Any idioms in English for describing a person's, who is already in a bad situation confronted with new difficulties?

In my native language, we say "A man already stuck by lightning, bitten by a snake'

I am aware of 'From frying pan to fire', but that is when situation is going from bad to worse. Here he is facing additional difficulties.


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    Does this answer your question? In my native language, we have a saying - a stone will get a wretched person, going uphill 'Is there a similar saying or idiomatic expression in English, which would correlate with the above-mentioned one, implying that misfortune will befall even on those ones, already in trouble ?' Dec 22, 2019 at 14:40
  • Just as a side note, I think I read once that most modern English phrasing’s of this concept stem from the Hamlet line “When sorrows come they come not single spies, but in battalions”. But I might be misremembering. Dec 23, 2019 at 16:45
  • "from bad to worse" seems like a perfect idiom for the situation you're describing :-)
    – Richard
    Dec 23, 2019 at 22:17
  • I can't really think of a phrase in English that does justice to the original you gave. I'm going to start using that phrase, it's vivid, unique, and powerful. Dec 23, 2019 at 23:26

9 Answers 9


A very common idiom is to say "when it rains, it pours."

"Pours" in this context means, "rains very heavily."

What this means, roughly speaking is "when one bad thing happens, you can expect a lot more bad things." So, for example, when talking to a friend who has just described a litany of bad luck in his life you'd say, "when it rains, it pours."

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    In the UK the longer "it never rains but it pours" is not uncommon. Dec 22, 2019 at 3:14
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    @LaconicDroid I'm from the UK and I agree with your comment, however, I find it ironic that someone called "Laconic" is giving a wordier alternative!! :-)
    – Fraser Orr
    Dec 23, 2019 at 23:18
  • @LaconicDroid The "never" in that version of the phrase has always bothered me. I get what it means, of course, but "when it rains, it pours" is so much more effective. But I suppose that highlights the difference between the way Brits and Americans speak ;)
    – user91988
    Aug 20, 2020 at 15:45

A fairly well known option is add insult to injury

to worsen an unfavourable situation


  • Or similarly "to be kicked while they are down", though that may carry the connotation that the additional difficulties are a result of other's intentional actions, rather than accident or simply bad luck.
    – Phlarx
    Dec 23, 2019 at 20:42

An alternative is:

Out of the frying pan; into the fire

Which is usually meant as escaping a bad situation only to find oneself in a worse situation.

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    "Out of the frying pan, into the fire" is identified in the question as not applicable. (Unless the question was edited to add that after you answered, but there's no edit history shown.) But in any case as you have correctly noted it means to replace a problem with a worse problem, whereas the question is asking about adding additional problems without solving the original one.
    – nnnnnn
    Dec 23, 2019 at 4:41
  • I don't recall seeing it when I gave my answer
    – Scoots
    Dec 23, 2019 at 19:59

Two quotes from Shakespeare's Hamlet may be applicable:

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies/ But in battalions." --Act IV, Scene 4

"One woe doth tread upon another's heel,/ So fast they follow." --Act IV, Scene 7

Both convey the sense you're interested in, but the tone is academic/formal.


I've found these ones:
"Misery loves company", "Misfortunes never come alone", "Trouble always brings his brother."

I am not a native English speaker, either. I searched for equivalents of my native "When trouble comes, open the gate" and "Trouble never comes alone" here and here.
P.S. I like the version with lightning and snake :)

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    I understand “Misery loves company” to mean that unhappy people love to complain and thereby share their unhappiness. Dec 24, 2019 at 0:55

Similar to Tim's adding insult into injury is to rub salt into wounds:

To make something that is already difficult, unpleasant, or painful even worse; to accentuate, aggravate, or intensify a negative situation, emotion, or experience (for someone).


between a rock and a hard place

This phrase became popular during The Great Depression of the 1930s, as many citizens were hit hard by the stock market crash and were left with no choice as unemployment levels rose also.

  • This would be improved with a little more explanation. Dec 22, 2019 at 14:49
  • I think the explanation needed is a definition or some examples of how it is to be used.
    – awe lotta
    Dec 22, 2019 at 22:50
  • @dimacharus this is definitely a great phrase to know, but doesn't really answer the question. Your phrase means "forced to chose between two unappealing alternatives". The questioner wanted something conveying the sense one multiple problems compounding each other.
    – Fraser Orr
    Dec 23, 2019 at 23:23

When the first bad situation was recent and related with subsequent deterioration (so the "new difficulties" are related to the old ones)

This went downhill fast.

is a common way of expressing exasperation, particularly when human factors are involved in the deterioration (namely people taking things badly). For new difficulties unrelated to the old ones, I'd choose the previously mentioned "when it rains, it pours".


I believe there is no idiom that means exactly the same thing. Maybe you could just translate yours into English? "It's like I had a lightning strike followed by a snake bite." People won't even know you're using a cliche, or you can choose to say it's an expression from your native language.

Actually, come to think of it, the word "snakebit" means that someone has had bad luck, but it seems to be especially often used when someone has had a whole series of misfortunes. So it might do.

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