Idiomatic Vocabulary 9: the rat race

The Phrases

  • the rat race / concrete jungle (N)
  • // dog-eat-dog (adj)

Their Definitions

Describing the intense and often ruthless competition in society


These phrases are useful because we all live in a society which has such competition. We can all be compared to laboratory rats racing each other to get food. City life can be compared to a jungle of buildings – a concrete jungle – where animals eat other animals, even of their own kind – a real dog-eat-dog existence.

These phrases all express strong criticism or negative feelings towards this existence – and if you honestly feel this, express it.


Example Sentences

In IELTS Speaking

  • “After some 20 years in the workforce, I just want to get out of this rat race, and live in a quiet rural area.”
  • “Coming from Australia, it’s really weird that I find myself now marooned, probably forever, in an unlovely concrete jungle.”

In IELTS Writing

  • The competition in the Asian-school systems is becoming increasingly competitive, often ruthlessly so, creating a ‘dog-eat-dog’ scenario, which can hardly be psychologically healthy for the students involved.
  • In the race to succeed in all aspects of life and work, ethics inevitably fall, and the ‘rat race’ begins from an early age.