8 Other Words for Problem in English

Today, we’re going to talk about other words for problem that you can use in English. I’m teaching my students about synonyms, trying to find alternative words for their speaking or particularly when they’re writing in English so that they can get a bit of variety.

This is particularly important for those of you who are planning to take English proficiency tests.

You need to be able to demonstrate to the examiner that you have a good English vocabulary. 

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8 Other Words for Problem in English

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Hi there, this is Harry, your English teacher, and welcome back to my English learning podcast Speak Better English with Harry.

So let’s look at other words for problem or plural problems.

1️⃣ The first one is

issue

Or issues in the plural.

Issue is used especially about problems that affect a lot of people in society. 

For example:

International terrorism is the most important issue facing the world today.

Previous governments failed to address social issues such as unemployment and homelessness.

You can often say to somebody:

Do you have some issues? – Meaning have you got some problems.

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Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

INSANITY: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

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2️⃣ The next word is

challenge

Challenge is something that is usually difficult but you can deal with it. Or you can do it. Or it’s something that you must do. It needs a lot of skill and effort.

For example:

Climbing mountain Everest was the biggest challenge in my life.

She said she was looking forward to the challenge of starting her new business on her own.

He was looking forward to the challenge of living in another country.

8 Other Words for Problem in English

3️⃣ The next is

difficulty

For example:

The company has managed to deal with its recent financial difficulties.

Many people experience difficulty in sleeping at some time in their lives.

4️⃣ Next word is

trouble

A trouble is a problem or several problems that make something difficult. They spoil your plans.

For example:

Students of English often have trouble understanding and using phrasal verbs.

I ran into some trouble on the way to school. There was a problem on the road and I was delayed.

The company ran into trouble when it tried to expand too quickly.

We usually don't use the word TROUBLE in the plural

When we use troubles as a plural it refers to a particular situation.

For example, in Northern Ireland when there were problems in the 1960s, 70s and 80s between the Catholics and the Protestants they were generally referred to as the troubles. It was a sort of a soft way of referring to the killings and the brutality that went on.

8 Other Words for Problem in English

5️⃣ The next word that would be a synonym for problem is 

setback

A setback is something that happens which stops you making progress or might make things worse.

For example:

Antonio was recovering well from a serious operation but then suddenly he got another infection and there was a little setback in his progress.

Despite some early setbacks his campaign for the presidency was eventually successful.

6️⃣ The next word is

obstacle

An obstacle is usually something that we have to overcome. It can be a physical obstacle.

For example:

A tree has fallen after a  storm and there’s an obstacle in the middle of the road.

We can also have obstacles in our lives, in some relationship or at work.

Criminal gangs are the biggest obstacle to democratic reforms. 

7️⃣ The next word is a

dilemma

A dilemma is another word for a problem. These are issues that we face from time to time.

For example:

The doctors were faced with a moral dilemma as to whether to save the life of the baby or the mother.

He’s got a dilemma, he doesn’t know whether he should accept the promotion or turn it down.

8️⃣ And then we have a

vicious circle

A vicious circle is how we describe something that goes round and round without ever being solved. It’s a continuous problem.

For example:

Some countries got caught up in a vicious circle where they borrow money and then they really can’t afford to repay those debts.

It was like a vicious circle and we were not happy with their proposal.

So here are 8 other words for problem that I would use. Let me just go through them quickly again:

  • issue
  • challenge
  • difficulty
  • trouble
  • setback
  • obstacle
  • dilemma
  • vicious circle

As always, thanks for listening to this particular podcast episode. If you want to contact me, you can do so on englishlessonviaskype.com Give me some suggestions, I’m always happy to include them in one of my future episodes. Thanks for listening.

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More information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

20 Collocations with PROBLEM

Vocabulary related to problem and advice

Enquire vs inquire

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