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English Idioms & Idiomatic Expressions


Problems - Difficulties

(page 4 :   millstone around neck  →  saved by the bell)

millstone around your neck Something described as a millstone around your neck refers to a problem or responsibility that becomes a burden and a source of worry.
The money he borrowed became a millstone around his neck.
be murder If something is murder, it is very difficult or uncomfortable.
The journey home through the storm was absolute murder!
necessary evil If you say that something is a necessary evil, you don't like it but you understand that it has to exist and be accepted.
Vaccinations are a necessary evil if you want to travel.
one's number is up To say that one's number is up means that either a person is in serious difficulty and something bad is going to happen, or the time has come when they will die.
The police have located the escaped prisoner so it looks as if his number is up!
ostrich strategy/politics Someone who adopts an ostrich strategy or policy chooses to ignore or evade an obvious problem in the hope that it will resolve itself or disappear.
Adopting an ostrich strategy will only make matters worse - we've got to find a solution.
out of sync If two movements or actions are out of sync, they are not coordinated and are not taking place at the same time or at the same speed.
The traffic lights are out of sync and causing a lot of confusion.
out of whack If something is out of whack, it is not working properly or is not in good order.
The dishwasher is making a funny noise. Something must be out of whack.
paper over the cracks To say that someone is papering over the cracks means that they are concealing a problem rather than dealing with it effectively.
The measures taken to reduce unemployment are just paper over the cracks.
pass the buck If you say that someone is passing the buck, you are accusing them of not taking responsibility for a problem and letting others deal with it instead.
Whenever a customer comes to complain, she always finds a way of looking busy - a great way of passing the buck!
in a pickle If you are in a pickle, you are in a difficult situation and need help.
My car won't start and the trains are on strike today, so I'm in a real pickle!
(no) quick fix To say that there is no quick fix to a problem means that there is no simple solution.
There is no quick fix for unemployment; major reforms are necessary.
put on a brave face When confronted with difficulties, if you put on a brave face, you try to look cheerful and pretend that the situation is not as bad as it is.
Even in the worst of times she put on a brave face.
saved by the bell If you are saved by the bell, something happens at the last minute to rescue you from a difficult situation.
Saved by the bell! A friend arrived just when I realized I had no money for the parking meter.
scratch the surface When you only scratch the surface of a problem or subject, you deal with only a small part of it.
Some countries are only scratching the surface of their environment problems.
   
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