The problem of budget deficit has recently raised serious objections. That is not a new problem, though.

I am looking for other phrases or idioms to say that something is not new, or not a new problem, but was there before or goes back to an earlier time. I know I can just say ‘that is not new/a new problem’ but would like to know other ways to say that.

I want the phrase/idiom for a journal piece where I can use informal language as well. So both formal and informal phrases/idioms/expressions are welcome.

  • It is unclear as to whether the shortcomings or the objections are a problem.
    – Greybeard
    May 15, 2023 at 18:33
  • A question with 8 upvotes and 18 answers is closed for lack of clarity? Something must be wrong here.
    – Sasan
    May 16, 2023 at 8:29
  • You're right! There must be more vigilance!
    – Greybeard
    May 16, 2023 at 10:25
  • The problem of the budget deficit has recently raised serious objections: the problem is not new. I see no point to coming up with a load of synonyms. However, what is the antecedent??
    – Lambie
    May 16, 2023 at 13:18
  • 1
    age-old problem collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/age-old-problem May 17, 2023 at 21:04

18 Answers 18


The informal expression the same old story can suggest the idea of a problem that has not been solved and represent itself on each possible occasion:

used to say that a situation or condition has not changed


  • 1
    In my (British English) experience, this has the connotation of being somewhat tedious (which fits well with the OP's example). May 14, 2023 at 21:39

Slightly different from what you said you know, but less verbose: nothing new.

The recent shortcomings in research budget have raised objections. That's nothing new, though.

  • Is ‘the problem is nothing new, though’ acceptable too? Or it should be ‘that is nothing new’?
    – Sasan
    May 14, 2023 at 21:49
  • 1
    @Sasan "The problem is nothing new" is acceptable, but more verbose. From your question I understood that you wanted a more colloquial and fluid phrase. Stating explicitly "the problem" is not needed, unless you really want to stress that it's the problem that is new, and not the objections. My phrase has a little ambiguity in that respect, but depending on the context it shouldn't hamper the comprehension. May 14, 2023 at 22:02
  • 3
    @Sasan BTW, you didn't state where you need to put that sentence. If it is a formal/scientific paper a more verbose prose may be warranted. If, on the other hand, you are writing the script for a public speech, probably "That's nothing new" (with the contracted "that is") is better and more poignant. May 14, 2023 at 22:06

A recurring problem is one that keeps cropping up:

  • a 'recurring problem' means that the problem has likely happened multiple times already and continues to happen or seems likely to continue happening.

[Hannah Muniz; PrepScholar

A constant/ongoing problem is one that continues.

  • These words are often used together....
  • An ongoing situation has been happening for quite a long time and seems likely to continue for some time in the future.

[Collins Cobuild]

A perenniel problem is hypernymic, with either of the above senses:

perennial [adjective]

  • lasting a very long time, or happening repeatedly or all the time: ...
  • We face the perennial problem of not having enough money.

[Cambridge Dictionary]

  • Perennial is by far the best of these for the context.
    – fectin
    May 15, 2023 at 11:41

I would say that’s old news

To no longer be novel and interesting.

Or maybe the slightly sarcastic and rhetorical exclamation/retort what’s new?

(rhetorical question, idiomatic) A rhetorical request for some real news, on hearing a report that was not news because it represents a continuing predictable and unsatisfactory situation. synonym


An old chestnut is a subject, idea, or joke that has been discussed or repeated so often that it is not interesting any more. Source Cambridge dictionary

I wondered whether there might, after all, be some truth in the old chestnut that one's school days are the happiest of one's life.

The feminist struggle is too important to become an old chestnut over which people groan. Source* Collins dictionary

  • 1
    I would add that "old chestnut" often implies not only a familiar theme, but one whose repeated appearance is incongruous for some reason (typically because it is false, or at least considered an answer for everything which fails to get to grips with particularities of each case, or known constraints on applying the general solution). This doesn't quite fit the OPs usage, who wants to express that a legitimate concern has still not been addressed, or which causes yet another frustration in unexpected places.
    – Steve
    May 14, 2023 at 10:32
  • I think "old chestnet" generally refers to an aphorism, not a state of the world.
    – Barmar
    May 15, 2023 at 13:59

The old fashioned saying 'twas ever thus (it was ever thus - Free Dictionary) and the originally French plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose (the more it changes, the more it's the same thing - Wiktionary) are both commonly used in English to express the sentiment that things never change, usually with a wry sense that some problems are always with us. They might be a bit literary for work documents, but you may want that kind of style.

