandant.

    Nice going man. you got to dance with the girl,way to go. Believe me my friend , I have been a nice guy ,a bad guy , even a mixture of good and bad guy ,but none of them worked out for me.

  20. peter says:

    Halloween is sneaking up , and all pumpking carvings are in order.luckily, I saved my last year Jack-o-lantern , so I don’t need to do it all over again.Craftmanship,no, defenetly, is not my thing.I brought the whole thing up wondering if Europian countries do the Haloween or it is peculiar to North America.maybe ,my friend Emiliano could answer this very guess is they must have the exact tradition ,or something of thanks giving that is a world wide thing.

    By the way, I heard that Haloween colors are orange and black.Orange is assosoated with harvest season and black reperesent death.I don’t know how authentic is the new.I might be totally off.

    I should get some candies. Guys just picturing Jeff giving out candies to children at his door .it is some how hillarious( my spelling sucks)

  21. elcomandant says:

    Hi Peter.

    I’m not sure that this doesn’t work for you. If you are a bad man you will achieve a bad girl. If that is what you want, good for you. But if you are a nice man you will achieve a nice girl. The question is, asked you ever the simple question?.
    If the answer is “no”, for sure this is the reason.
    If the answer is “yes”, maybe you didn’t find the appropriate person or you asked at wrong person. I’m sure that. You can do it.
    Best wishes.

  22. Peter says:

    Hi guys,

    On this posting we got to talk about girls and how to get them .you know what there are a couple of expressions that are very practicals
    First one is chat up
    Let’s Chat those girls up which means flirting . Very common guys. Don’t think

  23. Peter says:

    There was sth wrong with my antique computer
    Another common-related term is :shack up meaning moving together
    Jack and Janic snacked up last month
    The intense version of hit on somebody is: come on to somebody
    That guy came on to me strong

  24. Peter says:

    The minute I strik it rich, or win a windfall I will dump this computer for a top of the line one.( figure of speach)

    My computer has been acting up since shelled out/forked over/caugh up 400 dollars for it.believe me, It is a crying shame

  25. Peter says:

    Fork over means when ybask for money. U lost the bet. Common pay the piper .fork the 300 bet over: give me the 300
    Fork out or shell out mean spending money recluctantly or unwanted

    They are all a bounch of good commoenly used term in respect to couply kind of relationship

    Hope Jeff and Lucy don’t take umbridge .I know I am a pain in the neck.but it is who I am.Please accept me for who I am

    Peace out,

  26. Peter says:

    Let me tell u guys,
    By adhering to this rich progaram of Jeff & Lucy,we can rest assure that this world-scale EFF/N progarame(English for foriegner and native speakers, just made up) Will arm us with a very effective means of communication in a large scale( world-wide).

    Indeed, this cutting-edge program has granted us the edge.

    But,take it from me , what gives you a worry-free , linguistic comfort is :THE LEARNING Guide
    Indeed , the learning guide is one-of-a-kind tool for learning English. Join today that tomorrow sign-up is too late.
    The learning guide is cheep dirt at the price.

  27. Peter says:

    Gives you A worry-free,linguistic comfort for the years to come

  28. Tania says:

    Hi ! A true and nice story , our dear Elcomandant . It is very difficult to find someone compatible . The same in dancing .
    I feel I fly when I dance with someone compatible with me . It’s something unforgettable and amazing .
    Unfortunately … too rarely .
    But if you are shy you can’t dance with anyone . You think everybody looks at you . Dance means dedication …

    All the best for you all and a good partner at dance ,


  29. elcomandant says:

    Thanks Tania, for your comment.

    It seems you like dancing, too. don’t you?
    I’m sure you can do it without a doubt.


  30. emiliano says:

    Yes Tania, the first time I was dancing with my wife I knew we were most compatible, and it was true as we have been nearly 40 years dancing along
    all kind of difficulties of life.
    I like to dance just a lot, also Cuca, and we have been so many places dancing together over and over again till was possible.

