The phrase “chalk and cheese” is an idiomatic expression that is used to describe two things or people that are completely different from each other and have little to no similarities or common characteristics. It emphasizes the stark contrast and dissimilarity between the two entities.
The analogy sheds some light on the contrasting features of the two given components, chalk, and cheese. One being hard and used to write and the other being soft and edible.
But what other similar ways can you describe two different subjects? They could be as different as Yin and Yang, like apples and oranges, they could share the same but walk in different constellations (if you want to be dramatic), etc.
I have put together a list of alternatives similar to the chalk and cheese analogy that you could use to express how different two people are.
20 Alternative Phrases to “Chalk and Cheese”
- The two of them are as different as the distance between the North and South Poles.
- They are as distinct as Yin and Yang
- They are on two different sides of the spectrum
- Two sides of the same coin
- Apples and oranges
- Black and white
- They are stark opposites
- In terms of character, they are like a brick and a feather
- They are worlds apart
- They are as distinct as a cat and canary
- They share the same sky but walk different constellation
- Candice and Keisha are cut from two different cloths
- Trying to get them to work together is like putting a square peg in a round hole
- They are like two peas in a pod but from entirely different gardens
- They are as incongruous as oil and water
- They couldn’t be more opposite
- I can almost call Peter, Eugene’s foil character
- When I think of the two together I can only imagine a Texas rodeo and a Californian beach party.
- The only similarity between them is that they work here
- Those two dances to different fiddles
The two of them are as different as the distance between the North and South Poles
North and South poles is a similar phrase to the “Chalk and cheese” saying as it is said to be the difference between two things that are more obviously different, and using it to describe another set of paraphernalia.
Here, it is relating the distance between the North and South poles, on opposite ends of the globe, to the strong and telling difference between two people, things, concepts, or ideologies.
It is usually used in a safe situation and is one of the tamer ways to express what you have in mind. An example would look something like this;
“As different as the gap between the North and South poles is the movement of Hitler and Gandhi. Additionally, it is fairly obvious in their outcomes.”
They as distinct as Yin and Yang
“As distinct as Yin and Yang” is quite similar to chalk and cheese as these are two completely different elements related to darkness and light respectively
Even though both can occur simultaneously and both also exist individually, they are completely different from each other.
This could be more easily used to distinguish between character and behavior.
They are on two different ends of a spectrum
They are on two different ends of a spectrum can be used when both things exist on two different ends of a line.
It means that they are complete opposites or complements of each other. Like opposite colors on a color wheel. They could have something in common but are completely different otherwise.
This is similar to what chalk and cheese have in common: they are inanimate objects. While chalk is hard, cheese is, most of the time, soft.
This is usable in workplace settings as well as casual conversation, to express how dissimilar two individual entities can be. An example of this being used could look like this:
“A mango and papaya are very different. They exist on two sides of a spectrum. While both are delicious fruits, mango is mostly smaller and has a large seed at its core, the papaya is larger and has many smaller seeds at the center.”
Two sides of the same coin
Two sides of the same coin is another alternative that is close in context to the “…two ends of a spectrum” example.
It can be used interchangeably and also can be used to highlight a difference even in some similarity.
It is also similar to “chalk and cheese” as the two of them in the analogy are also two sides of the inanimate coin. Using this in a more formal setting is fine and this is more easily used to describe two comparable characters of more than one entity.
Take for example:
“Director Sam loves donuts, he loves his donuts with a chocolate glaze. Director Sarah loves donuts too, but she doesn’t like any kind of glaze. They’re two sides of the same donut-loving coin”
Apples and oranges
Apples and oranges is an analogy that is simple and more similar in that sense to chalk and cheese.
While both are fruit and both are round, they are fundamentally different and even have different tastes with oranges being sometimes slightly sour and apples completely sweet.
This makes it usable to elucidate the disparity between two things or people.
“With respect to diet, soda water is different from actual water, they are as different as apples and oranges. Both are similar with the name ‘water’ but they are very different in composition and function”
Black and white
Black and white is a simple and concise alternative to “chalk and cheese”. It functions similarly due to the brief and comparative nature of this analogy.
It is quite easy to explain. When it is used, mostly, to describe differences in nature and character, it is easy to understand and even to the average person, it is very easy to understand this analogy. A good example of this being used is like this
“James does philanthropy, while Avery is a money launderer. The difference between them is like black and white. One takes from what others have and the other gives what they have to others”
They are stark opposites
They are stark opposites is a very straightforward way to describe the difference between the two characters, and this sums up what “chalk and cheese mean.” It is easier to use this phrase in situations where strangers are involved.
It is similar to chalk and cheese as they are indeed stark opposites. It can describe characters, innate natures, people, things, etc.
Take for example:
“The weight of a bowling ball and a pillow are very disparate. They are stark opposites”
In terms of character, they are like a brick and a feather
Your comparison might not just be to their physique, their attitude in a workplace but their characters and their actions in general.
This saying is a great way to say it. Most times when making comparisons between two people, especially in a case like this, one must be careful to use words or phrases that do not connote any negative meaning.
In a case like this feather and brick work just fine because they are very different and both objects have their strengths and weaknesses like any two people.
