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Let me show you 21(!) more interesting alternatives to saying “It’s hard”. Master these phrases and you’ll sound more natural and smooth when speaking English!
Oh my gosh, Marina. I woke up so early today, it was hard. And then a really hard workout on my Peloton, and then a busy day, it was hard!
Oh, wow Rachel it does sound hard. You know what else is hard? Expanding your vocabulary.
True. But today we’re going to do just that. Marina and I are going to give you 21 expressions to use instead of, or in addition to, “it’s hard”.
One thing you can say if something is really hard is “it’s killing me.” You can use this for something that is either physically hard or emotionally hard. For example, let’s say you applied to a bunch of colleges and you’re waiting to hear where you were accepted. You could say, The wait is killing me. Or, let’s say you’re in healthcare and your hospital is short-staffed. That means there aren’t enough workers. So you’ve had to pick up some overnight shifts. That’s very hard physically. You could say, this schedule is killing me.
This job is killing me man.
Let’s have Marina bring you number two. She’s from the Linguamarina channel. She lives in the US, but was born abroad, and, as a person who learned English as a second language, she knows exactly what challenges you’re facing on your English learning journey. She makes videos about how to speak English fast and understand native speakers, vocabulary, and life hacks on how to make the process of learning English fun. Check out her channel and be sure to subscribe with notifications to both her channel and my channel if you haven’t already.
It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears. That means it was a very hard thing to do and it required a lot of effort. It took Jack a lot of blood, sweat and tears to talk his three-year old daughter into going into a dentist, oh this is the story of my life, my two-year old daughter hates going to the doctors and it takes me blood, sweat and tears every time we have an appointment. So basically, it takes us a lot of time and effort to take her there to explain what would be going on and also think of a treat that she’s going to get after the appointment.
I put my blood, sweat and tears into my coaching
A hiccup, bump in the road, a hurdle to jump. I’m grouping three together here because they all came up in a conversation with a friend. It’s funny how, when you use one idiom, it’s sometimes hard to give the literal meaning. I’ve found we often explain idioms with other idioms.
There was a minor hiccup with um, a situation with a badge where I was not allowed access?
What do you mean by hiccup?
Um, there was a situation which was not ideal, it was a bump in the road.
Bump in the road, now that’s also an idiom. Could you explain that?
It was really what I would call a hurdle that I had that
There was a hiccup. Something didn’t go smoothly; something wasn’t easily done. She was traveling for work, and she was expecting to have the access she needed to get into the building. But it wasn’t that easy, she had to take extra steps. A hiccup is something minor. It doesn’t make life really hard, just a little inconvenient.
A bump in the road is just like a hiccup, it’s a minor inconvenience. It’s not a huge deal, it just makes things a little harder to move forward in a situation.
So that’s it? You get one little bump in the road and you give up?
She did eventually get the access she needed to the building, she just had to do a few extra things to get that access.
The reason we’re all laughing is because she keeps explaining an idiom with another idiom. None of these are the literal meaning, they are all the idiomatic meaning. No one, actually had the hiccups, she was not literally traveling on a road with bumps, and there were no literal hurdles to jump over, like you would in a track race or something. These are all phrases to say you had to do more work to make something happen, it was not as easy as you were expecting, the situation, the task, was a little bit harder than you thought it would be.
For example, our plane was delayed, so there was a little hiccup, but overall the trip was fine.
There was a bump in the road with my launch because the video editor got sick, but eventually everything got done.
There were some hurdles to jump with our mortgage application they kept wanting more information but in the end we were approved.
It was a hard-won. That means that you achieved something after a lot of effort. It was a hard-won journey moving from Russia to the US at the age of 25. That’s the story of my life.
It’s been a slog. A slog is hard work or tiring work over a period of time.
For example, if you’re telling a friend about your job, you could say: We just got a lot of new clients, which is great, but it has sort of been a slog.
