Everything Will Be OK in the End. If It’s Not OK It’s Not the End

John Lennon? Oscar Wilde? Fernando Sabino? Paulo Coelho? Domingos Sabino? Anonymous?

Question for Quote Investigator: Here are three versions of a popular remark that reflects an unwaveringly upbeat perspective on life:

(1) Everything is OK in the end; if it’s not OK it’s not the end.

(2) Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine it’s not the end.

(3) Everything will be all right in the end; so if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.

This saying has been attributed to the well-known Irish wit Oscar Wilde, the famous English musician John Lennon, the prominent Brazilian writer Fernando Sabino, the best-selling Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, and other individuals. The statement has also been credited to the 1999–2005 U.S. television series “Judging Amy” and the 2011 U.K. film “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. I have not seen any convincing evidence identifying the origin. Would you please explore this topic?

Reply from Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in the 1988 Brazilian Portuguese book “O tabuleiro de damas” (“The checkerboard”) by Fernando Sabino. The author ascribed the saying to his father Domingos Sabino. Here is the key passage followed by a translation into English. Boldface added to excepts by QI

O melhor, talvez, que me lembre, foi o que me disse um dia em que me encontrou entregue à aflição de espírito: “Meu filho, tudo no fim dá certo. Se não deu, é porque ainda não chegou ao fim.”

Perhaps the best thing that I can remember is what he said to me one day when he found me in the grip of a mental affliction: “My son, everything works out in the end. If it didn’t, it’s because it hasn’t come to an end yet.”

The earliest attributions to Oscar Wilde and John Lennon occurred posthumously. Thus, those linkages were probably spurious. The first attribution to Paulo Coelho occurred many years after 1988. Evidence supports the presence of the adage in “Judging Amy” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, but the saying was already in circulation.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

In 1920 a thematic match appeared as a filler item in “The Buffalo Enquirer” of Buffalo, New York. No attribution was specified:²

There is a happy ending to every story if we only look deep enough for it.

On December 22, 2000 an English version of the saying appeared in a message posted by “m miller” to the Usenet newsgroup alt.support.divorce:³

Remember this: Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

On December 29, 2000 “The Naperville Sun” in Illinois printed a collection of sayings obtained from two correspondents. Here were two items from the collection:⁴

THINKING AHEAD

As we leave 2000 behind, Bolingbrook residents Coni and Dale Mclannahan e-mailed me a few words to live by . . .

Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them, but you know they are always there.

Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, then it’s not the end.

In 2001 “News of the World” of London printed a collection of sayings from an Irish correspondent. Here were three items from the collection:⁵

THESE philosophical musings were sent to me by Sean Morrin, of Derry City. Read them slowly-and think about them…

True friendship never ends. Friends are for ever.

Don’t frown. You never know who is falling in love with your smile.

Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.

In 2002 “The Atlanta Journal-Constitution” of Georgia published a column by nurse Georgia W. Barkers who attributed the saying to her daughter Michelle:⁶

I’ll leave you with this thought from my daughter Michelle, who has already mastered the power of attitude. She says, “Everything is OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end.”

In 2003 the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” of Wisconsin printed the following variant:⁷

For now Prasse says she is living by the motto a friend told her: “Everything will work out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out, it’s not the end.”

In 2004 “Uncle John’s Colossal Collection of Quotable Quotes” included the following entry:⁸

“Everything is okay in the end. And if it’s not okay, then it’s not the end.”
— Anonymous

In 2006 an article in the “Ledger-Enquirer” of Columbus, Georgia stated that a version of the saying using the word “fine” was employed during an episode of the television show “Judging Amy”:⁹

Maxine said the coolest thing to Amy on “Judging Amy” the other day: “My father always said everything would be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”

In 2008 a piece in the “Sunday Times” of Johannesburg, South Africa attributed a version of the saying using the word “alright” to chef Bertus Basson:¹⁰

A bit of a purist food philosopher (the only spices allowed in his kitchen are cinnamon and pepper), Basson left us with the quote of the day: “It will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”

In 2011 the saying was spoken by the actor Dev Patel who was playing the character Sonny Kapoor in the movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”:¹¹

In India, we have a saying, “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not yet the end.”

In 2013 the periodical “Campus Echo: North Carolina Central University” published an article about student Cornelius Richardson who attributed the adage to John Lennon:¹²

One challenge Richardson faces every day is balancing his personal life with student involvement in campus organizations. But he uses John Lennon’s quote for daily inspiration: “Everything will be OK in the end. If it’s not OK, it’s not the end,” as a daily inspiration.

In 2015 the book “Parenting with a Story: Real-Life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share” by Paul Smith attributed the adage to Paulo Coelho:¹³

Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho once said, “Everything will be okay in the end. If it isn’t okay, it isn’t the end.” It’s become one of my favorite inspirational quotes, for a number of reasons.

