The expression “you can’t have your cake and eat it too” refers to the fact that a person must choose between two undesirable outcomes because they are incompatible.
Case in point: Josh has been given a promotion at work, but if he takes it, he will be required to work on Saturdays. On a day that he typically spent socialising with his pals, he was at a loss as to what he should do.
Josh Would Like to have the Best of Both Worlds:
more money from the offer and the same amount of time spent with his buddies. Therefore, his sibling advised him, “Josh, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. You’ll have to decide if you’d rather work on Saturdays or hang out with your pals. As his brother put it, “you can’t have it both ways.”
In other words, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. When told this, some people understandably inquire, “Wait, why can’t I do both?” The obvious reason is that once you eat a cake, you no longer have one. Your digestive tract, that is!
You can’t have Your Cake and Eat it too, could be a Somewhat More Understandable Version of this Saying.
This proverb emphasises the fact that there are instances when a person has conflicting desires for two different things (like in the example above). It’s an idiom along the lines of “you can’t have it both ways” or “you can’t have the best of both worlds.”
All the same, this adage goes back at least 470 years. For instance, John Heywood’s A discourse conteinyng the nomber in effect of all the prouerbes in the english tongue (1546) includes this phrase.
You can’t have cake and eat it too, is a better way to put this phrase’s meaning across. Obviously, there won’t be any leftover cake once you’ve devoured it. You can’t have it both ways if the two options are mutually exclusive.
He has to Work So Hard to Support his Lavish Lifestyle that he Rarely Gets to Relax in his Own Home.
The term “have” seems to be at the heart of the confusion about whether or not one can “have their cake.” In this context, “have” refers more specifically to the act of eating than to possession or consumption.
You can’t “have your cake and eat it too,” as the grammar police might put it. Enjoy the cake now, and there won’t be any to eat later. So, in a nutshell, you can’t have two favourable outcomes simultaneously.
Therefore, the statement is used to discourage someone from trying to combine two desirable but incompatible activities, such as eating cake and keeping the cake for later consumption.
Have has expanded its original meaning to include “eat” in modern English use. As Zimmer suggests, it may be time to put “have your cake and eat it, too” in the dustbin of cliches.