Glossary Home Idioms

Cross that bridge when you come to it

“Cross that bridge when you come to it” is used to suggest that it’s not necessary to do or worry about something until it happens.

“Cross that bridge when you come to it” is a commonly used phrase that alludes to something one is pushing off until the last moment. The metaphorical saying can be used in a variety of situations, especially in those among friends, family members, and close colleagues. Like most colloquialisms, this one may not be appropriate for more formal occasions such as business meetings and academic papers. 

Cross that bridge when you come to it


Meaning of “Cross that bridge when you come to it” 

“Cross that bridge when you come to it” is used to suggest that problems can be delayed until they are at a critical point. The phrase can be used with any tense or point of view. For example, one might say, “I’m going to cross that bridge when I come to it,” or “she told me she was going to cross that bridge when she came to it.” “Crossing the bridge” is a metaphor for confronting or dealing with an issue at hand. The saying suggests that there’s no reason to worry about “the bridge” if one isn’t directly in front of it yet.


When to Use “Cross that bridge when you come to it” 

“Cross that bridge when you come to it” can be used in a very wide variety of situations by anyone who wants to engage with the saying. One might use it to refer to car repairs, homework, chores, an uncomfortable conversation, and more. The “bridge” one has to cross might be a physical task, a mental or emotional uncomfortable conversation, a meeting, outing, or anything one has been putting off for a time. The phrase is usually used to refer to something negative, but it might also be used more positively. Someone might say it when they don’t want to think too far into the future in regard to a potentially exciting outcome—for example, these two lines of possible conversation. 

What do you think is going to happen this election season? Do we really have a chance of winning?

I don’t know, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. 

It’s important to always keep in mind who one is talking to if they decide to use the phrase. It might not sit well if one uses it when speaking with their boss in regard to work-related tasks or meetings. The same can be said for academic settings like classrooms, lectures, and faculty meetings. 


Example Sentences 

  • Look, I don’t have time for that right now. I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. 
  • She told me she’s just going to “cross that bridge when she comes to it” and isn’t going to talk to him anytime soon. 
  • We all need to get our priorities in order and worry about our bridges when it’s time to cross them. 
  • What are you going to do if you fail that test? “I don’t know. I’ll cross the bridge if I come to it. 
  • There’s only so much we can do right now. We’re going to have cross the bridge if we come to it. 
  • After that, she told her boss she’d “cross that bridge when she came to it,” and I knew she was going to be fired by the end of the day. 
  • My manager once told me that he’d “cross that bridge when he came to it” in regard to telling me my hours for the following day. 


Why Do Writers Use “Cross that bridge when you come to it?” 

Writers use “cross that bridge when you come to it” in the same way and for the same reasons that people use it in everyday conversation. It is used to allude to something that might happen, and that can be put off until the last possible moment. One character in a story, novel, play, or even a long poem, might use it as an answer to a question in regard to what they’re going to do about a possible outcome. It should be noted that phrases like this one, which is widely known to a great swath of the English-speaking population might come off as cliche or overused if not applied in an interesting or new way. 


Origins of “Cross that bridge when you come to it” 

“Cross that bridge when one comes to it” is like most idioms, proverbs, and other aphorisms in that its origin is not entirely clear. In this case, it’s thought that the phrase was first used by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Golden Legend, published in 1851. It read: 

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

Clearly, from the content of this line, this is not the first use of the phrase. It likely originated decades, if not centuries prior. 


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