(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 periodicals archive ?
If he can't win the race, Pipe would be happy to see McCoy end his career on a fitting high.
Talking about Qadri, he remarked that he can't win a single seat in the assembly in spite of gathering thousands of people in protest.
It's coming to something when the likes of Bernard Tomic, rated by many as the best young player in the world, has to justify to his fellow Aussies why he can't win it.
BOBBY Gillespie claims he can't win - now he's become a family man he's being criticised for not being rock 'n' roll enough.
POOR old Steve, he must feel he can't win. It was kind of him to agree Mel could stay, but she's clearly trying to seduce him...talk about sisterly devotion!
It's a battle he can't win. The Turkish government claims it must dam the Euphrates to produce much-needed electricity for nearby towns.
With court cases looming, it could be days before a winner is declared--although it's also possible that one candidate or the other will determine that he can't win, and concede.
"We can all follow Paul Wellstone, but he can't win. You can follow me.
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.
The 19-year-old from Northamptonshire beat Paul Sweeny 5-2 with breaks of 98, 80 and 36 and Sweeny said: "There's no reason why he can't win it again."
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