Whether we like it or not, we all have to deal with things that annoy us or cause difficulties and stress. Sadly, it is part of life. This post won’t stop you from having to deal with these things, but it will at least give you a range of words and phrases for talking about them in English!
Let’s start with some single words that refer to different types of problem. A predicament is a bad situation that is difficult to get out of: She’s trying to find a way out of her financial predicament.
A dilemma is a situation in which you have to make a difficult choice between two different things: Now he has been offered the other job, which puts him in a bit of a dilemma.
Meanwhile, an ordeal is a very bad and unpleasant experience, especially one that continues for a long time. This word is usually used for serious events: The hostages’ ordeal came to an end when soldiers stormed the building.
We often experience difficulties in the early stages of doing something new. In UK English, we sometimes refer to these as teething troubles or teething problems: There were the usual teething troubles at the beginning of the project, but this is to be expected.
A juggling act, meanwhile, is a situation that is difficult because several different things must be dealt with at the same time. (People often describe the combination of working and being a parent as a juggling act.) My life’s a constant juggling act between home and work.
Some situations are difficult because, for whatever reason, it is impossible to make progress. For example, a dead end is a situation that has no hope of making progress: Negotiators have reached a dead end in their attempts to find a peaceful solution.
An impasse is a situation in which progress is impossible, especially because the people involved cannot agree: The dispute had reached an impasse, as neither side would compromise.
Stalemate, meanwhile, is a situation in which neither group involved in an argument can win or get an advantage and no action can be taken: The two countries appear to have reached (a) stalemate. (Note the collocating verb ‘reach’ that is often used with these three nouns.)
Moving on to some more colloquial expressions, something that causes you a lot of difficulties, often over a period, may be described as a headache: Getting a visa was a real headache. For things that are inconvenient and difficult or boring, we may use the informal expressions a pain (or a pain in the neck), or a drag:
I’ve got to take the documents to the office in person, which is a bit of a pain.
Filling in forms is such a drag.
Meanwhile, a nightmare is an extremely unpleasant event or experience: The journey back was a complete nightmare – the flight was delayed, Dan lost his luggage and both kids were sick.
Let’s hope the week ahead is free of difficulties and stress!