I'm looking for a word that describes a situation where you have a possibility to be either A or B but you kind of don't really go after one or the other. Then you end up in an undesirable state that's neither A or B.

  • 3
    Not a single word, but you've fallen between two stools: << fall between two stools [expression] If someone has fallen between two stools, they are unable to decide which of two courses of action to take and as a result they have not done either of them successfully. >> [Collins, adjusted] I'll make this an answer (after checking for duplicates) if you add a suitable tag. Feb 27, 2022 at 14:10
  • If a single word (such as trapped) isn't specific enough, I suggest an idiom like caught between the devil and the deep blue sea or between a rock and a hard place
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 27, 2022 at 15:56
  • Can we please reopen this. I don't think it's the same question. And I think the correct answer in this case is "Burnham's ass." I was just ready to post that when it was closed.
    – Pete
    Feb 27, 2022 at 20:06

3 Answers 3


I would suggest the figurative limbo — an uneasy in-between place:

2 An uncertain period of awaiting a decision or resolution; an intermediate state or condition.
[selected examples]
‘But the decision still left them in limbo until a final decision could be made on the park's future.’
‘At the time of going to press, Sligo Airport is still sitting in limbo, as it awaits the decision of the Department of Transport's Aviation Authority.’
‘I suffered for eight months in limbo whilst awaiting the Crown Prosecution Service decision.’
Source: Lexico — limbo


You are sitting on the fence.

"Sitting on the fence" is a common idiom used in English to describe a person's lack of decisiveness, neutrality or hesitance to choose between two sides in an argument or a competition, or inability to decide due to lack of courage. This is done either in order to remain on good terms with both sides, or due to apathy regarding the situation and not wanting to choose a position with which one doesn't actually agree. As a result, someone who "sits on the fence" will maintain a neutral and non-committal view regarding any of the other parties involved. — Wikipedia

  • There is only a SWR tag. Feb 27, 2022 at 14:12
  • @EdwinAshworth I hadn’t noticed that. I am not sure what the etiquette is now - am I supposed to delete this or leave in case it’s useful? I don’t mind either way
    – k1eran
    Feb 27, 2022 at 14:15
  • It's not really right to edit tags into new questions to allow what are almost certainly better answers. I've asked OP whether a fixed expression is allowable. If they haven't replied within a week say, I'd say the usefulness of the interchange (if true) then outweighs niceties and the tag should be added. Feb 27, 2022 at 16:59

You are describing a compromise, particularly an uneasy compromise.



used to describe a situation or condition that makes people slightly worried, often because it may not continue successfully


an agreement between two sides who have different opinions, in which each side gives up something it had wanted

More generally, you choose an undesirable position somewhere between your two desirable options.

  • 1
    From my understanding of the question, there is no third (compromise) option available and the OP is asking for the state of being unable to decide between two choices.
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 27, 2022 at 15:57
  • @DjinTonic if you “end up somewhere in the middle” as the PO says, you are in a third position, between the other two, one of uneasy compromise.
    – Anton
    Feb 27, 2022 at 23:14
  • Possibly, but I take "don't really go after one or the other" as avoiding any decision." So if your only choices are A and B, you are in this "state" until you either make a choice or lose the opportunity to choice.
    – DjinTonic
    Feb 27, 2022 at 23:24

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