Don’t Do Anything I Wouldn’t Do - Meaning and Usage

Idioms like ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ can be confusing and make no sense if you are not sure what the intention is in the phrase. You may hear this in several circumstances.

‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ is a vague phrase that is a casual parting for close friends, acquaintances, and family members. It is typically said in jest as a lighthearted and teasing gesture to let the receiver know to stay out of trouble.

Idiom Meaning

When someone casually says to you, “don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” they are telling you to behave yourself in a playful way. They imply that you should avoid participating in any negative or destructive behaviors since they would not take part in these actions.

This phrase lets the receiver know that they should not do anything reckless or foolish that could result in negative consequences. It typically does not include specifics but is only abstract in what would constitute destructive behaviors.

Idiom Origin

There are a few early instances of ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ to be found when researching this idiom.

  1. The first instance of this popular idiom goes back to July 7, 1911, appearing in an advertisement in the Great Falls Daily Tribune. It read, “Have a good time while I’m gone, but don’t do anything I wouldn’t.”
  2. In a Shopper’s Letter from March 12, 1914, in the Kansas City Star, a woman only known as E.J. concluded her advice to another individual using, “Good-bye for this time. Don’t do anything I wouldn’t”.
  3. Another instance of this idiom in 1914 appeared on May 8, in the Illinois State Journal. It comes from a meeting of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, “The agents departed to their homes, with the admonition of Toastmaster Fitzgerald, to behave themselves “with decorum and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.

Many more instances of this idiom followed in 1916, 1917, and 1918, as it became more popular and common.

Idiom Example Usage

This idiom phrase can be apparent in many situations.

Here are some examples:

  • Before I left for my date, Dad said, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
  • When she was packing and leaving for college, I told her, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.
  • He jokingly told me, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” when I was going to the party.

Phrases Similar to Idiom / Synonyms

Several alternatives to the idiom phrase ‘don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ carry the same meaning.

Closest Synonyms - Relating to staying away from participating in bad behaviors while away from the speaker:

  • Don’t do anything I wouldn’t
  • Don’t do anything that I wouldn’t
  • You shouldn’t do anything I wouldn’t
  • Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do—if you ever find anything I wouldn’t do
  • Don’t do anything you wouldn’t want me to do

Other Similar Phrases - Related to acting appropriately while not with the speaker:

  • Behave yourself
  • Make good choices
  • Don’t be foolish
  • Follow my example

Phrases Opposite to Idiom

Even with several similar phrases to this ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ idiom, there are also opposite phrases that are popular.

Here are some examples of phrases with the opposite meaning to this idiom:


  • Don’t do anything I would do
  • Don’t do anything that I would do
  • Don’t do anything that I would
  • Don’t do as I do; do as I say
  • Do as I say, not as I do
  • Do what I say, not what I do

What Is the Correct Saying?

As it is listed above, the Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do idiom phrase has several alternatives, all of which carry the same meaning.

Similar phrases are typical when the speaker casually sends the receiver off with a vague parting.

Some of the more appropriate situation where this idiom fits well includes:

  • A parent giving vague advice to a child
  • A brother or sister parting ways with a sibling
  • When best friends are going separate ways
  • A coworker that is leaving for the day
  • A teacher wishing a student farewell after graduating

If you need any further examples of the ‘Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do’ idiom phrase, take a look at a few more variations:

  • John and Bill finished in the locker room after the game, and Bill headed to dinner with his girlfriend. John smiled and called after him, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!”
  • He chuckled nervously when I told him, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” as he left the police station.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *