What would you say when unexpectedly finding yourself in big trouble while everything itself is not going very well and an irrevocable, unpleasant happening takes place suddenly in the manner that you immediately notice that a big problem / a series of problems are about to begin. Please consider my self-made scenario below:

  • Son) There is a long distance between my apartment and the university where the conference would be held!
    I must leave at 2 to make a good time to the conference; it's 1 o'clock and I'm running out of time!
    Mother) So, whats wrong? Come on son! Move right now!
    Son) Oh, ..........................
    Mother) Why?! What's the matter again?
    Son) I just noticed that my car is broken!

In our language, there is a proverb to be used to fill in the blank which says:

  • My cow gave birth.

Even sometimes, in order to exagerate the situation we say:

  • "My cow has given birth to twin calves"!

Here is the outcome of my researches in this regard, which I have no any ideas whether using each one sounds natural and idiomatic in this sense! Meanwhile, I don't know if they are considered as old-fashioned expressions these days or somehow, some translated versions of a similar foreign saying:

  • That's the pretty kettle of fish!
  • That fat in the fire!
  • Here comes the trouble!
  • Our goose is cooked!
  • That crowns it all.
  • That's the end.

I would be appreciative if you could help me to find the closest idiom/expression/proverb for this case.

  • 2
    You have received some good answers to your literal question about proverbs that are similar to your "My cow gave birth". But in my experience, native speakers would not usually use a proverb or indeed any long phrase to fill in the blank in your example; rather they would probably just use a single word and most likely an expletive such as (from polite to most rude) "Oh my (dear)", "Oh, shit" or "Oh, fuck" or some variation of that.
    – CompuChip
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 21:51

6 Answers 6


The answers above provide many common phrasings, the only one I would potentially add is

"That does it!"

This can be used to signify that after other things have gone wrong, the most recent upset has pushed you over the edge.

Another in that vein is (sarcastically) `

"That's just what I need!"

When you could really do without whatever has happened.

  • Thank you very much @Freddie R for the great response. +1 for the unique answer. Just please let me know a bit more about the nuance between your two suggestions! For me, they both exactly mean the same!
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 10:22
  • 1
    "That does it!" is said without sarcasm, and usually before action. "First my car wouldn't start, and now it's broken down! That does it, I'm getting the train".
    – Freddie R
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 10:28
  • 1
    "That's just what I need!" is sarcastic, and is usually more of a moan/whinge to someone else, since it doesn't have the finality of "That does it". E.g. "My boss told me to have this project done by Monday, but my computer just crashed! That's just what I need!"
    – Freddie R
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 10:37
  • Thank you @Freddie R. I have already found the neede answer to my question, but regarding something that just happened and you're going sarcastically refer to it, would it sound natural to change the verb tense to the sinple pst? I mean: "That's just what I needed".
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 10:53
  • 1
    @A-friend Glad you found an answer! And yup, changing the tense is extremely common
    – Freddie R
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 11:08

Of the suggested expressions "That crowns it" is an ironic way of saying that something is the thing that finishes off the problem. That seems the most appropriate expression in this situation.

A similar, but slightly different meaning is "That's the straw that broke the donkey's back", meaning the small thing that wouldn't be a big problem, except it came after lots of other problems.

But using these proverbs is not very natural. When native speakers use them it is usually referring to the proverb, not just using it.

They talk about "the straw that broke the donkey's back". Well ...

In this situation, the language that people use would probably be a lot coarser.

Mom: Come on son, move right now!
Son: Oh Bugger!
Mom: What's the matter?

There are lots of other coarse words, some of which you might not want to say in front of you mother, depending on how sensitive she is. (Bugger is a British only expression)

Or you could say something like "That's all I need!"

