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 these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: North America

, .
The company ditch stop her competitor, but couldn’t her.

About the sentence

…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.

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

He emergency loan in to save .

Micro-listening #3

Accent: Scotland

UN intervention is a last prevent civil war .

About the sentence

…to prevent civil war breaking out…

The phrasal verb to break out can be used to describe the start of a war, an argument, a riot, a fight, and so on. e.g. As the food shortages have become more serious, fighting has broken out throughout the country.

Extra practice

Here are some questions/links to help you learn the new vocabulary:

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

Photo by Alex Baber on Unsplash