Let's assume someone has a big problem and is dealing with it. While he/she has not solved the first problem, another problem comes up and adds to the previous one. I wonder how you would explain this situation through an idiom / an expression or even a proverb in current English?

I know the expression: "double whammy", but it indicates two problem "at the same time", while I need to indicate that while the first (often big) problem has not solved yet, another (often big) problem appears.

  • Not really an idiom, but problems are said to "compound" if one builds upon or makes another one worse. E.g. "We struggled to restore the power. This was difficult in its own right, but today it was compounded by the fact that all the engineers were out sick." – MooseBoys Aug 25 '19 at 22:57

If it's not one thing, it's another.

From The Idioms:

if it’s not one thing, it’s the other

also if it’s not one thing, it’s another or it’s one thing after another


  • everything is going wrong
  • bad things keep happening
  • face many problems in succession
  • Superb. That seems to be the stuff Jason. I think "it never rain, but it pours" has a connotation of a series of problems in a row, while your's "If it's not one thing, it's another", to me, seems to be closer to two problems rather than a multitude of problems. Do you agree too @Jason Bassford? – A-friend Aug 25 '19 at 15:19
  • I think this is a better alternative so I have up voted it. – Brad Aug 25 '19 at 15:24
  • @A-friend It can be used to refer to either just two problems in a row or to many problems in a row. Or even to refer to a general condition rather than a specific number of bad events. I can't think of any idiom that specifies exactly two things happening in sequence. (There is the expression that deaths, or bad things, come in threes, but that's a different number . . .) – Jason Bassford Aug 25 '19 at 15:31
  • Good points Jason, but how can you distinguish between these two expressions? – A-friend Aug 25 '19 at 15:37
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    @A-friend It's a matter of subjective interpretation. Idioms are seldom precise or literal in the first place. If you want to be precise, it would be best to not use an idiom at all. I personally think the idiom I provided is better suited to a smaller number of events (otherwise I wouldn't have answered as I did), but others might think otherwise. (And as a general expression of annoyance over continued difficulty, both work quite well—as would You've got to be kidding!, Stop already!, Give me a break!, or And the hits keep on coming!) – Jason Bassford Aug 25 '19 at 15:45

It never rains but it pours

it never rains but it pours C.E.D. UK saying (According to C.E.D. the U.S. version is when it rains, it pours) ​ said when one bad thing happens, followed by a lot of other bad things that make a bad situation worse

  • It is not a exact fit but! – Brad Aug 25 '19 at 14:32
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    It is not a UK saying. It's used in AmE too. – Lambie Aug 25 '19 at 15:10
  • @ Lambie If you note C.E.D gives the U.S. version in brackets above. Anyway I just copy and pasted that part from C.E.D. No offence meant. – Brad Aug 25 '19 at 15:14
  • Brad, it's not about taking offence, it's just about accuracy. :) – Lambie Aug 25 '19 at 15:17
  • @ Lambie; It is a bit misleading How C.E.D. do uk and us without capitals. I will edit it. – Brad Aug 25 '19 at 15:20

"Another nail in the coffin" might be the expression you are looking for

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