The word "tough" is an adjective that can mean something or someone is difficult, hard, or challenging. (Notice that the "gh" ending is pronounced as an "f.")

  • That test was tough.
  • It was a tough test.
  • Everyone says that Mr. Nelson is a tough grader. (It’s hard to get high grades or high marks from him.)
  • He’s tough on his students.
  • Brazil is a tough country to beat in soccer.
  • The players are tough competitors.
  • Rachel has a tough job.
  • People who go to prison have a tough road ahead of them. (tough road = difficult time)
  • This homework assignment shouldn’t be too tough to complete.
  • It gets tougher to learn English as you get older.

When meat is overcooked or of poor quality, we might say it is tough.

  • This steak is tough.
  • This chicken was on the grill too long and now it’s tough.
  • I like goat meat, but it’s a little tough.
  • If you want your meat to be tender and not tough, consider marinating it before it’s cooked. (The word "tender" is the opposite of "tough.")

There are some common expressions that make use of the word "tough."

  • When the going gets tough, the tough get going. (When a situation become difficult, a tough person will respond to the challenges. The second "tough" in this sentence is a noun.)
  • You’ll have to tough it out. (You have to deal with a difficult situation. "Tough" is a verb in this example.)
  • That’s tough. (I don’t feel sorry for you.)
  • You think you’re so tough. (But you really aren’t.)

tough guy Todd thinks he’s tough, but he’s not.

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June 19, 2015