I am French, and I am looking for ideally a word or a short expression to express the situation where someone is about to do something that is going to put at danger/risk a goal/target. Let's say someone is stopping smoking. What do you call the moment he fights against himself not to take a cigarette. Or someone who is making a diet and is fighting not to take that delicious pizza... I'm sure you get the idea.


The first phrase that occurs to me for the person's emotional state is internal conflict.

The overall situation might be called a test of willpower.

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  • Thks for the help chaos. Sounds good as well... – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 20:24
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    I really like the willpower term. That suits actually what I am seeking. Short and precise:) Thank you very much! – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 20:26

You might call it the moment of truth:

a moment when a person or thing is put to the test

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  • Ooh, wish I'd thought of that! It's even right there in the question, "What do you call the moment..." – mo. Jul 13 '12 at 20:29
  • Thnak you ninja dude... Nevertheless moment of truth is to my understanding something that happens once. It is a once think moment. Whereas what I am trying to express can happen regularly... – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 20:31
  • Moments of truth can happen regularly, though I agree the term sounds more momentous than an everyday struggle. – Daniel Jul 13 '12 at 20:32
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    Every time you want a cigarette after quitting, it's a new moment of truth. – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 13 '12 at 20:36
  • @Marc you are most welcome. Your snowflake rocks! – cornbread ninja 麵包忍者 Jul 14 '12 at 1:57

I'd call such a moment inner turmoil. Instead of turmoil, you could also use struggle or conflict. I also like chaos's internal.

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  • Hello Daniel. thanks for editing and answering. Do you only call is that way or is it a "popular/common" expression? – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 20:23
  • I've heard it frequently enough to suggest it as useful. – Daniel Jul 13 '12 at 20:26
  • Thank you very much Daniel for the help... I think nevertheless I will go with the term willpower. Your inputs nevertheless brought new words to my vocabulary. So a big thank you anyway:) – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 20:28
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    @Marc: Willpower is the quality being tested by someone who has resolved [not] to do something, when faced with temptation. If you're happy with willpower, you might like to edit your question text, since at the moment it seems to be asking for words to describe wavering at a moment of extreme temptation, rather than the quality shown by someone who resists the urge to give in. – FumbleFingers Jul 13 '12 at 20:55
  • Thank you very much FumbleFinger for the more than interesting input:) – Marc Jul 13 '12 at 21:16

I'm not sure turmoil or willpower or internal apply very well to the general case. This statement equally fits the question: "This bridge won't be open in time for Bastille day if we don't appropriate more funds by close of business today".

Today, in the above example, is do or die. It's make or break. It's a deadline and the engineering is giving the committee an ultimatum. All of these phrases apply to the situation. I'm not sure what the impact of your phrase is intended to have, but I think make or break fits very well, though it's colloquial.

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  • I believe that "ultimatum" is usually used when the person is making a threat. It's not appropriate when they're warning about a natural consequence of doing (or failing to do) something. – octern Jul 13 '12 at 22:57

I believe temptation, suggested by FumbleFingers here, deserves its own answer. Your protagonist is tempted to take the cigarette or the pizza, making the situation one of temptation.

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In Catholic doctrine, a circumstance that puts one at risk of doing something wrong is called an "occasion of sin". The attractive acquantance who offers the abstainer a smoke, drink, sex, etc. is establishing that occasion of sin, which is, of course, to be assiduously avoided.

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  • Pizza isn't a sin, but I agree that this doctrinal phrase could be applied in a humorous way. (I'd probably avoid this option, though, when conversing with non-native speakers, unless I was ready to provide a long explanation...) – J.R. Jul 14 '12 at 10:02
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    Ah, but pizza could be a sin (no doubt venial, rather than mortal) if you had taken a vow of abstinence or the pizza belonged to someone else. – bib Jul 14 '12 at 10:49

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