It’s been a slog in many areas
It’s a bumpy road. We use this expression to replace it’s hard when we talk about our journey to something. For example, “I built a company in the United States and it was a bumpy road.” Which means I finally accomplished my goal but there were a lot of obstacles on the way. I had to get my green card, I had to set up a company, I had to find a CPA, I had to find a banker, I had to find clients but in the end, I got there but it was a bumpy road. You see it’s good to know an alternative to a widely used word because every alternative gives you this different mood like I could have said it was hard to build a company in the United States but hard is discouraging. When I say it was a bumpy road, I mean that you know, I did it yes, I had some obstacles but here I am. So, it doesn’t have this additional weight of being something that was really hard and challenging. It was a bumpy road so slightly lighter.
It’s a very bumpy road, people are couch surfing, people are trying to figure it out.
It’s slow-going. If something is slow-going, progress is difficult, hard, it’s not easy. Getting a task done is taking longer than projected, probably because there have been some hiccups or bumps in the road. For example, “Finishing my novel has been very slow-going–I’m just having a really hard time focusing.”
But it is hard work and it’s slow going and you need to really work through the unforeseen consequences of each element that you put in place.
Another great phrase that you can use in order to impress native speakers when you speak English, there were some curveballs. And even if you do not intend to use these phrases, it is good to know what they mean because sometimes I speak to Americans, they use some phrase and I can’t really say what it means just by hearing the phrase, so over the time I learned that I have to know a lot of idioms, I have to know a lot of synonyms because people actually use them all the time. And I don’t want to be this person who’s like you didn’t get something, you sit there like yes yeah, that was me when I first came to the US like I didn’t get a phrase I’d be “Ahuh, great.” Now, it’s kind of easier but it’s a bumpy road to get here. Let’s go back to this phrase, “There were some curveballs”. A curveball is something unexpected, something comes up and you have to deal with it. For example, I can say I have a wonderful time living in California but there are some curveballs all the time. I don’t know, something happens, you have to pay a lot of taxes or you have to move to a new place, you just had two kids or you’re raising a venture round as a creator but you have to deal with legal procedures, investors, etcetera.
But life throws you curveball bro!
It wasn’t straightforward. If something is straightforward, it’s uncomplicated and easy to do or understand. So if it isn’t straightforward, it is complicated, it’s not easy to do or understand. For example, when I lived in New York city, I got invited to a wedding in Harrisonburg, Virgina and I thought, “Great, I’ll take a train. Well, it turns out it’s not that straightforward. There’s no train directly there. There’s not even a good train option with a transfer, you could take a train to DC and then you could maybe take a bus over to the Harrisonburg area and then maybe take a cab to the wedding itself and I was like, “Whoa, I thought this was going to be easy but it’s actually not straightforward at all. So you know what I did? I ended up renting a car.
It was rough or it’s rough going. Now, this phrase is kind of it has a slightly negative mood like how is your business doing? It was rough. When you say it’s rough, the you actually imply that you have problems there, sometimes serious problems. Like if you ask me how was my travel related business impacted by Covid, I would say it was rough.
This whole year has been pretty rough going down at the mine.
Numbers 13 and 14 both begin with ‘put through’ – they put me through the wringer, they put me through my paces. A wringer is a device used in doing laundry by hand to get excess water out of the clothes or linens you’re washing. You crank the fabric through and it wrings out the water. Ouch! I do NOT want to be put through a wringer! But we use this idiom to mean several difficult or unpleasant experiences. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer and you’ve applied for a job at a big company. You send in your cover letter and resume, then they interview you. But then they ask for more examples of your portfolio that you have to pull together. Then they ask you to interview with two more people. Then they ask you to work on a sample project. You get the job and you think, I’m so glad they hired me but they really put me through the wringer!
Put me though my paces has the exact same meaning: To make one undergo a thorough testing or examination to evaluate one’s worth, ability, or competence. For example, “I did get the job, but they put me through my paces in the application process.”
Kate’s been through the wringer so it’s not going to make her any worse.
