Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

back (is) (against/to) the wall

back against the wallback is against the wallback to the wallback is to the wall
Meaning(s)
1) be in a very difficult and limiting situation
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • with the deadline approaching, my back is against the wall
  • Analysis
    This expression does not just refer to a difficult situation, it refers to one in which your options to escape are limited. It also implies an inability to retreat, so a person with their 'back against the wall' would need to face their problems and fight and work hard to avoid failure or defeat. It is common in both a social and professional context, and is similar to the phrase 'between a rock and a hard place.'
  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. The bank are threatening to foreclose on Sarah's house if she fails to make her next mortgage payment. Her back is really against the wall now.
    2. When you have your back to the wall, it's better to keep fighting rather than choosing to give up.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. With the deadline approaching rapidly, my back was against the wall. I had no choice but to work through the night to get my article finished.
    2. We knew that with so much work to be done we had our backs to the wall, but the whole team pulled together brilliantly and worked their socks off.
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