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I am trying to communicate that I wish I could have done something.

That "something" would be a ____________ for me.

Since I speak Spanish as a first language, I am biased to think of the direct translation of our idiom. That would be something like "pending account" or "pending assignment". "Unfinished business" also comes to my mind but it sounds too gangster-friendly. These are "pending tasks and/or goals", but I don't believe that is the correct term to use.

I was wondering if those translations fit there. Some examples that come to my mind:

Learning how to dance is a __________ for me.

I still have to re-write the ending of that story; it is a _______ for me.

I should have done something for her at the time. I'm doing this now to pay off that _________.

EDIT

The answers are great. I was looking for something that could be written in a book. I add some more formal examples.

We have made progress working with mouse models but working with a primate model for this disease has been a ________.

Decreasing the gap between the highest income quantile and those under the poverty line has been a __________ for this government.

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  • 1
    For a business context, you could refer to an "open issue." But that doesn't address all of the general cases that you describe.
    – Nonnal
    Nov 19, 2015 at 16:57
  • 1
    Is there any reason why simply "goal" is not appropriate? It seems to me that it fits all of your examples.
    – AndyT
    Nov 19, 2015 at 17:18
  • @AndyT As I said, I speak Spanish and we have a specific idiom for that. We have songs that are entitled "asignatura pendiente" and not "objetivo" or something equivalent to "goal". It is just for aesthetic purposes, but I want to focus on formal usage Nov 19, 2015 at 17:25
  • 3
    @Rathony- I'm not so sure about that. If someone came to ELU with a question that said, "I'm looking for a Spanish translation of <this English phrase>" we would certainly close as off-topic because it's asking for a Spanish translation and not about the English Language....
    – Jim
    Nov 19, 2015 at 17:32
  • 2
    I think if it's actually in your plans then you can talk about it being "on your roadmap" This is formal tech-speak. If it's something that you would like to do but have no concrete plans for when this work will be done then it's just a goal. We have made progress working with mouse models but working with a primate model for this disease *is our ultimate goal.
    – Jim
    Nov 19, 2015 at 17:36

6 Answers 6

6

Consider outstanding. By itself, outstanding often indicates excellence, but it can be used to capture the idea of pending as well:

continuing to exist : unresolved < a long outstanding problem in astronomy > (MW)

continuing in existence; remaining unpaid, unresolved, etc.: outstanding debts; outstanding questions on procedure. (Random House)

It's often used in conjunction with the word still. Taking a couple of your examples, I'd say:

We have made progress working with mouse models, but working with a primate model for this disease is still outstanding.

The task of decreasing the gap between the highest income quintile and those under the poverty line is still outstanding for this government.

It's definitely a more formal way of speaking than to-do list or bucket list, so it's not necessarily optimal for everyday speech with friends. But it works well in professional contexts.

1
  • +1 This is a great answer, I have seen this kind of phrases in papers before. Nov 19, 2015 at 19:41
5

You could say it's on your to-do list.

This works for your first two examples but not really for the third:

Learning how to dance is on my to-do list.

I still have to re-write the ending of that story; it's on my to-do list.

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  • That's interesting. Would it hold for more formal approaches? Nov 19, 2015 at 16:55
  • 1
    @MatiasAndina It could probably be used in e.g. a business meeting as well as in casual conversation. Nov 19, 2015 at 16:57
  • Business meetings are still verbal communication, I was trying to get a more formal approach (e.g, working with stem cells has made progress in a mouse model but working with a primate model has been __________) Nov 19, 2015 at 17:05
  • 1
    "...but working with a primate model is still unresolved"? Does it matter whether it's a noun/adjective/etc.?
    – Nonnal
    Nov 19, 2015 at 17:32
  • Well I guess it's more complicated than I originally thought. It does not matter whether it's a noun/adjective, etc. In that case, however, "still unresolved" would fit nicely. I'm afraid it is case dependent and there's not a single expression as we have in Spanish. Nov 19, 2015 at 17:37
3

If you are trying to describe an item that you want to achieve, but haven't done yet, you could use bucket list:

: a list of things that one has not done before but wants to do before dying (Merriam-Webster)

Note that this term is usually referred to in the context of "things I want to do before I die," and so tends to be "bigger" things, but could certainly apply to the examples you have listed:

Learning how to dance is on my bucket list.

I still have to re-write the ending of that story; it is a bucket list item for me.

I should have done something for her at the time. I'm doing this now to cross it off my bucket list.

2

I cannot post comments so I will try to expand to an answer.

I do not have anything to back it up, but if you modify your sentences a little you could put in "yet to be achieved" in more formal ones.

Incorporating "yet" in the informal can work too (apart from the third one, it is tough :) ) for example:

"I have yet to learn to dance".

Does not sound too bad. I think the "yet" expresses it the way you want, to some extent. :)

2

on the slate is an expression that I already came across with the meaning "on the to-do list."

1

In your two last examples, you may say that "something has been in abeyance".

"Abeyance" is the condition of being temporarily set aside. It is a suspension, temporary inactivity or cessation. It refers to outstanding issues.

For example: "to hold a question in abeyance".

 EDIT

For the first examples, consider procrastinate (probably more common):

  • I procastinated to learn how to dance.
  • I procrastinate to re-write the ending of that story.
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  • 2
    I think the vast majority of english speakers don't use that word or even know what it means.
    – Matthias
    Nov 19, 2015 at 21:38
  • +1 was for teaching a new word but I must agree with the comment :P Nov 19, 2015 at 22:17
  • I'm very familiar with the phrase, but only from my profession - as an engineer, if I see "In Abeyance" on a technical drawing, it means "We're re-designing this bit; don't build it yet!". It's a synonym to "on hold".
    – AndyT
    Nov 20, 2015 at 9:12

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