last ditch effort: meaning and explanation

last-ditch effort or attempt is a final attempt to achieve something when previous efforts have not been successful.

It is usually used in the structure to make a last-ditch effort to do something.

When this idiom is used, it usually communicates the feeling that the final effort is not likely to succeed. e.g. I made a last ditch effort to change his mind about dropping out of uni, but he wouldn’t listen.

By the way, the photo for this post is of a ditch. The idiom ‘last-ditch’ has military origins – ditches were used to defend castles from attacking armies. The ‘last ditch’ was your final (and probably hopeless) chance to defend yourself.

Have a go at this dictation exercise to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Dictation #1

Accent: North America

The company ditch stop her competitor, but couldn’t her.
The company a last ditch to stop her from joining competitor, but couldn’t hold of her.

…to stop her from joining a competitor…

Notice the useful verb pattern to stop someone from doing something. e.g. I’m trying to stop her from making the biggest mistake of her life, but she just won’t listen.

…but couldn’t keep hold of her…

to keep hold of something = to retain possession of something, or to not lose something. e.g. I’m very impressed that you’ve managed to keep hold of all those letters I sent you when we were young.

Discussion question

Write your answers to this question in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Tell me about a time when you made a last-ditch effort to stop something happening.

Photo by Alex Baber on Unsplash

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