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Problems at Work? Learn These 18 Idioms About Challenges

Being a non-native English speaker in such a competitive world can be tough sometimes, but you don’t have to roll with the punches. Instead, you can improve your communication skills and put yourself on a par with native speakers. Learn these idioms and phrases to talk about challenges at work, and don’t let the opportunity to shine at work slip through your fingers.

Idioms About Challenges

Here you have a list with the most common idioms about challenges and difficulties. Check it out and put them in practice at work or with a teacher:

Practice idioms in conversation

■ They should go back to the drawing board and review the whole issue of employee training.  -Start over and go back to the beginning or the planning stage
■ I hate doing these reports, but I'll just have to bite the bullet.  -Do something unpleasant that needs to be done
■ Losing to a smaller company was a bitter pill to swallow.  - Something unpleasant that needs to be accepted
■ It is a catch-22 situation - you can't get people without funding, but you can't get funding without the people there in the first place  - A dilemma or difficult situation from which there is no escape because of mutually conflicting conditions
■ I will be there on time, come hell or high water.  - No matter what
■ The employee training budget came up short last year.  - Fail to achieve a goal; be insufficient
■ With the economy continuing to do poorly, many investors decided to cut their losses and sell their stocks.  - Abandon an activity that is clearly going to be unprofitable or unsuccessful before you suffer more loss or harm
■ Their proposals for other developments fell flat.  - Fail completely to produce the intended or expected effect
■ They felt that the pressures of her work had been the last straw.  - The last in a series of unpleasant events that finally makes you feel that you cannot continue to accept a bad situation
■ We didn't want to let the opportunity slip through our fingers.  - Fail to take advantage of an opportunity
■ The investment has helped a lot, but we’re not out of the woods yet.  - We’re still in trouble
■ You're playing with fire if you try to evade taxes.  - Do something risky or dangerous
■ Losing my job was really tough, but I've just been trying to roll with the punches until I get back on my feet.  - Adapt to difficulties by accepting them and carrying on
■ The company has expanded into many different areas and has probably spread itself too thin.  - Try to do too many different things at the same time (so that you cannot give enough time or attention to any of them)
■ The alternative was equally bad - she was caught between a rock and a hard place.  - In a very difficult situation and to have to make a hard decision
■ Three of the original five candidates have now thrown in the towel.
 - Abandon a struggle; admit defeat, give up
■ These small local protests are just the tip of the iceberg.
 - A small, noticeable part of a problem (of which the total size is really much greater)
■ Winning back our trust after stealing is going to be an uphill climb.
 - A difficult, tedious process


Conversation questions

  • Explain a time when you had to go back to the drawing board.
  • When was the last time you had to bite the bullet?
  • Give an example of a bitter pill to swallow.
  • Have you ever found yourself in a catch-22 situation?
  • What is something you always do come hell or high water?
  • Talk about a time when you had to cut your losses.
  • Did any of your projects last year fall flat? What happened?
  • What's an opportunity you've let slip through your fingers?
  • Do you ever feel you're spreading yourself too thin at the moment? And in the past?
  • Have you ever thrown in the towel?
  • When was the last time you felt something was an uphill climb?


Fill the gaps with the correct word:

  1. Not getting the job was a bitter pill to __.
  2. Now they've rejected the whole project we need to go back to the __ board.
  3. After last year's disaster, making them sign again is going to be an uphill __.
  4. Her ideas were quite good, but the whole proposal just __ flat.
  5. I know I'm playing with __ but I'll take the risk.
  6. This week's small complaints are just the tip of the __.
  7. I'm not going to __ in the towel - I'm not a quitter!
  8. Him yelling at me was the last __ - I'm leaving!
  9. I promise I'll be there, come __ or high water.
  10. This is very complicated, I'm between a __ and a hard place.
  11. Sorry, but I can't take on any more responsibilities. I'm spreading myself too __.
  12. It was very hard news, but I'll just have to roll with the __.


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