(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 classic literature ?
There came a squire so debonair His dress was rich, his words were fair, He sweetly sang, he deftly played: He could not win the franklin's maid.
She could not win him, however, to any conversation; he merely answered her question, and read on.
I was fighting to reach the switch, Solan to prevent me; and, though we stood not three feet from it, I could not win an inch toward it, for he forced me back an inch for the first five minutes of our battle.
It's my desire to win this [doubles] final because throughout my career I could not win this title.
In the semi-final we defeated a far better pair, so we will utilise our energies fully to seize this much-needed title,' the 37-year-old Aqeel said, while recalling that during his career he claimed at least three singles titles at the ITF Futures but could not win manage to win doubles final.
Leboeuf further said that although he does not see Arsenal staying for long without being competition winners, they could not win the Premier League this season.
DAVID Cameron could not win a general election and he will not win a war.
Once Jordan retired in 1993 to pursue a baseball career, Jackson coached the Bulls to 55 wins but could not win another title until Jordan returned.
Although this relates one man's experiences during his tour of duty in the late 1960s and how it changed his perspective, there is no doubt that the narrative reflects the thoughts and feelings of many combatants who were caught in "a war they could not win.
UNIONS fighting 750 proposed job cuts at naval yards last night agreed to ballot members on industrial action if it could not win Government assurances the losses would not be compulsory.
I believe Milosevic is hoping for a ground war and is deliberately trying to induce us into something we could not win and which would lead naturally to World War III.
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