(plural bitter pills to swallow)
- Bitter pill(s) to swallow is not a set phrase. Only a little more than 40% of the usage at COCA with a form of swallow within 9 words before or after is of the form given.
- Other verbs such as take, down, and digest may replace swallow.
- About one third of the time bitter pill appears without any such verb nearby.
- Other adjectives modify pill about 60% of the time: hard, tough, bad, difficult, even easy.