10 Phrasal Verbs and Idioms for Difficult Times in Life or Business

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Everyone goes through difficult times. Some of us might not want to talk about our struggles, and other people never seem to stop talking about their hard times!  Recently I have experienced difficult times in my life and business and I have needed to remember that we as humans always seem to get through difficult times and sooner or later things start looking up! For you to improve both your speaking and listening in this area, here are some common phrasal verbs and idioms for talking about (or listening to someone talk about!) the difficult times in life or business.

  1. Go through a rough patch

    When we experience a difficult time in life or business we can say that we are, “going through a rough patch”. When you use this idiom, it communicates that your difficult time is temporary: it is difficult for the moment, but not forever. We usually use this idiom in the continuous tense if talking about the present, to emphasize that it is temporary. We usually use the past simple tense to talk about the past, to emphasize that the difficult time is over or finished.

  2. Go downhill

    When something is becoming or getting worse, when things are not as good as they were in the past, we can use the verb phrase/idiom “to go downhill”. You can say in business that a specific industry is going downhill, or that the quality of a product is going downhill. You can say that a person’s life is going downhill quickly.

  3. Fall Apart

    We use this phrasal verb to talk about when things break into pieces, literally as well as metaphorically or figuratively. You can feel like your relationship is falling apart, that YOU are falling apart, that a specific department in your company is starting to fall apart. This means that something that was complete or good before is breaking into pieces.

  4. Not Go Smoothly

    This idiom is another way to say that things are not good in your life or business. You can say, “things are not good at the moment” or you can say, “things are not going smoothly at the moment”. This is usually used in the continuous tense, both present and past continuous tense (the to be + ing form).

  5. Fall on Hard Times

    This idiom is another way to say that a person or business is experiencing a difficult time. It often has the meaning that the difficult time is financial: that a person or business does not have enough money. It also sometimes only means that a person is going through a difficult time.

  6. Get through

    This phrasal verb means to experience and survive a difficult time in life or business. When someone is going through a rough patch in their life or business, we can say, “Don’t worry, you are going to get through this” to try and make them feel better! When you get through something you experience the difficult time and then you are ok and things get better.

  7. Lift your Spirits

    When we feel low or down (not good or happy), those who love us will often try to “lift our spirits” – when your spirits are lifted, something makes you feel better. You can say, “watching the YouTube video of people helping other people really lifted my spirits”. It made you feel better.

  8. Make someone’s Day

    When you are feeling sad or when things are difficult and then someone does something nice or kind and it makes you feel better or good for the rest of the day, you can say that person “made your day”. Often the kindness of a stranger, or words that make you feel good can really make your day. They do something and your bad day is now a good day :)

  9. Cheer up

    We use this phrasal verb when we see that a person is sad and we want them to feel better. “Come on, cheer up, you’re going to get through this.” When a friend calls to see how I am doing during a difficult time, they usually cheer me up! Sometimes people add the word, “buttercup” because it rhymes (has the same sound at the end). “Cheer up, buttercup!”

  10. Look up

    This phrasal verb has a couple of different definitions. When we use it in the continuous tense or with “start to”, it means that things are starting to get better. “I’ve been going through a rough patch but now things are looking up”. “Things are starting to look up”.

    I hope that if things in your life or business have not been going smoothly that you will get through it quickly, and that things will start looking up for you very soon!!


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