(one) can't win

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(one) can't win

1. One is unable to find or create any success; one has been constantly and/or thoroughly defeated, bested, belittled, etc., in recent times. So Mary divorced John after their company went under, and then his mother died a week later? Man, that guy can't win lately. That's the third manuscript to be rejected by the publishers; I guess I just can't win.
2. One cannot please someone or everyone. The kids aren't happy if they don't have the same fancy gadgets as their friends, and Mary's not happy if I buy the things for them—I can't win! First he criticizes me for spending too much time at home, then he criticizes me for being away too often with my friends. I just can't win with him.
See also: win

you can't win

Also, you just can't win. Whatever one does is wrong or not enough, as in Every time I block one of the woodchuck's holes, I find another; you just can't win. [First half of 1900s] For a synonym, see damned if I do, damned if I don't.
See also: win

I, you, etc. ˌcan’t ˈwin

(spoken) whatever you do, you cannot succeed completely or please everyone: If I spend time with Phil, Jane’s unhappy. If I spend time with her, he’s jealous. I just can’t win. ▶ ˌno-ˈwin adj. (of a situation, policy, etc.) that will end badly whatever you decide to do: They’re in a no-win situation at the moment. Whatever they do, someone criticizes them.
See also: win
References in periodicals archive ?
In "You Can't Win If You Don't Enter," Carolyn Wilman gives away all of her secrets.
This would still not mean any more horses have a chance to win a particular race, but it would mean that those who know a horse can't win - and those who might have inside information that would lead them to that conclusion - would not profit directly through a horse losing.
But I categorically didn't say - '90 per cent of the swimmers can't win medals.
In short, this is not only y a must-win game for Sunderland it's one they can't win on all known form.
I was hyped and ready to go to overtime, but can't win them all,'' Holt said.
David Loder found what looked a golden opportunity, but the way the horse stopped before the home turn suggests he can't win, no matter how bad the race.
In Cardiff next week I fear that Wales can't win when they have to.
We can all follow Paul Wellstone, but he can't win.
No matter how well people play, and no matter how much money they pile up while playing, they just can't win the money game.
In short, this is not only a must-win game for Sunderland it's one they can't win on all known form.
Out of 14 races, we did not finish five times and you can't win a championship that way.
I can't see any reason why we can't win the cup now.
Manchester United can't win it, oh yes they can, Liverpool can't win it, oh yes they can, Newcastle can't win it, oh yes they can, Leeds can't win it .
Louisiana legislators have decided to squander taxpayers' money on a bet they can't win," noted Bo Andersen, president of Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA), the not-for-profit international trade association for the retailers and distributors of console and computer video games and DVDs.
But if Italy can't win, then I'd like England, as my adopted country, to go forward and get the cup.