To describe the situation you might say "I'm up the creek without a paddle" But this is usually "I'm up shit creek (without a paddle)". It means you are in a difficult situation and it will be difficult to get out. You might also say that the person is "screwed", which just means "something bad has happened to me", but is coarse. So if we put it together:

Bugger. Well I'm really up shit creek now. The conference is in two hours, there's an hour's drive to the university and to crown it all my car won't start. I'm basically screwed.

  • many thanks to you for the great, innovative response. Just for more clarification, I wonder whether you could let me know a little more about these ambiguities of mine. Although you have already explained, but I still don't know the precise meaning of: "I'm really up shit creek", to crown it all..." and "I'm screwed"!
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 17:59
  • Meanwhile, @James K , as far as I realized, you mentioned that "That crowns it" can stand alone and still make a perfect sense in my case; right?
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 18:02
  • 1
    It could, but it looks very polite. Like my grandmother might say.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 18:27
  • In the UK people often say "it's the last straw", referring to the proverb above
    – CharlieB
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 21:01
  • 1
    I have said "using these proverbs is not very natural". People don't actually use proverbs very often in speech. Most of your other ones describe a different situation, and are not actually very common anyway.
    – James K
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 8:04

There are some minor issues with the examples you suggested. Here are revised versions, with comments:

That's a pretty kettle of fish!

For no clear reason, this is always "a", never "the" It is also a bit old-fashioned. I don't recall the last time I herd this outside of a novel set quite a while ago, say the early 1900s or before.

The fat is in the fire!

Always said in these words, never 'that fat" and never without the "is" or a contracted "is" in the form of "'s". Also a bit old-fashioned, not really current usage.

Here comes trouble!

Never with "the". Usually indicates a specific problem believed to be imminent, or the approach of a person who is likely to cause a problem. Not used for the accumulation of several problems as described in the question.

Our goose is cooked!

Can also be "my goose" or "your goose". A bit old-fashioned, but still in current use.

That crowns it all.

Not in current use, and not to my knowledge ever in really wide use. I would avoid this, in any and every context. I think it may once have been a Briticism, but I am not sure of that.

That's the end.

Perfectly acceptable, but not really a proverb or traditional saying.

At least in US English, the use of proverbs or traditional sayings as idioms is much less common than it was, say, 100 years ago.

People now might say:

Oh, What a mess!

We've got serious problems here!

(or "a serious problem here")

Houston, we've got a problem

Refers to the typically understated phrasing used by astronauts to report a very serious possibly life-threatening, issue. Mission control for all US manned space travel was in Houston. This phrase became iconic.

The world just landed on me.

That's the last straw.

Implies an accumulation of problems, and the latest one is just too much. alludes to 'The straw that broke the camel's back" the final tiny increase of load which causes catastrophe.

The phrase

I'm up Shit Creek

is na shortened version of

I am up Shit Creek without a paddle.

This is a metaphorical way of saying "I am in a very unpleasant situation, with no good way to get out of it." "Shit Creek" should be capitalized, as if it were the name of an actual place, in my view. Some consider this expression crude or impolite. It is also a bit of cliche.

"I'm screwed."

This is perfectly correct, and in wide current usage. However, many will regard this as crude, and you may wish to avoid it. "screwed" in this sense means "have had somethign bad happen to me", or "I have a prtoblem that cannot be solved." It does not directly refer to sexual activity, but that is the image being metaphorically invoked.

I'm in a fix.

means simply "I have a problem." or "I'm in a bad situation." It does not particularly imply multiple problems coming together, but can be used in such a case.

Murphy's law strikes again.

"Murphy's law" is the supposed observation, dating from the World-war II era that:

If anything can go wrong, it will.

This is often used to suggest bad luck, or that bad luck is more common than good luck.

(Oddly the original meaning was somewhat different. As I understand it the original context was an airplane part that could fit the plane in one of two mirror image positions, but would only work in one of them. The original meaning could have been rewritten as 'If something can be done incorrectly, it will be, so make sure that it can't" and the solution was to cut a notch so that the part would only fit in the correct way. All the trapazoidal cable connections and simialr devides descend from this idea.)

