5 Idioms to Talk About Problems

Everybody has problems. 

Problems at work, problems at school, challenges to be faced in relationships you’re in and in the projects you are working on. But problems and challenges are often opportunities to grow! And it’s good to have the help of others in overcoming the challenges you face.

But of course, as with many other things, English has developed many idioms to help communicate about the problems we face in life.

Practicing these five idioms will help you get your message across clearly as you share about your own problems or help others with theirs:

1) “You’ve got your work cut out for you.”

This means that the task ahead will be very difficult or involve a lot of time and effort. Zeynep wants to get a job at a popular tech company in her city.  She reads through their application, and it involves a long interview, several pages of writing, and a presentation to show what kind of work she is capable of. It will take a lot of preparation. She has her work cut out for her.

2) “Dodged a bullet”

This idiom suggests the idea that something really bad almost happened, but then didn’t happen. It was a narrow escape, and you avoided something negative. Maybe you made a wise decision that kept it from happening, or you were just lucky.

Zeynep really wants the job at the tech company but even after all the preparation, she doesn’t get it. Later, she runs into her old friend Miray and finds out that Miray actually works there. Miray tells her that the boss is very mean and yells a lot at everyone, and that the company is about to go out of business.

Zeynep realizes she just dodged a bullet by not getting that job.

3) “To weather the storm”

In this idiom, the person did NOT dodge the bullet, but is in the middle of a difficult situation. However, instead of being really hurt by it or letting it bring any sort of destruction, the person gets through the difficult situation without much harm or lasting damage.

As we learned before, Miray works with a difficult boss at a failing company, but she does her job well, and another company looking for good workers suddenly offers her a job with better pay. She takes it, and three days later her old company officially announces it is closing.

She weathered the storm of working there, and has come out with something better.

4) “Grin and bear it”

To grin and bear it means that you go through something unpleasant or painful, and even though you may feel upset on the inside, on the outside you are calm or even smiling.

Miray, Zeynep and some other friends meet up for çay. Miray excitedly tells Zeynep about the company failing and the new job she has at a better company, but she does not know that Zeynep had been applying for the same position. Zeynep thought she had a chance at the job, but now knows Miray has taken it and feels upset and jealous inside.

But Zeynep grins and bears it, listening to Miray with a smile and making sure the evening is still pleasant.

5) “Catch-22”

This is a term for when a problem seems to have no solution because two parts of the problem contradict each other, and yet, depend on each other.

That’s a difficult idea to understand, but in our story, it is simple.

Zeynep has been unable to get the jobs she has wanted because those jobs want her to have job experience. But she can’t get job experience because no one will give her a job… without job experience.  That is a Catch-22.

Luckily, our story has a happy ending. Miray is able to get Zeynep an interview at her new company, and because Zeynep has practiced and mastered these and many other English idioms, they are very impressed with her communication skills and decide to give her a chance, even though she doesn’t have the experience. And so she is on the road to success!

Maybe this will be your story, too? Hopefully, these idioms will prove helpful to you.

What are some of your favorite English idioms? Share below in the comments. Then see if you can answer these correctly:

  1. Ali almost bought a new car, but decided to wait. The next day he found out that whole line of cars were being recalled because they were not safe. Ali _________________.
    • weathered the storm.
    • dodged a bullet.
    • had his work cut out for him.
  2. Makbule has a lot of studying tonight because tomorrow she has three exams. Makbule ________________.
    • is in a catch-22.
    • weathered the storm.
    • has her work cut out for her.
  3. Can finally graduated from his university after working hard all four years and experiencing many financial difficulties. Can ____________.
    • weathered the storm.
    • dodged a bullet.
    • is in a catch-22.