“Difficulties” is a common word used by DSE students. Are there other expressions to replace “difficulties”? Wall Street English will teach you 10 idioms that you can say when you are in trouble.


1. A can of worms

A can of worms refers to a situation that causes more problems for you when you start to deal with it.


The extradition law has opened a can of worms for the Hong Kong government.


2. A hot potato

A hot potato is a controversial issue or situation which is hard to deal with.


The issue of continuous protests is a political hot potato in Hong Kong.


3. A tough nut to crack

It refers to a person or thing that is difficult to deal with, understand, or influence.


The long-standing housing problem in Hong Kong is a tough nut to crack.


4. Be in deep water

To be in a dangerous, vulnerable, or troublesome situation or position, especially that which could be beyond one’s abilities to resolve.


The company is in deep water, and it fails to pay its debt.


5. At one’s wits’ end

Refers to a situation that you are Completely puzzled and perplexed, not knowing what to do.


The government is at its wits’ end when it comes to the housing problems.


6. With one’s back against the wall

When your back is against the wall, you are dealing with some very serious problems that limit the ways in which you can act.


The company finds itself with its back against the wall as its sales figures have been falling.


7. Be thrown in at deep end

To be forced to deal with something difficult or something that you are unfamiliar with.


I have never dealt with such a complicated problem before and feel like I am being thrown in at the deep end.


8. Have two strikes against sb / sth

The odds are against someone or something.


There are two strikes against the company, and it will go bankrupt if the situation continues to deteriorate.


9. A Chinese puzzle

Something difficult to solve like a puzzle.


Poverty has been a Chinese puzzle for decades.


10. On the horns of dilemma

This idiom is a bit different from the previous ones. It refers to a situation where you are in a difficulty of deciding things.


I understand that you are on the horns of a dilemma. You want to study arts in university, but you also know how badly your father hoped that you could take over his shop.



Next time when you want to say you are in difficulties, use the above idioms!