cross the bridge


cross the bridge
also, cross that bridge when one comes to it

Meaning | Synonyms

  • to delay worrying about something that might not happen anyway
  • to deal with a problem only when it arises
  • don’t try to solve something before it becomes a problem
  • resolve a problem when it occur, rather than try to solve it in advance
  • to wait until the problem comes up in trying to resolve it rather than placing solutions for something that is not currently an issue
  • to deal with something when the time is right

It is used in a tone of giving advice quite often.

Example Sentences

  1. We think that there may be too many people to fit into the hall, but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
  2. The weather station says that it may rain over the weekend but we will cross that bridge when we come to it.
  3. My interview last week went quite well but the job means that we will have to move to a new city. I am not going to think about it now, I will cross that bridge if I come to it.
  4. The student wanted to think about failing the exam only after the results came out. He wanted to cross the bridge only when it came to it.
  5. It is sad that she is crossing the bridge of ending her marriage but some things are better over than being dragged on.
  6. “What will you do if you fail in this exam?” Answer: “I’ll cross the bridge when I come to it.”


Even though the origin of the phrase is not known, this indicates that it has been used since well before the 1800s where the crossing of bridges was quite a literal thing with long travels being done either on foot or horseback.

The bridge could not be crossed before it actually came up and moreover, the crossing of bridges was considered a risky matter because the reliability of faraway bridges was not guaranteed.

So crossing a bridge related to a huge problem which is, in today’s terms used as a synonym of solving problems. Although life is not at stake in the usage of the phrase today, it used to be when people were discussing about actually crossing shaky bridges.

The adverb “when” indicates that you are anticipating the event to take place in the future. The phrase is often changed to “cross that bridge if I come to it.”  The conjunction “if” introduces a conditional clause, indicating that the event is not inevitable.

The first recorded use of the idiom can be found in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s The Golden Legend (1851):

“Don’t cross the bridge till you come to it, is a proverb old and of excellent wit.”

Share your opinions2 Opinions

Someone said, once you crossed a bridge after experiencing something wonderful. Don’t ever cross back because you will experience a change that will disappoint you?
Example: As a small boy, five to ten, I spent the happiest days of my life at the cottage of my grandfather. That was every summer. Now seventy three years later, I thought I could return and rekindle those wonderful times and memories. Sorry, I was really disappointed and sad at the total change!

‒ Peter M. Olsen August 1, 2021

We had a HPC* who confused this idiom with the idiom of “burning one’s bridges”, thereby uttering: “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.” Inspirational!

*(high-priced consultant)

‒ Marcus January 20, 2021

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