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I am looking for a word like pay off, but with a negative connotation, that would fit in this sentence:

If we don't solve this problem now, it will _____ in the future.

closed as off-topic by JJJ, 200_success, tchrist Aug 31 '18 at 2:22

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  • I don't think the meaning is the negative of it will pay off. It is the negative of "it will continue to a problem in the future." – Lambie Aug 30 '18 at 17:57
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It will haunt us (or come back to haunt us) in the future.

dictionary.com:

  1. to disturb or distress; cause to have anxiety; trouble; worry: His youthful escapades came back to haunt him.
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You can use the phrase "come back to bite us". You don't even need "in the future", then, because that is implied.

The meaning of the phrase is that something that has happened or will happen, is or will be a problem in the future. (See this definition in The Free Dictionary).

For your example:

If we don't solve this problem now, it will come back to bite us.

In a more literal example:

If we don't kill this rabid dog now, it will come back to bite us.

  • +1 There's also the cruder version, [bite [us] in the butt/ass*(idioms.thefreedictionary.com/bite+us+in+the+ass), as in "*If we don't solve this problem now, it will bite us in the butt someday." The implication is that "it" will sneak up behind you as you move into the future, and bite you where you don't see it coming. – 1006a Aug 30 '18 at 21:38
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plague (one) with (something) TFD

To frustrate, annoy, inconvenience, or cause trouble for one repeatedly or continuously. Often used in passive constructions.

As in:

If we don't solve this problem now, it will plague us in the future.

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The verb to backfire might not be the prefect fit, but it's still very close to the word you're looking for:

If a plan or project backfires, it has the opposite result to the one that was intended.

Your example:

If we don't solve this problem now, it will backfire in the future.

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