Also, in 2015 the Internet Archive Wayback Machine took a snapshot of a “Yahoo! Answers” webpage about this topic. An unidentified person ascribed the saying to Fernando Sabino. The person claimed that it appeared in their Master’s thesis in 1981. QI has not verified this claim which may be inaccurate:¹⁴

Fernando Sabino, a Brazilian writer, created this quotation wrongly attributed to Paulo Coelho, a younger Brazilian writer. I’ve also seen it attributed to John Lennon. The original says, “No fim, tudo dá certo. Se não deu, ainda não chegou ao fim.” I used the quotation in my Master’s dissertation in 1981. Don’t know when Sabino created it.
Source(s): Personal knowledge and Brazilian Yahoo

In 2017 an article in the “Irish Times” of Dublin, Ireland credited the saying to Oscar Wilde:¹⁵

It is during the hardest times that you learn the most about yourself. Every day, when I was feeling low, I would repeat the words of Oscar Wilde: “Everything is going to be fine in the end. If it’s not fine, it’s not the end.”

In conclusion, Domingos Sabino is the leading candidate for creator of this saying based on the 1988 testimony of his son, Fernando Sabino, in the Brazilian Portuguese book “O tabuleiro de damas” (“The checkerboard”). It remains possible that Domingos Sabino was simply transmitting an existing adage to his son, but QI has not yet found any citations before 1988. Versions of the saying were circulating in English by 2000.

Acknowledgements: Great thanks to Susan May, Kenneth Womack, Martin, Tarjei Theo Flove, Svend Jacobsen, James Callan, Karen Carlson, Mark Milano, and Johann Richard whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Svend Jacobsen helpfully pointed to the information given on “Yahoo! Answers”.

Many thanks to German quotation expert Gerald Krieghofer for his valuable research on this topic which is available here. Special thanks to Laurence Horn who accessed the crucial 1988 citation via the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University. Also, thanks to mailing list discussants and correspondents Fred Shapiro, Peter Reitan, and John McChesney-Young.

[1] 1988 Copyright, O tabuleiro de damas (The Checkerboard) by Fernando Sabino, Chapter: VIVÊNCIA, Quote Page 79, Publisher: Editora Record, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Verified with scans; thanks to Laurence Horn and the Sterling Memorial Library at Yale University)

[2] 1920 August 14, The Buffalo Enquirer, Right Off the Reel, Quote Page 7, Column 3, Buffalo, New York. (Newspapers_com)

[3] 2000 December 22, Usenet discussion message, Newsgroup: alt.support.divorce, From: m miller @webtv.net, Subject: Re: Happy Christmas? Doubtful. (Google Groups Search; Accessed December 15, 2022) link

[4] 2000 December 29, The Naperville Sun, Rock In 2000 With Good Food, Advice by Toni Greathouse, Quote Page 9, Naperville, Illinois. (NewsBank Access World News)

[5] 2001 July 15, News of the World, Festival of hate shames our land by Bishop Pat Buckley, Section: Features, Quote Page Eire 11, London, England. (NewsBank Access World News)

[6] 2002 November 3, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Section: Pulse, Take time to nurture your spirit by Georgia W. Barkers (The Attitude Nurse), Quote Page PUL4, Column 4, Atlanta, Georgia. (Newspapers_com)

[7] 2003 July 28, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dispute with Air Force leaves woman’s life in limbo — Fight for reinstatement continues a year later by Meg Kissinger, Section B News, Quote Page 3, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. (NewsBank Access World News)

[8] 2004, Uncle John’s Colossal Collection of Quotable Quotes by the Bathroom Readers’ Institute, Section: Anonymous Who?, Quote Page 315, Column 2, Bathroom Readers’ Press, Ashland, Oregon. (Verified with scans)

[9] 2006 September 26, Ledger-Enquirer, Section: Thrive, It’s Hard Getting Back in Motion by Mandy Ochoa, Quote Page Thrive2, Columbus, Georgia. (NewsBank Access World News)

[10] 2008 July 13, Sunday Times, Section: Lifestyle & Leisure, Eating the wine route by Nancy Richards, Unspecified Page, Johannesburg, South Africa. (NewsBank Access World News)

[11] YouTube video, Title: 2014 06 15 The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel it is not yet the end, Uploaded on February 23, 2015, Uploaded by: Mark Geisthardt, (Quotation starts at 23 seconds of 38 seconds) Quotation spoken by Sonny Kapoor played by Dev Patel in the 2011 movie “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. (Accessed on youtube.com on January 1, 2023) link

[12] 2013 October 9, Campus Echo: North Carolina Central University, Section: Campus, Mr. Bowtie by Reginald Simon (Echo staff reporter), Unnumbered Page, Durham, North Carolina. (NewsBank Access World News)

[13] 2015 Copyright, Parenting with a Story: Real-Life Lessons in Character for Parents and Children to Share by Paul Smith, Chapter 13: Positive Mental Attitude, Quote Page 124, AMACON: American Management Association, New York. (Google Books Preview)

[14] Website: Yahoo Answer (Wayback Machine), Topic: Education & Reference > Quotations, Question: Who said “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay then it’s not the end”?, Respondent: Unidentified, Date of Wayback Machine Snapshot: August 20, 2015, Website description: Snapshots of the web from the Internet Archive. (Accessed web.archive.org January 1, 2023) link

[15] 2017 August 15, Irish Times, ‘IVF treatment nearly broke us’ — ‘Failed IVF treatment is the saddest and most depressing thing that I have experienced’ by James Doherty, Quote Page 5, Dublin, Ireland. (NewsBank Access World News)

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Expert who specializes in tracing quotations. I operate the Quote Investigator website which receives more than 4 million visitors per year

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Quote Investigator®

Expert who specializes in tracing quotations. I operate the Quote Investigator website which receives more than 4 million visitors per year