I want to say that at some point in my life, I had to choose between two majors for undergraduate studies. Is this sentence grammatically correct?

I was in the dilemma of choosing between y engineering and z engineering to study as an undergraduate student.

Or should I say

I was in the dilemma of choosing between y engineering and z engineering on which major to study as an undergraduate student.

  • 1
    "Dilemma" is usually used when talking about choosing between equally undesirable situations. I assume that neither course of study was undesirable, so perhaps simply saying you were "facing a choice" or some such would be a more literate way of expressing your idea.
    – JohnH
    Jul 20, 2015 at 15:34
  • The picturesque language is "on the horns of a dilemma" ... idioms.thefreedictionary.com/on+the+horns+of+a+dilemma
    – GEdgar
    Jul 20, 2015 at 16:20

4 Answers 4


The preposition in the first sentence is correct. Change the beginning to "I faced the dilemma of..."

  • He or she can say "I was faced with the dilemma of..." "to be faced with..." is a good way of saying exactly the same you have recommended. Jul 20, 2015 at 15:31
  • Hello, michael. Quite right. I was trying to get 'on the horns of a dilemma' into the correct shape. Pointless! Jul 20, 2015 at 15:31

Perhaps you should avoid using the word "dilemma"

A situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially ones that are equally undesirable: he wants to make money, but he also disapproves of it: Den’s dilemma in a nutshell (www.oxforddictionaries.)

That is what "being on the horns of a dilemma" or "facing a dilemma" implies, trying to make impossible choices.

Most people don't use dilemma in this strict sense, but if you are writing to academics they may understand it that way; or even worse as indecision.

Choose a simpler word, more direct, such as choice, or hard choice.

  • 1
    @JohnH apologies; missed your comment. I'm only 8hrs late.
    – Hugh
    Jul 20, 2015 at 23:57
  • 1
    No worries, @Hugh - you expanded on my point nicely.
    – JohnH
    Jul 21, 2015 at 18:20

My partner, another good way of expressing that you are in a quandary, is by using the noun "toss-up". The way you construct the phrase is by saying:

"It is/it was a toss-up BETWEEN/WHETHER" (when you want to talk about a quandary)


"It is/was a toss-up WHETHER" (when you talk about the possibility of something to happen or not to happen)

For instance:

"It was a toss-up between y engineering and z engineering to study as an undergraduate student"* (people would understand that YOU are in that quandary if you previously mention yourself in the situation).


"It is a toss-up whether I go or stay"*



"It was a toss-up whether prices would go up or down" [POSSIBILITY, NOT a quandary].

Check it: http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/a+toss-up

My regards!


Your whole sentence is a little bit awkward. Perhaps you could rephrase it to something like:

I was torn between studying Electrical Engineering and Computer Engineering as an undergraduate student. (but of course I came to my senses and chose CE)

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