Other Words for Difficult

There are other words for difficult that you need to know.

Hi there this is Harry and I want to talk to you today about the word difficult. D I F F I C U L T. How and when we use it and what does it mean.

Other Words for Difficult - Transcript

Of course, it’s not such a difficult word to explain and we use it a lot when we have a problem with homework, when we have a problem with our sports activities or relationships so it’s a common word and in that use.

But with English and particularly when I’m teaching English I like my students to understand alternative options, synonyms that they can use so they don’t have to repeat the same word over and over again.

And, of course, if you’re studying English seriously and you want to take some exams (FCE, IELTS) then a broader and wider vocabulary is absolutely essential.

Particularly for the spoken and written parts of those exams.

Even if you’re going on to higher level English and you want to do some perhaps creative writing. Well, then you know vast an increased range of words is really really important. 

So as I said, difficult is a word we use when we have a problem. 

My work is difficult because my boss keeps asking me to do more and more.

My social life is difficult because I don’t have a girlfriend.

My sports life is difficult because I’m not fit and I can’t get on the football team. 

Okay. So we can use the word difficult difficult difficult.

Here are some alternatives that you might like to

consider instead of difficult:




AWKWARD (I’ll come back to that. A little bit of a question about whether we should we shouldn’t use it)




Other Words to Say Difficult in English

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So there you have a lot of alternatives that you can use. Some of them directly can be substituted, others you just have to be careful in the circumstances in which you use them. So let me give you some examples.


The exam was really tough.

The questions were very tough. I wasn’t sure that I will be able to answer them all because some parts I have not covered in my course.

Tough is directly substituted or substitutional for the word difficult.

My exam was very difficult. My exam question number 2 was difficult.

Question number 2 was tough.

So they can substitute those directly for each other.


Another word that we can substitute directly.

My exam was difficult.

My exam was hard. Question number 2 was very hard.

Okay. So exactly the same meaning here as tough and exactly the same meaning as difficult. 


While demanding can have a few different meanings and we can say something is difficult it’s demanding but when it’s not impossible.

The work he has to do these days is quite demanding because he recently got promoted and therefore there’s more expected of him.

Married life can be quite demanding. Pressures of relationships, buying a home, repaying the mortgage, having children these are all aspects of married life that are quite demanding.

And again we could use the word difficult.


Here this could have the same meaning as difficult but has a slightly different context.

The opponents that we are playing on Saturday are quite a formidable team. They haven’t been beaten all season so we’re really going to have our work cut out (meaning: it’s going to be difficult) if we’re going to get anything out of the game. If we are going to beat them.

So this opposition is quite formidable.

His opponent in the boxing match was the most formidable person he has fought to date. This person has never been defeated and he is really strong. He’s really well-built, he is extremely fit and it would be quite an achievement to win that fight.

So this opponent is quite formidable.

We could say difficult but difficult wouldn’t quite give you the same meaning whereas formidable gives you more expression that he’s tough, he’s strong, he’s fit and you know it’s going to be quite an achievement to succeed.

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A competition can be challenging. 

A question can be challenging. 

Any particular activity that we find a little difficult can be challenging. 

Completing a marathon run can be challenging if you’ve never run the distance before.

So you train for many many weeks and months and you hope that you’re going to be able to complete the full distance. It can be quite challenging.

I mentioned in the introduction the word


I wouldn’t be inclined to use this as difficult. It can but it has very many other meanings as well so I wouldn’t use it as an option for difficult. 

AWKWARD means you are not quite comfortable with something. It is not necessarily difficult but it is uncomfortable.

The words




are a little bit more of a higher-level English and so you can practice these and again. Both ONEROUS and ARDUOUS are the good words to substitute for difficult.

The task that they set was very onerous. It took many hours to do it and complete it.

The walk up the hill wasn’t really a walk. It was a trek and it was very arduous. The rocks were slippery the gradient was quite steep so it took many hours to get to the top. It was an arduous ascent.

Ascent meaning to climb up.

Other words for difficult in English. www.englishlessonviaskype.com #learnenglish #englishlessons #английский #angielski #nauka #ingles #Idiomas #idioms #English #englishteacher #ielts #toefl #vocabulary #ingilizce #inglese

Ways to Say Difficult - English Slang Expressions

Okay and a couple of not slang expressions but more informal expressions that we can use when we’re talking about difficult.


Picnic is a very nice thing to have out in the the park, with some sandwiches, a glass of wine or whatever you’re having. When we say something is no picnic it means it was quite difficult. 

Or we can also say:

Well, that exercise, that run that was NO WALK IN THE PARK

Again walk in the park is something quite interesting and exciting. Something you can do. When we say something WAS NO WALK IN THE PARK it means it was quite difficult.  

Okay. Try and practice those other words for difficult and get an understanding of the word difficult. 

Remember, as always, to join us on www.englishlessonviaskype.com, subscribe to our channel and click on the notification bell. When you do this, it will inform you when there’s a new video for you to to look at. When there’s a new video waiting for you. 

We also have plenty of online English courses. I think with now six on the site and you can buy them. They will give you some greater in depth into English language, particularly the English grammar. Okay. Thanks for joining me.

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More Information

For more information on English Prhasal Verbs, English idioms and new vocabulary words, check out the following links:

Phrasal Verbs with WEAR

How to describe food in English

English collocations with SELF

As always, plenty of material is available on BBC Learning English website.

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