In Dutch we've got the expression 'Vastbijten in'. It means you really get into a problem or some work. And you won't give up till it's resolved. I've been looking all over the web, but I've not been able to find an expression that comes close enough.

Is there a way of saying this en English? The Dutch expression is a verb phrase, so that would probably come closest.


Thank you all very much for your answers:). Since I can only accept one final answer, I feel the need to do some clarification. Initially I added the single word request, since the expression in Dutch is just one word (not including the preposition). However, that's very specific to the Dutch language and I'm mostly looking for an expression that comes closest. Therefore I feel that:

  • to get one's teeth into Comes closest, it's actually almost an exact translation both literally and in meaning.

  • indefatigable Is the best candidate when a single word is required(although the literal translation in dutch for this would be 'onvermoeibaar'). This also is an interesting choice since vastbijten can be used as noun(vastbijter), meaning an indefatigable person.

  • to dig in Would be probably the American equivalent of to get one's teeth into. Also not one word, but approaching the meaning closest.

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    The English idiom is close to sense of the Dutch. We'd say "I've got my teeth in it." Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:25
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    Two terms that may or may not apply: "Diehard", and "stupid".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 22:15
  • 3
    Tenacious, perseverant, pertinacious, determined.
    – Anonym
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 23:04
  • Dig in (verb) and tenacious (adjective) are the terms I would use for this in both the US and Australia.
    – jkraybill
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 0:50
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    @curiousdannii I'd prefer a verb phrase. I'll update my question in a bit. Thanks for the help:)
    – laurisvr
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 7:51

8 Answers 8


An almost-literal translation is to get one's teeth into something.

Work energetically and productively on (a task):
the course gives students something to get their teeth into


A slightly more prosaic alternative might be persevere; that connotes slightly less enthusiasm for the task at hand.

  • American here. We use "sink one's teeth into" Commented May 6, 2015 at 7:56

"persistent", "dogged", "indefatigable".

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    At ELU this response resembles a comment more than an answer as it lacks definitions, examples of usage, citation to authoritative sources and no links to same. Your answers will be much more favorably received (which will be reflected in upvotes) if they contain these qualities. Just trying to be helpful. :-)
    – user98990
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 20:02
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    @LittleEva: Maybe so, but it is still the best answer given here so far, IMO. It's not difficult for someone to check the meanings of those 3 words. I do agree, of course, that the answer would be better with some additional explanation or definition. But as an answer to "What do you call it...?" this is OK, IMO (minimal, but OK).
    – Drew
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 20:24
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    @Drew - the offered words are appropriate, indeed. However, a "good" answer involves more than what is included here. My suggested improvements are not attempts to foist my personal opinion on anyone, but are actual ELU protocol - just look around and you will notice the examples of long-term users (usually, though not always, they are discernible by their rep points) which almost always contain what I have spoken of above.
    – user98990
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 20:36
  • I'm with LittleEva here: although this is not "Not An Answer", this is not a good answer. It's the sort of answer which is normally converted to a comment. I won't do that as I'm not exactly disinterested but if I hadn't had an answer here myself I would have done. Other moderators may yet do that, votes or no.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 5:54
  • @Bob, thank you very much for your answer. I think yours comes closest to my description above. However as a translation goes get one's teeth into comes a bit closer. Please see the clarification in my post on top:).
    – laurisvr
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 7:20

If you're looking for a single word, as your tag suggests, may I recommend:


never giving up or getting tired of doing something

an indefatigable defender of human rights

She was indefatigable in her search for the truth.

[From oxford]

  • Please note that the actual source of quotes must appear in plain text, not just as a link.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:31
  • @Bob, thank you very much for your answer. I think yours comes closest to my description above. However as a translation goes get one's teeth into comes a bit closer. Please see the clarification in my post on top:).
    – laurisvr
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 7:21

Tooth and nail:

  • with all one's resources or energy; fiercely:

    • We fought tooth and nail till the end.

    • The market has changed, but the major players are fighting tooth and nail to keep going the way things have been.


  • We worked tooth and nail? Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:37
  • OP seems to refer to a problem to solve at work. They idea is that they are going to fight tooth and nail to solve it.
    – user66974
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:53
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    J Lawler's suggestion is a far better fit. There is not a single 'tooth and nail' not prefaced by a form of 'fight' in the examples at Dictionary.com. The implication is of sentient opposition; OP mentions a problem / task. Commented May 5, 2015 at 19:59
  • I didn't say Prof. Lawler suggestion is not good.
    – user66974
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 20:05

In American English a few common sayings are:

"dig in" - which would fit closely with the dutch expression

"come hell or high water" - meaning that no obstacle will stop your efforts

"In for the long haul" - expressing a commitment to finish what is started

Single word options:

relentless - literally "does not stop"

indefatigable - literally "does not tire" (this is a bit archaic to American ears)

  • Please cite to authority and include links to references.
    – user98990
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 20:08
  • That's great. I don't mean to plague you, H.R., but you should (according to site protocols) also include citations to referenced authorities (in addition to each link) in plain text (due to link-rot), with quoted passaged appearing in red-block. Take a look at Area 51 Detective Fiction (w/comments) & our Moderator, Andrew Leach's offerings, as good examples of what the site requests in an answer. BTW, all else being equal, including these features will substantially increase the likelihood that your answers/questions will be upvoted. :-)
    – user98990
    Commented May 5, 2015 at 22:44
  • @H.R.Rambler Thank you for your answer. I think dig in would indeed be the american English equivalent for vastbijten. Please see the edit of my question for further clarification:).
    – laurisvr
    Commented May 6, 2015 at 7:25

Dedicate is close to that. If you dedicate yourself to a task, it means you will work until it is complete.


To devote wholly and earnestly, as to some person or purpose: He dedicated his life to fighting corruption.


The verbs grapple and wrestle are commonly used in this sort of situation; this is metaphorical extension. The 'refusal to let go' implication is clear.

grapple v.intr.

  1. a. To wrestle with an opponent by clutching or gripping.

b. To struggle or work hard to deal with something: grappled with their consciences; grapple with the political realities of our time.

[American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company]


Eat, Sleep and Breathe (Something)

“He eats, sleeps and breathes poker, playing it for over nine hours each day.”

Definition: If you eat, sleep and breathe something, then that means you are obsessed with it and spend most of your time doing it.

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