The phrase "What's the problem?" is commonly used to inquire about an issue or challenge that someone is facing. It is an invitation to discuss a matter that needs solving or clarification. The phrase is flexible, appearing in both formal and casual settings. It can pertain to concrete issues like broken appliances or more abstract ones like emotional difficulties.
When someone says, "what's the problem?" they're asking for details about a situation that needs addressing or resolving. This is usually a starter for discussing what's wrong and how to fix it. For instance, a friend might ask, "What's the problem?" if you look upset, or a mechanic might use it to ask why you think your car isn't working properly.
Here are some key points:
This phrase is so common and straightforward that it doesn’t seem to have a notable origin story or a specific point in history when it was first used. This phrase has likely been in use for as long as the English language has had the words to construct it.
"l thought nothing perplexed the brain of a lawyer," was the response. "What's the problem?"
- The Minister of State: A Novel by John Alexander Steuart, 1898
To give you a clear idea of how and when to use this phrase, let's look at some examples from various situations:
This phrase shows up quite a bit in movies, TV shows, and other forms of popular media, usually when someone needs to figure out an issue.
Here are some examples:
Here are some other phrases you can use that mean pretty much the same thing:
"What's the problem?" is a question asking for the root cause or issue that someone is experiencing. It's used to pinpoint what's wrong so that it can be addressed.
You can use it when you see someone struggling or upset, like: "You seem stressed, what's the problem?" or when something isn't working: "The computer keeps crashing, what's the problem?"
"What's the problem?" is pretty flexible. You can use it at work to figure out issues in a project or at home to find out why a family member looks sad.
No, it's not always negative. For example, if someone looks puzzled while reading a book, asking "What's the problem?" could just mean you're curious about what's causing their confusion.
Yes, you can use it to dig into someone's feelings or worries. For example: "You seem a little off today, what's the problem?"
"What's the problem?" is pretty close to "what's wrong?" but it's often more specific, looking for the root cause of an issue, whereas "what's wrong?" is generally broader.
In healthcare, professionals like doctors or nurses might use "what's the problem?" to quickly find out why a patient has come in for a visit.
It can be, but context is key. In a professional setting, it might be more appropriate to ask "Is there an issue?" to keep things formal.
Yes, sometimes people use "what's the problem?" rhetorically to challenge someone or show disbelief in the seriousness of an issue.
Yes, in things like troubleshooting guides or flow charts, "what's the problem?" is often the first question to kick off the problem-solving process.
The phrase "what's the problem?" is a useful way to ask for the root cause of an issue or situation. It can be applied in many different settings, from personal to professional.
Here's a quick recap: