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English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions 


PROBLEMS and DIFFICULTIES, page 1

Idioms
from:   'Achilles heel'   to:  'chill wind'


  • Achilles heel
    • The term Achilles heel  refers to a vulnerable area or a weak spot in a person or system that can cause harm or lack of success.
      "He's extremely intelligent, but his inability to speak in public is his Achilles heel."

  • (set) alarm bells ringing / alarm bells start to ring
    • If something sets the alarm bells ringing, it makes you begin to worry, because it shows that there may be a problem.
      "Alarm bells started to ring when my old neighbour didn't open his shutters all day and didn't answer his phone."

  • asking for trouble
    • Someone who is asking for trouble is behaving so stupidly that he/she is likely to have problems.
      "Driving fast on these roads is really asking for trouble!"

  • back to the wall
    • If you have your back to the wall, you are in serious difficulty.
      "With his back to the wall, the supplier had to accept the deal."

  • ball and chain
    • The term ball and chain refers to a burden or problem that ties you down and prevents you from doing what you want. (It can also refer to one's spouse.)
      "Our holiday home has become a ball and chain - it's too much work!"

  • bane of one's life
    • To say that something is the bane of your life means that it is the cause of your problems or your unhappiness.
      "The heating system is always breaking down. It's the bane of my life!"

  • bite off more than you can chew
    • If you bite off more than you can chew, you try to do something that is too difficult for you, or more than you can manage.
      "As soon as I started to translate the report, I realized that I had bitten off more than I could chew."

  • on the blink
    • If a machine is on the blink, a light flickering on and off shows that it is not working properly and needs servicing or repair.
      "What a nuisance! The photocopier is on the blink again."

  • break the back of the beast
    • If someone breaks the back of the beast, they succeed in overcoming a major difficulty.
      "After hours of effort, the technicians finally broke the back of the beast and turned the electricity back on again."

  • can of worms
    • To describe a situation as a can of worms means that it is complicated, unpleasant and difficult to deal with.
      "The discovery of the transfer of funds turned out to be a real can of worms."

  • carry the can
    • If you carry the can for another person, you accept blame or take responsibility for something that goes wrong, even if it is not your fault or only partly.
      "The author didn't turn up for the interview and his agent had to carry the can."

  • catch 22
    • A catch 22 situation refers to a frustrating situation where you cannot do one thing without doing a second, and you cannot do the second before doing the first.
      "I can't get a job without a work permit, and I can't get a work permit without a job.  It's a catch 22 situation!"

  • chill wind
    • If you face or feel the chill wind of something, you are beginning to encounter the problems or trouble it causes.
      "Many building companies are facing the chill wind of the recession."

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