    I remember that when I started to dance rock and roll was with Elvis Presley, Chubby Checker, Ray Charles and all the greats, afterward was Twist, and
    so on…………….but like rock, nothing else.
    Elvis has been one of the best to me, his voice so peculiar and soft.
    The same with The Beatles, you canl´t imagine what this group was on the 60 decade, I was a teenager them. Imagine.

    Never shy to go to dance everywhere, and asking for the girl I like in that moment.
    It was more often the “yes” than the “not” and sometimes, as the comandante said, with the most nice and beautiful.

  31. Peter says:

    I make a move sometimes , but what I get is not what I hoped for, if you know what I mean. Generally speaking, dating girls here in Toronto is like getting a
    Full-time job.Females here are very high maintanenc and demanding. Keeping them around,one must loosen the purse string alot

  32. Baktiar -Iraq says:

    Now i am in the process of gain good command to speak in English and speech ability, both are important for me as Human Rights Advocate, and International Specialist, few years ago i was speaking quietly and haltingly in English, but since i practice daily, my language proficiecy has become much better, i can write and comprehened well, beside when i intended to communicate with someone as a native English speaker i was just trying hardly to cobble together some antithetic pieces of information with each other which did not make any sense.
    Anyway nowadays i look better specially since i worked as a interpreter with the US army in my country for a few months, in addition i do reading and listening eslpod of course, so i can say that i am now fluent English more halting no more cowardliness, keep going for successfulness

  33. peter says:

    There is one more issue that set you back ,that is language barrier.girls don’t dig guys like me with a funny accent.

  34. Peter says:


    I believe you can fly;I believe you can touch the sky.

  35. Peter says:

    Hi Jeff,

    Dude ,you should change the logo to EFN( English for foreigner and natives). Seriously, what you have come up with is not meant just for foreigners . It is intended for a larger audience. Not all native-speakers know all the materials you have been offering;I know what I am talking about man.I know you are being modest, or unassuming. But, you should give the program a name that it really deserves.I don’t mean to meddle or anything. I am just saying, EsLpod is from beyond.


    Don’t take Lucy and Jeff for granted . You have no idea how much it costs you to get a tutor here ,in North America. Meanwhile,here, it is a prosperous,lucrative business due to the high volume of people entering here daily from 4 corners of the world. Back in 2004, I got a tutor for 4 months, and it cost me 35 dollars by the hour, cross my heart. It literally cost me a fortune ,and please note that he was not a prof . He was a high school teacher. If you are lucky enough to get accepted as a student by a prof it will cost you something ranging from 50 to 80 dollars by the hour at least ,still not at Jeff and Lucy’s level.

    Trust me ,I know what I am talking about.

  36. ivan says:

    Sorry that this is probably an irrelative post… but i love the names in eslpod522. Are they from the game Tales of the Abyss? I’m a super fan of both eslpod and that game…

  37. Dr. Lucy Tse says:

    Ivan: I actually took the names from a TV show called “The Gilmore Girls,” about the lives of a mother and daughter living in a small town in the Eastern United States. I’ve never played “Tales of the Abyss.” I’ve always been terrible at video games, having very poor hand-eye coordination. You should see me try to hit a tennis ball…

  38. kobe.Su says:

    hi guys“i just came back from my trip to Tokyo“ i love tokyo“`everything there is kawaii, the house, the bus stop, the florwer store“`very small and cute. and the whole city is very clean“`the food is expensive and not so delecious as i wanted to be, but the cookies are the best! and ppl there are very polite and in order.

    i think tokyo is ready for holaween, a lot stores was already decorated by holaween decorations. hi Peter, when you say about 2 colors for haloween, i was thinking of orange for pumpkin, and black for balck bat“hehe..

    but in Beijing, maybe you can only find haloween in pub, i guess…..

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