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I am looking for an idiom or an idiomatic expression to convey the idea of the last chance or the last possibility that a person may have or may be given in a critical situation.

For instance, if you are in a training period and you are not doing well, your boss may give you one last possibility which, if you fail, you lose your job.

Boss: I am not satisfied with your work, but I want to give you ___________

Me: This is ________ or I will be fired.

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closed as off-topic by Rathony, ab2, jimm101, Kit Z. Fox Mar 9 at 14:30

This question appears to be off-topic. The users who voted to close gave this specific reason:

If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

What research efforts did you do before asking this question? Did you try this or this or this? What is wrong with using last chance? – Rathony Mar 4 at 12:12
Yes, I have tried to look for an idiomatic expression, but I could not find any that would suit the context, if I had found it, I would have not asked here. @Ranthony: why don't you try to give a hand instead of just voting to close? – Saturana Mar 4 at 12:34
Remember this community is not a dictionary or Googling service. There are multiple candidates that can fit in your context just by Googling synonym last chance or idiom for last chance. At least you should show what you found and explain why that particular idiom/phrase/word doesn't work in your context. That's the way it works here. Remember, ELU is not the thesaurus. – Rathony Mar 4 at 12:37
As I explained in my question I need an idiom, can you please provide a good one? I could not find it. I am not a native speaker and idioms can be tricky to use. – Saturana Mar 4 at 12:40
The main problem here is that the body of the question doesn't show the research. I doubt that this is actually a commonly available resource problem though, since a thesaurus alone would not explain why a particular option best fits a particular context or how they should fit into a sentence, such as the exemplary sentence provided, so it can't adequately answer the question alone. Consequently, the answers which merely copy the thesaurus' options are also deficient in a regard. Also, since it's an idiom request question, the provided suggestions implied to be not metaphoric enough. – Tonepoet Mar 4 at 14:58
up vote 3 down vote accepted

I actually believe the OP's the last chance is extremely close.

Longman Dictionary has a very useful entry for chance

2. opportunity (COUNTABLE) a time or situation which you can use to do something that you want to do [= opportunity]

a second chance/another chance

— He was given a second chance to prove his abilities.
— Friday is your last chance to see the show before it closes.
— I'll give you one last chance and if you don't bring it on Monday, you'll be in trouble.

Boss: I am not satisfied with your work, but I want to give you a second chance / one last chance.
Me: This is my last chance...

Usually when someone gives another person a second chance what they really mean is that they won't be forgiven, or it will be impossible to mend if things are messed up a second time.


  • You’d better do well on the exam today because there won’t be any second chances.

  • If somebody is gracious enough to give me a second chance, I won't need a third.

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Thanks, your suggestion is helpful, though I was hoping for something idiomatic. Could for instance expressions like "the last-ditch" or the "last shot" be used in the context I provided? – Saturana Mar 6 at 14:30
Second/last/another chance is idiomatic. Perhaps an employer might say "You have one last shot to keep your job/position/title" As for "last ditch" I wouldn't use it myself. It sounds more like a last attempt than a possibility. – Mari-Lou A Mar 6 at 14:34
Ok thanks, very helpful. You are the first to show the usage of the expression suggested. – Saturana Mar 6 at 14:40
@Saturana the following "last ditch", "eleventh hour", "last-gasp" the emphasis is on time, they could all be substituted with "in/at the last minute". While a/one last shot is a final opportunity. I hope this helps – Mari-Lou A Mar 6 at 14:46

It's now or never. - something that you say which means that you must do something immediately because you will not get another opportunity [TFD]

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This is interesting, but isn't it more related to the idea of "taking the opportunity" rather than being given or having the last opportunity? – Saturana Mar 4 at 11:52
More like a call to seize the last available option or opportunity. – spyky_42 Mar 4 at 11:56

The following two idioms, each in its own way, do convey "the last chance or the last possibility that a person may have or may be given":

shit (or piss) or get off the pot vulgar slang

Used to convey that someone should stop wasting time and get on with something.

A vulgar expression probably shouldn't escape your bosses lips, but the boss/employee exchange appears to be only a "for instance". Even in such a context, it would not be stretch to imagine a workmate telling you "It's time to shit or get off the pot", implying that there is someone else waiting to take your place, in this case your job.

do or die

Used to describe a critical situation where one’s actions may result in victory or defeat

This expression definitely does more to capture the "critical situation" specified in the OP and could be worked into that conversation:

Boss: I am not satisfied with your work, so I am afraid it is now do or die for you.

Me: Do you mean this is my last chance or I will be fired?

Boss: That is exactly what I am saying.

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There are many idiomatic phrases for this concept, several listed by @jimm101. In addition there are:

  • make-or-break
  • where the rubber meets the road
  • last shot
  • rubicon
  • moon shot
  • Hail Mary (play or pass)

Not all of these would be said by both boss and struggling employee, and several suggest victory if successful, rather than just survival.

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Thanks, but just a list is not really helpful. I guess "make-or-break" and "last shot" might work. How would the sentences look like if I were to use them? – Saturana Mar 4 at 13:03

Look, if you had, one shot, or one opportunity To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment Would you capture it, or just let it slip? Yo

Eminem "Lose Yourself"

As in the above lyrics, one shot is an idiomatic way of conveying a single chance. 'One last shot' could be another way to put it, which would mean that other opportunities have been available in the past, and no more are forthcoming.

Boss: I am not satisfied with your work, but I want to give you one last shot [at redemption].

Me: This is my last shot, or I will be fired.

No pun intended...

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When an unhappy boss addresses a trainee using the idiomatic or else as “an inspecific threat of bad consequences” following a suggestion or demand during a training period, the bad consequences (as well as the notion of “last chance”) although unspecified, should be apparent or at least suspected.
(definition of "or else" from ‘McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs’, via ‘The Free Dictionary by Farlex)

By adding “this time” between the suggestion/demand and the sinister “or else,” the notion of “last chance” would be further cemented, so I think something like the following could work:

Boss: I am not satisfied with your work, so [you better] get it right this time, or else.
Me: This is the time to get it right or [else] I will be fired.
(or Me: I better get it right this time, or else [I will be fired].)

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"This is the final straw" is probably the best I can think of - pretty much encapsulates what you were aiming to convey.

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The final straw suggests that the person has failed for the final time and will not be given another chance, which is different to the question. – Max Williams Mar 4 at 15:00
@MaxWilliams No it doesn't. The idiom derives from the fuller form of the idiom "the straw that broke the camel's back". In the shorter form of the idiom "the final straw" the application of said straw to the metaphorical "camel's back" is unspecified and one can picture a straw being held in anticipation of being imposed upon a camel. Advising that something is "the final straw" is not necessarily indicative of the situation having falling to total disarray - it may be the case that the application of this straw to the camel's back is not followed through with and the situation is saved. – James Stott Mar 4 at 15:07
If you were someone's boss, and you were giving them one last chance (which is what the question is asking about) would you say "This is the final straw?". Most people would not. – Max Williams Mar 4 at 15:11
@MaxWilliams maybe not but that's a context thing - you're probably not going to use an idiom in such a situation - it's too flowery for something so serious. Regardless, the crux of the question was context-independent and the OP was looking for a general idiom, using the boss-employee instance as a mere example. – James Stott Mar 4 at 15:14
Whatever the context, "the last straw" has a totally different meaning to "the last chance that someone is being given", which is what the question asks. – Max Williams Mar 4 at 15:24

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