Truth is the Foundation of all Human Virtues

This means that the truth is the most important thing. Let’s analyse the vocabulary which we use to express this concept.


Foundation is an architectural term.

Are you an architect?

The word foundation comes from the field of architecture or building.

Laying the Foundation

When you build a building, the first step is to lay the foundation.

Digging a Hole

Usually the builder digs a hole then he pours concrete to create the foundation, then he sets the structure of the building on top of the foundation. That is the literal meaning of the word “foundation”.


Have you ever dug a hole?

Literal Meanings and Metaphors

Foundation is a metaphor. That means we take the word “foundation” from the area of building and use it in another context. Taking words from one situation and using them in another situation is called “metaphor”.

“Truth is the foundation of all human virtues”


“truth is the basis of all human virtues”.

Virtues and Vices

What are virtues?

We talk about about virtues in the context of “virtues and vices”. Virtues are good human qualities like love, generosity, kindness and altruism. Vices are bad human qualities like lying, cheating, stealing and being violent, angry or jealous.

Good Qualities – Virtues

love – he is loving
generous – she is generous
kindness – they are kind
altruism – he is very altruistic

Bad Qualities – Vices

lying – he is a liar
cheating – she is a cheat
stealing – she is a thief
being violent – they are violent
being angry – she is angry
being jealous – they are jealous

Listening Practice

Listen to this story and develop your vocabulary: Love and Death

Life is complex and it is difficult to find the right path. If we imagine that life is a road and we come to a fork in the road, we have the opportunity to turn right or to turn left. One fork in the road leads to virtues or good things like happiness, love and friendship. The other fork in the road leads to anger, disappointment and sadness.

How can we choose which path is the correct one?

How can we know?

The answer is not easy. One clue is to follow the truth. Let’s look at the word family:

Truth – Word Family

truth – noun
true – adjective
truthful – adjective
Truthfully – adverb
truly – adverb

Truth – Word Family in Context

What he says is the truth.
He is speaking the truth.

What he says is true.
He is saying something that is true.

He is truthful, at least in this instance.
In this instance at least, he is being truthful.

He speaks truthfully.

I truly believe what he says.

Vocabulary in Context

If you look at words as a list like when you read the dictionary, you will not learn effectively. It is best to look at vocabulary in context. That means look at the words in real situations. Now look at these words in sentences:

Noun – truth

I always try to tell the truth because if you start to tell lies, you can not stop.

Adjective – true

It is true that I need a job but it is also true that I need a holiday. I have to find a good work/life balance.

Adjective – truthful

I try to be truthful, but it is not always easy.

Learn more about adjectives: Adjectives

Adverb – truthfully

If you speak truthfully you might sometimes embarrass people but generally people will respect you because people naturally respect the truth.

Adverb – truly

I am truly sorry that I could not help you. I did not know that you needed help.

Two Adverbs

Note the two adverbs, “truly” and “truthfully”. “Truthfully” often occurs with the verb “speak” as in the phrase “to speak truthfully” which means “to tell the truth”. “Truly” often occurs with the “be” verb and the adjective “sorry” as in:

I am truly sorry.

Two Nouns

Note the two adjectives, “truthful” and “true”. “Truthful” usually refers to:

A truthful person

“True” usually refers to:

A true statement

The Difficulty of Telling the Truth

Sometimes we want to tell the truth but it is difficult because we do not want to embarrass other people. This often happens when people ask about matters of personal taste, for example:

What do you think of my haircut?
What do you think of my new dress?
What do you think of the new boss?

Living society is a balancing act and we have to tread a difficult path between telling the truth and being diplomatic.


Can you remember a situation where it was difficult for you to tell the truth because it was necessary to be diplomatic?

Have you ever dug a hole?

Tell us about it in the comments section below.

Keep Learning

Click the Links to the Next Lesson

Vocabulary is the Key

Understanding Grammar

The Grammar of Happiness

Generalisations are not Universally True

The Metaphor Page

Much of Meaning is in Context

Selfishness and Altruism

Noun Lessons

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