Idioms – Trouble and difficulty

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Hey guys!

Everybody knows the importance of learning some idioms and colloquial expressions, especially when you live in a foreign country. We always learn a lot of them by communicating with native speakers or watching movies and series. In this section, you learn some idioms and expressions to communicate in a more natural way when speaking English in a foreign country.

Here are a few Idioms related to the topic trouble and difficulty.

* be asking for trouble – looking for problems. (procurando problemas)

Riding a bike in town after dark without lights is just asking for trouble.

* bite off more than you can chew – to try to do a task that is too big for you or too difficult.

(dar o passo maior que a perna)

He took a major problem but he doesn’t have any staff to help him. I told him not to bite off more than he can chew.

* a Catch 22 – an extremely frustrating situation in which one thing cannot happen until another thing has happened and vice-versa. (num beco sem saída, se correr o bicho pega, se ficar o bicho come)

This expression comes from a novel Catch 22 (1961), by the American author Joseph Heller, which is about bomber pilots in the Second World War. Their “Catch 22” situation was when any sane person would ask if they could stop flying. However, the authorities would only allow people to stop flying if they were insane!

There’s a Catch 22 in finding a job. You need experience to get work and you need work to get experience.

* a/the fly in the ointment – when someone or something prevents a situation from being as successful and enjoyable as it would be without them. (mosca na sopa)

The only fly in the ointment was her lack of concentration.

* not have a leg to stand on – when someone is in a very weak position as they cannot prove a claim or statement they have made. (sem base nenhuma)

He doesn’t have a leg to stand on. I think he won’t even come to court.

 * in over your head – to be in a too difficult situation to deal with. (estar afundado, estar além das capacidades)

He realized he was over his head, and that only his family could help him.

* out of the frying pan into the fire – to move from a bad situation to an even worse one. (sair do espeto e cair na brasa)

I was hoping to get my career back on track after a bad time, but as it turned out, I’d gone out of the frying pan into the fire.

* an own goal – to harm your own interests. (gol contra, um tiro no pé)

It’s a long shot but I think you can still get a promotion after what happened.

* put your foot in it – when you say something that embarrasses or offends the person you with, and embarrasses you as a result. (dar um fora, cometer uma gafe)

I really put my foot in it when I asked her about her job. I didn’t know she’d just been fired.

* a stumbling block – a problem which stops you from achieving something. (uma pedra no caminho)

The lack of money was a stumbling block for the conclusion of the house renovation project.

* teething problems/troubles – problems in the early stage of something. (problemas iniciais)

They are having some teething problems in their new marriage.

* a vicious circle – when one problem causes another one, a cicle of cause and effect. (um círculo vicioso)

Extreme dieting always causes a vicious circle where the dieter initially loses a lot of weight but then gains back more weight than when they first started the diet.

I hope you learned some new idioms today, see you next time!

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