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Expressions with “hand”

We rely on our hands for many things and there are a number of hand-related expressions in English. Keep reading to learn some of them.

Right-handed / left-handed

If our right hand is the dominant one that we use for most things, like writing, we can say we’re right-handed and left-handed for people that usually use their left hand.

Most equipment and tools, such as scissors are made for right-handed people, which makes them more difficult to use for those who are left-handed.

🖐 On hand

Meaning: ready and available

I’m on hand to help with any problems you might face.


Meaning 1: an unfriendly and uninterested manner

He seems in a really bad mood today. He was so offhand with me in the meeting!

Meaning 2: say something straight away without much thought or checking the relevant information

I need to do the numbers, but offhand I’d say it’ll be about $200.

Hands-on / hands-off

A hands-on approach / style means being directly involved in managing things, making decisions, etc.

A hands-off approach is the opposite, with no direct involvement.

Which management style do you think is better, hands-on or hands-off?


Meaning: something done in a secret and dishonest way

Although they won the match, I think they used some underhand tactics.

👊 The upper hand

Meaning: have an advantage and more control than others in a certain situation

Supermarkets have the upper hand in the food industry. It’s difficult for small, local grocery shops to compete.

On the one hand…….on the other hand

This idiom is used to contrast two opposing points.

On the one hand, I love the peacefulness of the countryside, but on the other hand it can get lonely.

NOTE: it’s always on the one hand….

On the one side, the job is interesting, on the other side it pays badly.

A handful

Somebody who’s a handful is troublesome and can act out of control. It is usually used for children.

You shouldn’t give young kids too much sugar, as they can become a handful.

🙌 Hand it to someone

Meaning: give credit to someone for something impressive they’ve done

I have to hand it to you, that was an amazing presentation! Very well done!

🤝 Give someone a hand

Meaning: help someone with something

I’m moving house this weekend. Are you able to give me a hand?

👏 Give somebody a big / warm hand

This phrase is used when an audience gives someone a round of applause (claps for someone), usually a performer.

She’s one of the top stars of today and she’s flown all the way here to perform her new single for us. Let’s all give her a big hand!

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