Learn useful Idioms for Problems and Difficulties in English with meaning and examples.
List of common idioms for problems and difficulties.
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(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: A problem or insult that finally demands a response
- Example: It’s always annoying when Rudy brings food to his office, but today he brought a durian. That’s the last straw – I’m going to complain to the boss.
- Meaning: Not in extreme difficulty. Especially said of finances.
- Example: We’re not rich, but we’re keeping our heads above water.
Come Out in the Wash
- Meaning: To be resolved with no lasting negative effect
- Example: Right now it seems as though you have a lot of problems, but don’t worry – it will all come out in the wash.
Note: This is used most often in the construction “it will all come out in the wash.”
- Meaning: Economize by reducing quality; take shortcuts
- Example: Let’s not cut corners on the roofing materials – with the rainstorms around here, we’d regret it later.
Cut the Gordian Knot
- Meaning: To solve a complex problem in a simple way.
- Example: William often sees simple solutions when the rest of us are struggling with details. He has a talent for cutting the Gordian knot.
Note: This rather uncommon idiom refers to a legend about Alexander the Great, who cut a knot with his sword when he could not untie it
Useful Idioms for Problems and Difficulties in English
Get To Grips With
- Meaning: To begin to understand and deal with something
- Example: I think it’s time we got to grips with the problem of increasing competition.
Note: In the USA one says “come to grips with.”
Head (Go) South
- Meaning: Decline, get worse
- Example: The markets all headed south after the bad economic news.
In a Jam
- Meaning: In need of help, in a difficult spot
- Example: My roommate said he was in a jam and needed to borrow twenty dollars, so I lent it to him.
Note: Unlike “in a jam” or “in a pickle,” this may be used with the word “with” to denote being in trouble with someone.
In Hot Water
- Meaning: In need of help; in trouble
- Example: Cathy is in hot water with her department manager after she blew that sales presentation.
- Meaning: Bureaucracy; difficult bureaucratic or governmental requirements
- Example: The amount of red tape involved in building something in this city is unbelievable.
Start with a Clean Slate
- Meaning: To start (something) again with a fresh beginning; to work on a problem without thinking about what has been done before
- Example: We’ve reached a dead end with this project. I think it’s best to wait until next week and start with a clean slate.
- Meaning: An obstacle, physical or abstract
- Example: I enjoy this job, but the social aspects of it are hard – shyness has always been a stumbling block for me.
Think Outside the Box
- Meaning: Try to solve a problem in an original way; think creatively
- Example: Our product line is getting stale. We need to think outside the box and come up with creative new products.