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Idioms and expressions

Did you open up ‘a can of worms’?

Stumbling block: (a problem that bars you from achieving something or progressing): A stumbling block in my road to success now is lack of trained personnel in my team.

Dire straits: (in a difficult situation): With all our money and even our mobile phones robbed by the rogues, we had no way of finding help and we knew we were in dire straits.

Come up against a brick wall: (an obstacle preventing you from progressing or achieving something): I came up against a brick wall when the bank refused to sanction my loan.

Spread oneself too thin: (being involved in too many things, hence being unable to give proper attention to any of them): I wanted to please many people at the same time and promised to help them all. But eventually I found myself spread too thin and regretted my decision.

Left holding the baby: (having to deal with a problem alone): As soon as the police arrived, the real trouble makers fled leaving me to hold the baby.

Clutching at straws: (in a difficult situation and trying out any support imaginable, however small): The recession hit the company really bad and the owner was left clutching at straws to save it from bankruptcy.

Drawn a blank: (not being able to find a solution/information): I’ve tried to find out where she is staying now through all possible sources but I’ve drawn a blank.

Face the music: (accept criticism or punishment for what you’ve done): It was your idea to submit this report to the managing committee. So now, face the music.

In a soup/in a fix: (in trouble): The players who were caught taking drugs to enhance their performance are in a soup now.

Asking for trouble: (deliberately doing something that can provoke trouble): If you don’t watch what you say, you’ll soon be asking for trouble.

Back to the wall: (having a problem): He knew he had his back to the wall, so he gave in and accepted the money-lender’s unfair terms.

Can of worms: (a situation that can lead to many types of troubles): If you begin investigating the tax-evading scam in this office, it is sure to open up a can of worms.

Catch 22: (a dilemma because you need to do a second thing to achieve the first but before you do the first you cannot get to the second action): Most of the employers want some work experience but if none wants to give me the first chance, how will I ever gain any experience? It’s such a catch 22 situation!

Cloud on the horizon: (a problem that has not yet occurred but can soon loom large): The way the union leaders are behaving, I can already see a cloud in the horizon. Let’s talk to them before it’s too late.

Come to head: (arrived at a point where the problem must immediately be taken care of): The pest problem in this apartment complex has come to a head now. We must call professional pest-control without delay.

Dig one’s own grave: (do something by which you become responsible for your own problems): In not heeding the advice of the local people and venturing into the deserted island alone, he dug his own grave.

Dodge a bullet: (narrowly bypassed a problem): I just dodged the bullet and moved to a new job just before the company started to lay off more than half of its employees.

Teething problems/hiccups: (minor problems arising in initial phases of a venture): Ron had some teething problems while setting up his shop but soon, he figured out ways to overcome them.

Tight spot: (a problem): I’m in a tight spot these days because I lost my job a few months ago.

Uphill battle: (struggle against many unfavourable conditions): He has no family or friends in this unfamiliar city, he has no money and he doesn’t even speak the local tongue. It’s certainly going to be an uphill battle for him to survive in this city.

Vicious cycle: (when the solution to a problem causes a problem similar to the original or makes it worse so that you need to start the process all over again): I borrowed the sum from the bank to pay off the debt and now I have to pay back the bank loan. How will I arrange for that money? I’m in a vicious cycle with no way to break it.

Stir up a hornet’s nest: (do or say something that stirs up a lot of social criticism/reaction): The editorial of a popular daily stirred up a hornet’s nest by suggesting that the minister took a right decision in banning certain social networking sites.



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