Problems and Difficulties Idioms

In this page, we will explore some common idioms used to describe problems and difficulties. Whether you’re facing a tough situation at work, dealing with a personal challenge, or just looking for a way to express your frustration, these idioms can help you communicate your feelings in a more nuanced and interesting way.

List of 14 Phrases & Idioms for Problems and Difficulties

  1. (An) Uphill Climb
  2. (The) Last Straw
  3. Above Water
  4. Come Out in the Wash
  5. Cut Corners
  6. Cut the Gordian Knot
  7. Get To Grips With
  8. Head (Go) South
  9. In a Jam
  10. In Hot Water
  11. Red Tape
  12. Start with a Clean Slate
  13. Stumbling Block
  14. Think Outside the Box

Idioms for Problems and Difficulties

Expressions & Idioms for Problems and Difficulties with Meaning & Examples

Here are some common idioms that we use to describe problems and difficulties:

(An) Uphill Climb

  • Meaning: A difficult process
  • Example: Winning back our trust after stealing is going to be an uphill climb, but we think you can do it if you’re careful to act with honesty.

(The) Last Straw

  • Meaning: The final problem that makes someone lose patience or give up
  • Example: I was already having a bad day, and when my computer crashed, it was the last straw.

Above Water

  • Meaning: Not in debt or financial trouble
  • Example: We had to get a loan to start our business, but now we’re finally above water.

Come Out in the Wash

  • Meaning: To be resolved or become clear over time
  • Example: I know there are some issues with the project, but I’m sure everything will come out in the wash.

Cut Corners

  • Meaning: To do something in a way that saves time or money but is not the best way
  • Example: We’re on a tight deadline, but we can’t cut corners on safety.

Cut the Gordian Knot

  • Meaning: To solve or remove a problem in a direct or forceful way, rejecting gentler or more indirect methods
  • Example: Let’s cut the Gordian knot in dealing with such a complicated matter.

Get To Grips With

  • Meaning: To start to understand or deal with a difficult situation
  • Example: It took me a while to get to grips with the new software, but now I’m starting to feel more comfortable with it.

Head (Go) South

  • Meaning: To go wrong or become worse
  • Example: Everything was going well until the new manager took over, and then everything started to head south.

In a Jam

  • Meaning: In a difficult or uncomfortable situation
  • Example: I’m in a jam because I promised to be in two places at once.

In Hot Water

  • Meaning: In trouble or facing consequences for something you did
  • Example: I’m in hot water with my boss because I missed an important deadline.

Red Tape

  • Meaning: Bureaucratic rules and regulations that make it difficult to get things done
  • Example: We’re trying to get a permit for the new building, but we’re stuck in red tape.

Start with a Clean Slate

  • Meaning: To start fresh, without any past mistakes or problems
  • Example: Let’s put the past behind us and start with a clean slate.

Stumbling Block

  • Meaning: Something that prevents progress or causes difficulty
  • Example: The lack of funding is a major stumbling block for our research project.

Think Outside the Box

  • Meaning: To approach a problem in a new and unconventional way
  • Example: We need to think outside the box if we want to come up with a solution to this complex issue.

Application of Idioms in Daily Language

As we have seen, idioms are an important part of the English language, especially when it comes to expressing problems and difficulties. Here are some ways in which we can use idioms in our daily language:

  • In conversation: We can use idioms in our conversations to express our thoughts and feelings about difficult situations. For example, we might say “I’m at the end of my rope” to express that we are at the limit of our patience or “It’s a tough nut to crack” to express that a problem is difficult to solve.
  • In writing: Idioms can also be used in writing to add color and interest to our language. For example, we might use the idiom “between a rock and a hard place” to describe a difficult decision or situation.
  • In teaching: Idioms can be a fun and engaging way to teach English language learners about the nuances of the language. Teachers can use idioms in their lessons to help students understand the cultural context of the language and to build their vocabulary.
  • In humor: Idioms can also be used in humor to create puns and jokes. For example, we might say “I’m feeling a bit under the weather” to describe being sick, but then follow it up with “I guess that’s what happens when you sleep outside in the rain!”

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