(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 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 my wife'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
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.

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
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer. Copyright © 2003, 1997 by The Christine Ammer 1992 Trust. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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
Farlex Partner Idioms Dictionary © Farlex 2017
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References in classic literature ?
"You couldn't win from me in a thousand years," Danny assured him.
We couldn't win a tackle, we couldn't win a header.
"He has ridden really well here, considering a lot of people wrote him off and said he couldn't win it again."
Unfortunately, we did not see ourselves as champions and thus we couldn't win.'
Norton said: "I was drawn 16 and they said I couldn't win from there.
"I'm also exhausted mentally because I gave my everything in that tie but unfortunately we couldn't win. That's why I decided to pull out, because I have to think about my health first.
I'm a past champion bull rider who used to ride in JNCOs with a mohawk and facial piercings just because everybody told me I couldn't win the state looking like that.
Fulham, on the other hand, couldn't win a raffle at the moment.
Strasbourg, who have scored just once in their last eight visits to Lyon had a man advantage over St-Etienne for 70 minutes last week but couldn't win.
ARP chairman Jamshed Dasti contested from two National Assembly constituencies NA-182 and NA-183 and a provincial assembly seat in southern Punjab district of Muzaffargarh, but couldn't win a single seat.
She contested the election from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (NA-25), Punjab (NA-161), Islamabad (NA-53) and Sindh (NA-231), but couldn't win a single seat.
He, however, charged the participants not to give up even if couldn't win the contest.
"We then had a 10-game patch where, really, the wheels came off and we couldn't win a game.
'I'm angry that I didn't do enough for them, couldn't win some of the games we should have won down the stretch.
PSP chief too alleges horse-trading in Senate pollsEchoing concerns raised by other politicians, Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) chief Mustafa Kamal has also claimed that 'horse-trading' took place in the Senate elections.However, Kamal was thankful that Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) couldn't win its seats as he termed the party "a tumour" which can't be cured with a "panadol".
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