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According to dictionaries, especially in American English, people say "we have a situation here" when they have "an important or sudden problem".

I am not a native speaker so I can speak for what I know. That is I often hear American people say "we/I have a situation here" for problems relating to bathroom.

For example, a man went into a public toilet and after he was done he realized that there is no toilet paper in there. So, he cried "I have a bit of a situation here".

Or a man is currently on a bus and suddenly he wants to use the bathroom but there is no bathroom on the bus. So he cried "I have a situation here".

Do we say "we have a situation here!" for big serious problems in American English?

For example, many soldiers were killed in the ambush and only one soldier survived and made it to the military base.

Can he say to the general there "We have a situation here!"?

Also, what do British people say in these situations?

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    Ha! Yeah, using it for bathroom stuff is kind of humorous overstatement. I wouldn't use it to the general in your example, because a "situation" in this expression is usually a problem that needs attention. In your example, the situation is kind of over since everyone's dead. Also, it wouldn't be "here."
    – cruthers
    Jul 29, 2022 at 2:13

3 Answers 3

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Yes. Think, for example, of a detective or cop discovering a crime scene and reporting it.

They could say something like

We have a situation here; call the forensics team.

Although, you could remove the here. For example,

So... we have a situation, I've lost my wallet. Do you have any cash?

We have a situation. It seems the car broke, so we cannot get to the hotel tonight.

I have a situation, I lost my ticket and cannot enter the concert.

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I can answer your last part about British English:

You can simply replace "situation" with "problem" or "issue"

Colloquially, we like saying "I've got a bit of a problem." Technically, this might suggest that we only have one section or part of a problem, which doesn't make sense, but in general that's just a gentle, mild mannered way of saying "I've got a problem."

You can still say "I've got a problem" or "There seems to be an issue," or you can simply cut straight to what the problem is and it won't seem curt or rude.

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"I have a situation here"

This implies that something is wrong. By themselves, the words do not show how bad the problem is. Also, you can ask about the severity, but you also might want to know how urgent the situation is and whether the speaker expects help.

Without further information, I would believe the speaker wants help from the listener. Otherwise, why bring it up? That can obviously change, like this:

I have a situation, and I know I can handle it. I want you to be proud of me, Dad.

Below, I've given some examples of how to express that a situation is either urgent or urgent and severe.

"I have a situation here."

or

"I have a situation here."

Emphasizing either the word situation or the whole sentence, perhaps by shouting or somehow attracting attention, can show that a problem is worse than normal, or something the speaker cannot solve alone. It could also mean that they're in a hurry.

"I have a bit of a situation here."

Sometimes, a speaker will emphasize the severity of a problem by understating it. "a bit of a" in the above phrase is code for,

I'm trying not to freak out

or

I want to be polite while I ask for help

In a military context — or at least, with military TV, anyway — the phrase takes on a different meaning. Before a team of soldiers take action, they generally spend time making a plan to cover all of the likely situations that could occur.

While acting out the plan, if a soldier uses the generic phrase "situation" to describe what's happening — instead of referring to something specific that was mentioned during the planning phase — it can easily imply that it's an unexpected scenario which needs to be addressed urgently. Of course, most urgent, unexpected situations in the military would become more severe if ignored.

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