Idiom: Blood, sweat, and tears is hard work.

Blood, sweat, and tears
피 땀 눈물

Meaning and Use

Blood, sweat, and tears means a lot of effort and hard work. We use it to talk about things that are very difficult to do. Blood, sweat, and tears represent the suffering and work that go into doing something difficult. Often, we are quite passionate about what we are doing, which is why we are willing to give our blood, sweat and tears. It is usually a task or a project that takes a lot of time and effort, like earning a Ph.D. or starting a company. Whatever it is, it requires a lot of hard work. Saying that someone gave their blood, sweat, and tears is similar to saying that they did their very best.

Hard Work: It can literally make us bleed, sweat, and cry…but …

While giving blood, sweat, and tears means that we have given our maximum effort, it does not necessarily mean that we bled, sweat, or cried. Idioms are figurative and do not mean what the individual words alone mean. Idiomatic expressions are more imaginative and abstract than literal. As an idiom, no actual blood is required when we give our blood, sweat, and tears to something. If we are doing hard physical or dangerous work, it is possible, but in most cases, there is no real blood involved. In many cases, hard physical work will literally make you sweat (perspire). In some cases, you may work so hard and get so exhausted that you cry. However, for the most part, giving blood, sweat, and tears to something means you worked very, very hard for a long time, giving all of your effort and ability to achieve your goal. It does not require physical labor or any actual blood, sweat, or tears.

Some examples of situations where we could say blood, sweat, and tears:

  • She poured her blood, sweat and tears into writing a best-selling book.
  • Earning a Ph.D. requires a lot of blood, sweat, and tears.
  • Despite years of blood, sweat, and tears, the company went bankrupt.
  • BTS members put their blood, sweat, and tears into their performances.
  • They built their house with their own blood, sweat, and tears.
  • He puts his blood, sweat, and tears into raising money to end poverty.
  • She puts her blood, sweat, and tears into raising her three children.
  • He puts his blood, sweat, and tears into working 2 jobs to support his wife and children.
  • America was built on the blood, sweat, and tears of slaves.
  • The players put their blood, sweat, and tears into winning the game.
  • Military personnel give their blood, sweat, and tears to protect their country.

People use blood, sweat, and tears to talk about situations like these:

Cartoon hen doing hard work writing and smoking
  • writing/getting published
  • earning a university degree
  • building and/or running a business
  • projects or performances
  • creating or building something
  • managing something or supporting someone
  • running a family/household
  • sports or other physical tasks

Similar Expressions

  • to give one’s all – He gave it his all. She always gives her all.
  • to do one’s very best – She did her very best. You must do your very best.
  • to go above and beyond – They went above and beyond. We’re going to have to go above and beyond to make our sales quota.
  • to give everything one has – You’re going to have to give everything you have if you want to come in first place.

Now that I’ve put my blood, sweat and tears into writing about blood, sweat, and tears for the past 5 hours, the end is in sight :).

Your Turn: Have you ever put your blood, sweat, and tears into something? Share in the comments below.

If idioms are hard for you, hang in there! I plan to continue writing new posts about common idioms bi-weekly. I am also in the middle of writing two other posts. One is about collocations and the other is about text messaging lingo like OMG, BRB, and TTYL. On that note, it’s time to hit the sack (go to sleep).

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