Wild-goose chase is a phrase used to mean that you are searching for something that doesn't exist.

Is there any similar phrase or word to express the following: You are not going to meet the deadline. It's a hopeless task. Meaning that the assigned deadline for the given task is too short. No matter how hard you try it, we will not be able to do it.

Is there a way to express it concisely?

  • 2
    What are the chances you can make the deadline? Impossible! The dictionary should list a few antonyms. Impossible should head the list. As a general rule you should search the dictionary before asking here.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 12:37
  • 1
    Technically, wild goose chase means something you will never find or accomplish. It doesn't necessarily mean that the thing you seek doesn't exist.
    – EllieK
    Commented May 3, 2022 at 12:41
  • The deadline is (and often, always was) unrealistic. Commented May 3, 2022 at 12:47
  • @EllieK has good advice. Or consult a thesaurus. Commented May 3, 2022 at 12:47
  • @EllieK is there any good online dictionary or website where if I put a word, it provides synonyms and phrases or idioms like It's a fool errand. So is using the idiom wild goose chase in the current situation appropriate? Commented May 9, 2022 at 9:08

2 Answers 2


The top answer should be "impossible". It's impossible to make the deadline.

thesaurus.com offers more colorful alternatives.

To think you could meet this deadline is absurd.
Trying to complete the task is futile. It's a hopeless situation.
The difficulties are insurmountable.
Thinking you could finish the job is, in fact, preposterous.
The goal is unattainable.


I like “it’s a fool’s errand.” (Which comes from the old and cruel tradition of hazing new coworkers by assigning them impossible tasks — buying some blinker fluid, for example.)

There is also “getting blood from stone” or “getting blood from turnip”, used when you are trying to get something from a source that does not supply that thing. “I was trying to get an explanation from Mom, but it’s like getting blood from a turnip.”

Also, “spinning your wheels” (expending a lot of effort without accomplishing anything, a reference to a car with no traction in sand or mud).

For the literary types, you can say “tilting at windmills”, recalling the mad knight Don Quixote “tilting” (attacking with a lance from horseback) against a windmill he believes to be an evil giant, referring to a futile and stupid, but romantic, attempt to accomplish the impossible.

Trying to reverse an irreversible change is “putting toothpaste back in the tube”. Trying to accomplish too much with too limited resources is “putting 10 pounds of crap in a 5-pound bag”.

Seeking help from someone with no power to help you is “talking to the wrong end of the mule” (the joke being that mules are very stubborn and even if you talk to the head-end, the mule will still not cooperate.)

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