At a loss

Man looking confused and at a loss
Man scratching his head

Have you ever felt very confused about what to say or do? That's the perfect time to use the phrase "at a loss". To be at a loss means that you don't know what action to take or thing to say in a particular situation. 

It is often followed by "for" but can be used alone:

  • The government was at a loss for how to deal with the drug trade.
  • You're at a loss for ideas about how to make a profit. 
  • The new consultants are completely at a loss. They have no idea how to extract insights from data. 

In a conversation, it might look like this:

A: I can't believe she said you were too stupid to get the job, right to your face!
B: I know! I was at a loss for words. How can you respond to something like that?

At a loss doesn't always have to be negative. Sometimes getting great news can leave you at a loss for words, too!

Did you know? "At a loss" can also be used in the context of business and finance. It means to sell something at a price which is less than the cost to produce or buy it:

A: These new jeans just aren't selling. We're losing a lot of money on them.
B: I know. We're going to have to sell them at a loss to recover at least some of the production costs.