Business Idioms 17: Problems, difficulty and misfortune 1

Ship tipped over in the ocean

This lesson will focus on using a variety of expressions related to problems, difficulty and misfortune.


You will learn 5 idioms describing problems, difficulty and misfortune. You will also get a chance to talk about your own experiences.

Warm Up: 

How do you react to problems you encounter at work? 


Please consider each expression and match them to the images. Your instructor has an example and a question regarding each one.

1. bite off more than you can chew—take on more responsibility or work than you can handle.
2. cross that bridge when you come to it—not worry about a possible future problem; if it happens, you can deal with it then.
3. the last straw—the latest problem in a series of problems, which makes a situation impossible to accept.
4. a tough break—bad luck.
5. it’s no use crying over spilt milk—there’s no point in feeling sorry about something that has already happened and you can't change.

A. B.
C. D.



A. Complete the anecdote

Read each section and choose an appropriate idiom from the list above.

  1. It’s a pity that we lost the contract, but that’s history now. …
  2. We may have to take the decision to cut jobs at some point in the future, but we’ll…
  3. Matthew had an important job interview, and he was confident about getting the post. Unfortunately, the train he was on broke down so he missed the interview. It really was…
  4. Hank agreed to take on the management of three new projects in addition to the two he's already supervising. I think he’s… 
  5. After the client postponed our project meeting for the fifth time, I told him that this situation couldn't continue. For me it was…

B. Discussion

Use idioms to discuss the following topics.

  1. What advice would you give to someone who is just starting out in your industry?
  2. What is the best way for project teams to deal with potential problems?
  3. Describe a recent problem at work that was hard to resolve.



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Free-Photos via Pixabay
Unattributed via Pixhere
Michael Schwarzenberger via Pixabay
Aline Ponce via Pixabay