What to Do? What to Do? – On the Horns of a Dilemma

Right Wrong HornsSometimes we must make difficult choices.  We call such choices dilemmas because there are two options (“di”—as in divide, diverge, dissect—meaning “two”) that we must evaluate.  When we face a dilemma, we think carefully about the pros and cons—the benefits and disadvantages—of each option.

ScalesThis is a scale.  It’s a good image to have in mind because we often use the idiom “I want to weigh my options” when we face a dilemma.  We want to see if the positive or the negative side is heavier.  We can also say “I want to weigh the alternatives.”

Sleeping PersonSometimes when we feel unable to make a decision right away, we’ll say, “I need to think it over.  Give me some time.  Let me sleep on it.”  We hope that twenty-four hours will allow us to come to a decision about what we should do.

If we think that one of the possible choices is dangerous, and that someone would be making a mistake to choose it, we can say: “You’d better think twice about that.”  We can use the same expression if we change our mind about something.  “I know I said that I was going to loan you $1000, but I thought twice about it.”  In other words, I decided it would be a bad idea.

Finally, sometimes when we face a dilemma, we never feel wholly comfortable with whatever we decide to do.  In such cases, we say, “I’m ambivalent” or “I have mixed feelings about it.”  We can even say that we feel “torn” by the decision as if we were a piece of paper ripped in two.

Read about more English for discussing dilemmas and difficult choices:

Facing a dilemma is never fun, but now you will know how to discuss what you are experiencing!