  • Thank you very much for the comprehensive response @David Siegel. Just could you possibly answer a couple of questions here? What does The world just landed on me. mean exactly?
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 7:43
  • Please explaine a little more about: I'm screwed. I cannot equalize it with something in my language! Meanwhile, I must be able to tell it apart from the orher similar expressions here. :)
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 8:08
  • 1
    @A-friend "he world just landed on me" suggests something huge has fallen on top of a person, (think of one of those cartoons, where a piano or an anvil drops on a character, but even more so) or perhaps the person has metaphorically just had a great weight added to his (or her) shoulders. In any case, it means that a sudden, unexpected personal disaster has occured to the speaker. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 13:29
  • 2
    @A-friend "screw" means "to have sex with", and it is not one of the more polite terms for that act. By extension "screw" means "to cheat" or "to do something nasty and malicious to" as in "The boss screwed me when he gave me an impossible job" Because the original metaphor is sexual, many consider this a rough, crude term, and it should be used with caution if at all. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 13:54
  • 1
    @A-friend roughly, yes. "I'm screwed " is not quite as strong, nor as likely to be viewed as improper. It is further divorced from its sexual origins. But the two are essentially similar. Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 15:03

a big problem / a series of problems are about to begin

In regards to this part of your question, another common saying that I haven't seen mentioned is :

The Devil works in threes.

or (removing the religious aspect)

Trouble comes in threes.

There's a stack question about the origins of the "Trouble comes in threes" phrase here: death comes in threes origin. The origins of "The Devil works in threes" comes from the Biblical story of Jesus' 40 days in the wilderness where Satan made three attempts to tempt Jesus.

Typically, as others have pointed out, the blank in your statement would be filled with a curse e.g. "F***!" or blasphemy e.g. "goddammit" (or God damn it). Sometimes you might combine both options into one massive phrase.

As a bonus, there is even a phrase for thinking you have solved a problem only to end up with a much bigger problem, which is:

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

  • Thank you very much @Aeron! We have a similar saying in out language about "Devil / trouble comes in three" which I think despite the fact that it is close, but it's not at all what I'm looking for! Meanwhile, it puts the stress on the "third time" while here we are discussing a single problem / a series of problem wich is added up by a new and finishing one! It means while the number of sth has not reached "three", it's not done and you have to expect to the third time which is the most important time.
    – A-friend
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 8:29

The first expression that came to my mind was:

I'm in a bind.

This means that you're in a difficult situation that will be difficult to resolve successfully.

If you are in a situation where you have already experienced several problems, and the latest problem you encountered guarantees that you will fail, you could refer to it as:

That's the last nail in the coffin.

This is a similar expression to "That's the last straw" and indicates that the latest revelation has sealed an undesirable outcome.


Seems like it's not easy to come up with a similar idiom in English! The popular idioms I can think of tend to focus on one of two attributes of the trouble:

  1. It's a small addition to your existing troubles, and it's finally pushed you personally over the edge, even though the trouble itself may not have been much.

That's the straw that broke the camel's back.

However, it sounds like you're looking for a phrase that connotes a bigger trouble — not just a "straw" but a whole bundle at once.

It never rains but it pours.

This implies that it's already been "raining" troubles on you... but here comes the metaphorical downpour. Still, this trouble didn't come out of nowhere; it's just the latest in a recent string of difficulties.

  1. Trouble was pessimistically expected, and it has finally arrived.

Well. There it is.

It's always something.

Generic idioms for big-trouble-having-struck include:

That's torn it!

(Glossed as "Brit. slang: an unexpected event or circumstance has upset one's plans"; which fits your use case perfectly, but notice that this is a bit of an obscure one. The "it" in this sentence doesn't refer to any particular thing, as far as I know. It's just, whatever "it" is, it's torn now!)

The shit has hit the fan.


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