  • 1
    I've also seen the French phrase translated more idiomatically as "the more things change, the more they stay the same", which translation is used instead of the original French
    – No Name
    May 15, 2023 at 13:23

History repeats itself.

Farlex has

  • Said when something that has happened in the past recurs in the present.
  • The same kinds of events seem to happen over and over.

Some of their example usage:

And, once again, I got dumped. History repeats itself.

The home team has lost their last three game sevens, so I bet they're hoping that history doesn't repeat itself tonight.

It seems that history is about to repeat itself for that poor country; it is about to be invaded again.


same old same old can be used to say that it's nothing new, especially if it's also boring or annoying.


One simple alternative is just the antonym. "That is an old problem, though." If you want to emphasize the recurrence of the problem, you might say "That is a persistent problem."

In your example, it should be noted that it is not 100% clear whether the problem is the shortcomings or the objections.

  • Simplest is always best.
    – Lambie
    May 15, 2023 at 13:55

"That's par for the course" is a way of expressing that something is expected, unremarkable, and has been seen many times before. It's not exclusively used to refer to problems, and can minimize either the positive or negative aspects of whatever is being described. The result in question might be good or bad in an absolute sense, but either way, it's historically what you've seen before.


"Tale as old as time" is another phrase you can use to add a bit of irritated flavor to your writing.

Have you filed your taxes yet?

No, TurboTax is trying to get me to upgrade to premium and I'm trying to find a way around it. Tale as old as time.


In the software world, this would be called a known issue.

For example, suppose that a bug is found in a particular version of some software. Then many months later someone encounters the same issue and reports it. The helpdesk for the software might respond:

Thank you for your report. This is actually a known issue being tracked as bug #1234, and it is scheduled to be fixed in release 1.7


"Nothing new under the sun" is sometimes used when something appears to be new, but the one responding with this is telling that it known and has been like this "forever".

From https://www.dictionary.com/

A phrase adapted from the Book of Ecclesiastes; the author complains frequently in the book about the monotony of life. The entire passage reads, “The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.”


Yet another way of saying it:

The recent shortcomings in research budget have raised objections. We've been there before.

TFD (idioms):

Have been there before

To have done or experienced something before.

Don't worry so much about failing a test—we've all been there before.


A few more sarcastic/informal and other responses:

Please say it isn't so.
No, really?
Wow, never saw that one coming.

This type of rhetorical response feigns surprise or disbelief of new information when in reality the problem is in fact recognized and known to be true.

Who'da thunk it?

"Who would have thought that?" Implies the information is so novel that no one would have previously conceived of it ... while the real intent is that most people probably already know or would have considered it.

Tell me/us something I/we don't know.

Rhetorically emphasizes that the information is not new at all but already known, and the challenge is asking for something that's actually new, not old.

Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it.

Emphatically suggests that there is history to verify that this is not a new situation. In the case of the OP's example: "The recent shortcomings in research budget have raised objections." This phrase about repeating history might preface a reference to a previous situation where there were shortcomings in the research budget - and the consequences of that time.

Here, we call that Tuesday.

Implies the situation is not unique but is so familiar that (exaggerated) it happens every week. (Use any weekday)

Why is this night different from all the other nights?

This Yiddish/Hebrew phrase similarly implies that the situation is not new, but is the same as "all other nights". Transliteration: "Mah nishtanah, ha-laylah ha-zeh, mi-kol ha-leylot" ref https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ma_Nishtana


"It's deja vu all over again" - Yogi Berra


The phrase "We've been down that road before" is often used to describe a problem or situation which is known from previous experience. It usually suggests the problem is complex or time-consuming.


It's dated. Has a long history. An old pot-boiler. Goes back to (the days of) Adam. An historic question/problem. Been around since the year dot. A question from time immemorial.

The English language has many options or it, each with its own subtle shade of meaning.

  • RWB, an appropriate multitude of answers for OP +1. May 15, 2023 at 4:01

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