you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink

proverb You can give someone an advantage or provide them with an opportunity, but you can't force them to do something if they don't want to. A: "I just don't understand. We've given him the very best education and introduced him to the right people, but he just won't pursue a meaningful career." B: "Well, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink."
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Prov. You can present someone with an opportunity, but you cannot force him or her to take advantage of it. Jill: I told Katy about all the jobs that are available at our company, but she hasn't applied for any of them. Jane: You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink

Even favorable circumstances won't force one to do something one doesn't want to, as in We've gotten all the college catalogs but he still hasn't applied-you can lead a horse to water . This metaphoric term dates from the 12th century and was in John Heywood's proverb collection of 1546. It is so well known that it is often shortened, as in the example.
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make, water
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink

or

you can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink

If you say you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink or make it drink, you mean that you can give someone the opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to. A lot of lives could be saved by using the right equipment. However, as the following data show, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink: Hard hats were worn by only 16 percent of those workers who sustained head injuries, although 40 percent were required to wear them. Note: This expression is often varied. You can lead a boy to books, but can you make him read?
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make, water
Collins COBUILD Idioms Dictionary, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2012

you can ˌtake/ˌlead a horse to ˌwater, but you ˌcan’t make it ˈdrink

(saying) you can give somebody the opportunity to do something, but you cannot force them to do it if they do not want to
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make, take
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017

you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink

You can create favorable circumstances for a person to do something but cannot force him or her to do it. This metaphor was already being used in the twelfth century, when horses were a principal mode of transport, and appeared in John Heywood’s proverb collection of 1546. Several eighteenth- and nineteenth-century writers rang changes on it, mainly by increasing the second “you” to a large number. Samuel Johnson wrote “twenty cannot make him drink” (1763); Anthony Trollope made it “a thousand” (1857). In the twentieth century, keen-witted Dorothy Parker, in a speech before the American Horticultural Society, quipped, “You can lead a whore to culture but you can’t make her think.”
See also: but, can, drink, horse, lead, make, water
The Dictionary of Clichés by Christine Ammer Copyright © 2013 by Christine Ammer
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You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. By the same token, you can give a child a toothbrush, but you can't make him clean his teeth.
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