Here’s an example:
“In my view, we should exercise great care when implementing this new system of pairing employees in an effort to increase productivity. Consider Mr. Jackson and his colleague Sam. In terms of character, they are like a brick and a feather”
They are worlds apart
“They are worlds apart” is a common phrase used to describe when there are too many contrasts in the different areas that matter. Imagine the distance between Earth as a planet and our sister planet, Mars.
Even being one of the closest planets to ours, it is still very different. It is in fact so different that we can’t even live there.
It can be used to describe a difference in status or a difference in ability.
This saying can be this way:
“I can tell you that they are worlds apart when it comes to routine. Even the way they eat is different.”
They share the same sky but walk different constellations
“They share the same sky but walk different constellations” is a more dramatic means to say there’s a difference between two entities. It is also similar to chalk and cheese with the differentiation of things.
This one in particular can be used to sound a bit funny or to dramatize the speech. It can be used in a few ways, and here is one such ways:
“They are brothers, but Matt is a very strong and outgoing young man while Josh is quiet, works from home, and does not like any social interactions. They share the same sky but walk in different constellations.”
They are as distinct as a cat and a canary
The only relationship that I can think that a cat and a canary share is a very uncommon unpopular predator and prey relationship.
Considering their species, build, and even their physical appearance you will know that these two animals are only similar in the fact that they are animals. You can use this to refer to any two people.
These two animals don’t have any bad characteristics per se and no one would be offended if they were compared.
Here’s an example of how to use it:
“It’s not enough to say that the two girls are different. They are as distinct as a cat and a canary.”
Candice and Keisha are cut from two different cloths
Being cut from two different clothes means that what they are made from are completely different things.
It can refer to their different upbringings, religions, backgrounds, or whatever it is that made them turn out completely different.
The different clothes sew different apparel which is what these two different people are.
Trying to get them to work together is like putting a square peg in a round hole
Usually the saying “to put a square peg in a round hole” refers to someone unqualified in a particular position.
However, we can still use it to say that the two of them are like a square peg and a round hole and because they are structured differently they can not work together or stay together.
They are like two peas in a pod but from entirely different gardens
Two peas in a pod is a very old saying that tells you that you people are very alike. When you use this saying people will understand that the two people you are referring to are alike in every way including their situations or environments too.
When you add that they are from different gardens, however, you are explaining that while they are very similar people they are very different when it comes to their backgrounds or upbringings. Here’s an example:
“I like Henry and Tony. They are both hardworking and intelligent but when they also have issues with collaborating with their colleagues. I guess when one is an introvert and the other is a control freak.”
They are as incongruous as oil and water
It is common knowledge that oil and water don’t mix, so of course it is normal that it would be used as a reference or example to show that two things are different.
Similar to chalk and cheese, water is really dense, oil is more viscous and less dense. This is a simple way to describe how two things cannot coexist or be joined together. A good example of using this alternative is like this
“You want to get a Navy Seal and a terrorist from ISIS together at a drinking spot? They are as incongruous as oil and water. They just don’t mix. They want to kill each other. And that’s not a nice way to end the day.”
They couldn’t be more opposite
If you want to express how different two people are without making use of phrases or any words that make comparisons, you can easily use this response.
It says that they are different and not just different but very different.
I can almost call Peter, Eugene’s foil character
A foil character is anyone who is the opposite of you in terms of action and character. This means that a foil is your opposite and you can be sure that whatever decisions you make will be the opposite on their side.
You can see this in literature where one character is usually the protagonist and the antagonist is his foil. The two people you intend to compare might not be hero and villain but it will make the comparison.
“You could say that Thomas is the foil character of Matthew because while Thomas is a prim and proper gentleman, Matthew, on the other hand, is a hardy, rough, and rag-tag type of guy”
When I think of the two together I can only imagine a Texas rodeo and a California beach party.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine some places being part of the United States of America. For example, Texas and California.
When we think of Texas we think of cowboys, bull riding and a Southern drawl, a rowdy rodeo setting, but when we hear California we think of a nice summer breeze, chilling at the beach, and sun tan lotion, that it’s the perfect place to spend the summer.
As the two are very different, you can use it as a saying to describe how contrasting people or places are.
The only similarity between them is that they work here
This saying is blunt and can even seem harsh. If the two people you have in mind are that different then it will be nice to use this.
If they are good friends and it is free time at work, you can pop this will teasing. It is a compliment to them if you do it this way. It tells them you see the good in them despite their differences.
Here’s an example:
“And has anyone put Sandra and Pauline side by side? The only similarity these two have is that they work here. It says a lot about how different humans can be themselves and still be amazing in their way, am I right?”
Those two dances to different fiddles
“Those two dances to different fiddles” is yet another similar concept to chalk and cheese.
It makes known that the two subjects in question may be dancing, but they are both dancing to different fiddles, different tunes.
That is to say, they are walking different paths to get perhaps, different results. It also makes you sound smarter and like a good observer. A good alternative to the chalk-and-cheese analogy.
To cap it off, there are as many ways to show how different things are from other things as there are differences between them.
The saying of chalk and cheese is just one of many, and with the list above, you now have 20 more similar ways of describing the difference between one person and another.