Another phrase that you can use is “no picnic”. No picnic means something is difficult to do something is not pleasant. Again, taking a child to a doctor is “no picnic”. Which means it’s harder and less pleasant than having a picnic in the park with your kid.
Also picnics are no picnic.
The next two have to do with being hard to figure out. So it’s not hard to do something, like most of these phrases that we’re listing here, but it’s hard to solve the problem. I’m stumped and I’m baffled. This is like I’ve tried everything I can think of, I now have no idea what to do to solve this problem. For example, I have this apple peeler, corer, slicer that comes in so handy when I’m making apple pies, but it stopped working and I looked and looked and could not figure out what was wrong. I was completely stumped, so I asked my brother-in-law to help me figure out how to fix it. For a while, he was also baffled, but then we got it working. Just in time for those thanksgiving pies.
Great power has always baffled primitive man.
Uphill climb or an uphill battle. This means that something is difficult to do and requires a lot of effort and determination.
The process of moving to another country is always an uphill battle because you have to deal with the documents, you have to find a place to live but at the end of the day it’s also super exciting because you’re building a new life.
And it does mean that there are going to be some that aren’t successful and it’s going to be an uphill climb for some.
Uphill both ways. Now, this is a funny phrase that you can hear from older people, so basically think of a hill. And when you walk uphill the it means you actually go down and it’s easier to go down so when you walk uphill, you expect that things will get easier when you go down. Now, when you say “I walk uphill both ways”, that means instead of going down, he actually climbed on another side as well. You know I can say it was so hard to get a full ride scholarship in an American University, I had to write an essay, I had to do this and that and somebody from the 80’s might answer “I went uphill both ways to get into a university in the US because now you have internet, now you have Youtube with free resources on how to get a full ride scholarship and I didn’t have it so basically this phrase is used to show that we’re a generation with a lot of opportunities and it’s easier for us to reach goals that were hard to reach back in the day.
It’s a bear. A bear. Big, hard to control, a little scary. Something that’s a bear is tough to deal with, hard to do. A couple of years ago we moved from our ‘starter’ home to our dream home. Even though we hired a company to help with the process, the move was still a bear.
You could also say “it’s murder” when something is extremely unpleasant to deal with.
It’s murder finding parking in San Francisco Financial District. Oh, believe me. I used to live there, it’s murder. Like you won’t imagine, I don’t know where you’re watching this from but it costs around $15 to park your car for 15 minutes downtown San Francisco.
“Hell” and “I went to hell and back” to do it. Hell in various religions is the realm of evil and suffering. You do not want to be there. If something is hell, then it’s very hard. She had a very difficult recovery from the accident, it was just hell.
Yes, every minute of it was hell.
A variation on this phrase is ‘went to hell and back to do it”. If you went to hell and back to achieve something, you put in an incredible amount of hard work to do it. For example: Well, I went to hell and back but I finished my thesis.
Easier said than done, you can use this phrase when something sounds easy but it would actually be hard to bring something to life.
Finding a perfect house was easier said than done. It took us two months to find our house in California.
Yeah, but that’s easier said than done.
You have to do it; you have no choice.
Ok Marina, I think we did it! Thank you for helping me, this was great!
Thank you guys for watching this video, don’t forget to subscribe to my channel
Bye Marina. Don’t forget to subscribe with notifications to Linguamarina here on YouTube, and of course do check out the video that we made on Marina’s channel which will come out March 9 to find 15 more phrases we can use instead of ‘it’s hard’. I’m also releasing a bonus video to my membership this week of 7 more phrases. Can you believe how many ways there are to say something is hard? Pick a couple of these phrases that you’ve never used before that you saw in this video and think about situations in your life where you might use them. What’s been a slog for you? What problem has left you stumped? Get comfortable with these phrases and start using them in your everyday English to express yourself with more sophistication.
Keep your learning going now with this video and don’t forget to subscribe with notifications so you never miss a lesson. I love being your English teacher and accent trainer. That’s it, and thanks so much for using Rachel’s English.