Meaning of PROBLEM in English

prob ‧ lem S1 W1 /ˈprɒbləm $ ˈprɑː-/ BrE AmE noun [countable]

[ Date: 1300-1400 ; Language: French ; Origin: problème , from Latin problema , from Greek , 'something thrown forward' , from proballein 'to throw forward' ]

1 . DIFFICULTY a situation that causes difficulties:

She was older than me, but that wasn’t really a problem.

problem of

The problem of street crime is getting worse every year.

problem with

I’ve been having a few problems with my car.


In writing, people sometimes prefer to use the word issue rather than problem , as it sounds more neutral and less negative:

the issue of race relations

2 . something wrong with your health or with part of your body

health problem/problem with your health

Does she have any long-term health problems?

back/heart/kidney etc problem

If you have back problems you should avoid lifting heavy objects.

hearing problem

Many people with hearing problems try to hide their condition.

weight problem

She refuses to admit to herself that she has a weight problem.

emotional/psychological problem

Is this a sign of some kind of deeper psychological problem?

3 . QUESTION a question for which you have to find the right answer, using mathematics or careful thought:

She gave us 20 mathematical problems to solve.

4 . no problem spoken

a) used to say that you are happy to do something or for someone else to do something:

‘Can I bring a friend?’ ‘Sure, no problem.’

b) used after someone has said thank you or said that they are sorry:

‘Thanks for all your help.’ ‘No problem!’

5 . have no problem (in) doing something to do something easily:

I’ve had no problem recruiting staff.

6 . the (only) problem is (that) ... spoken used before saying what the main difficulty in a situation is:

The problem is, there isn’t enough time.

7 . that’s your/his etc problem spoken used to say rudely that someone else is responsible for dealing with a situation, not you:

If you miss the train, that’s your problem.

8 . it’s/that’s not my problem spoken used to say rudely that you are not responsible for dealing with a particular problem and are not willing to help:

‘We’ve got a serious staffing shortage.’ ‘That’s not my problem.’

9 . What’s your/his etc problem? spoken informal used when you think that someone is behaving in a way that is unreasonable

10 . Do you have a problem with that? spoken informal used to ask someone why they seem to disagree with you, in a way that shows that you are annoyed

11 . problem child/family/drinker etc a child etc whose behaviour causes problems for other people

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 1)

■ verbs

▪ have a problem

We saw water rushing in and realised we had a serious problem.

▪ cause/create a problem

The building’s lack of parking space could cause problems.

▪ present/pose a problem (=cause it or make it have to be considered)

A shortage of trained nurses is posing major problems.

▪ deal with/sort out a problem

The state has failed to deal with the problem of violence against women.

▪ tackle/address a problem (=deal with it)

There is more than one way to tackle this problem.

▪ solve/resolve a problem ( also fix a problem informal )

He solved his financial problems by selling his car.

▪ overcome a problem

We try to help families overcome housing problems.

▪ face a problem

Terrorism is possibly the most important problem facing western countries.

▪ raise a problem (=mention it, so that people can discuss it)

He also raised the problem of noise from planes taking off and landing.

▪ encounter/experience a problem

You shouldn’t encounter any further problems.

▪ a problem arises/occurs ( also a problem comes up ) (=it happens)

Problems may arise when the family wants to move house.

▪ compound/exacerbate a problem formal (=make it worse)

The country’s economic problems are compounded by its ageing population.

▪ the problem lies in/with something

The problem lies in the design of the rocket.


▪ big/major/serious

The school’s biggest problem is a shortage of cash.

▪ little/small/minor

Old cars often develop minor engine problems.

▪ the main problem

The main problem for the climbers was lack of sleep.

▪ a real problem

They quickly found that their real problem lay with marketing.

▪ a difficult problem

Does the team have the skills to tackle these difficult problems?

▪ a thorny/knotty problem (=difficult)

He still faced the thorny problem of finding a way out of the jungle.

▪ a fundamental problem (=relating to the most basic and important parts of something )

The government has done little to solve the fundamental problems of poverty and crime.

▪ a pressing problem (=one that needs to be dealt with very soon)

Lack of clean drinking water is the most pressing problem facing the refugees.

▪ personal problems (=relating to your private life and relationships)

My daughter found it hard to talk about her personal problems.

▪ family problems

She would never discuss family problems with outsiders.

▪ financial/money problems

Our financial problems are over.

▪ economic problems

He argued that the government was to blame for the country’s economic problems.

▪ a technical problem

The delay was caused by technical problems.

▪ a practical problem

Burying a pet can present practical problems.

▪ an environmental problem

Air pollution is our most serious environmental problem.


► It is more usual to say a big problem , a major problem or a serious problem , instead of saying 'an important problem' .

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 2)


▪ a health/medical problem

Have you ever suffered from any of these health problems?

▪ a back/heart/kidney etc problem

He was born with heart problems.

▪ a hearing problem

There are special telephones for people with hearing problems.

▪ a weight problem (=the problem of being too fat)

Patients with weight problems were put on a strict diet.

▪ psychological problems ( also mental health problems )

She is being treated for psychological problems at a mental hospital in Oxford.

▪ emotional problems

He suffers from depression and other emotional problems.

▪ behavioural problems

Many of these children have behavioural problems.

▪ a serious/major problem

Lifting things carelessly can lead to serious back problems.

▪ a minor problem

She has had some minor medical problems.

■ verbs

▪ have a problem

He's always had a weight problem.

▪ suffer (from) a problem

The patient began to suffer breathing problems.

• • •


▪ setback a problem that stops you from making progress:

The space program suffered a major setback when the space shuttle, Discovery, exploded.

▪ snag informal a problem, especially one that you had not expected:

There’s a snag – I don’t have his number.

▪ hitch a small problem that delays or prevents something:

There have been a few last-minute hitches.

▪ trouble when something does not work in the way it should:

The plane developed engine trouble.

▪ hassle spoken a situation that is annoying because it causes problems:

Just trying to store all this stuff is a hassle.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.