teach a lesson


Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Legal, Encyclopedia.

teach (one) a lesson

To punish or harm someone as a means of seeking retribution and to dissuade or prevent them from committing bad behavior in the future. After the CEO was found guilty, he was forced to repay $150 million in damages and will spend the next 10 years in jail. If that doesn't teach him a lesson, I don't know what will. A: "I heard Jeff crashed his new Porsche into a streetlight." B: "Well, that ought to teach him a lesson about constantly speeding in a residential area."
See also: lesson, teach

teach someone a lesson

to get even with someone for bad behavior. John tripped me, so I punched him. That ought to teach him a lesson. That taught me a lesson. I won't do it again.
See also: lesson, teach

teach a lesson

Punish in order to prevent a recurrence of bad behavior. For example, Timmy set the wastebasket on fire; that should teach him a lesson about playing with matches . This term uses lesson in the sense of "a punishment or rebuke," a usage dating from the late 1500s. Also see learn one's lesson.
See also: lesson, teach