There are so many expressions containing the word hands (and feet!). How well do you know them?
Grab a pen and paper (or just type into your Notes app or similar).
How many idioms and expressions can you think of containing the word hand or hands?
Hang onto your list, as you’ll need it soon!
Can you fill in the blanks with a suitable expression? They all contain the word hand(s).
- “Why can’t you move the meeting to the following week? It would be much more convenient.” “I’m afraid my _______________. This was the only day the Village Hall was available to rent for our club meeting.”
- “Now I’ve shown you round the antimatter factory, I’ll leave you in my assistant’s _________________ for a tour of the Large Hadron Collider.”
- Veronica Walker is best known for writing a book about consecutive note-taking, but did you know she also _____________ in designing the SCIC Speech Repository? [note: this sentence is completely made up!]
- “You think we should collaborate with our political opponents on this project. I wouldn’t __________ the idea _________; it could definitely work to our advantage.”
- I think anyone who tries to lecture young people about the dangers of drugs needs to have experienced them ________________.
- The current owner of the bank is Swiss, but the company has________________ six times in the past decade.
I’ve given you some definitions; can you fill in the appropriate expressions containing the word hand(s)?
|to help someone
|to get out of control
|to be very busy with something
|to have a go at something (e.g. a sport)
|by far (e.g. ‘it’s by far the best thing I’ve tasted’)
|to act on your own initiative, to act off your own bat (because no-one else is)
|to be experienced at doing something
|to admit that someone deserves praise or credit
Can you match the explanation to the idiom?
|to harm someone who is good to you or does things to help you
|to be caught with your hand in the cookie jar
|it’s better to have a small (but certain) advantage than the possibility of a bigger one
|to live from hand to mouth
|to be caught doing something wrong or illegal or to be caught stealing something (often money)
|a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
|not to know where your next meal is coming from; to survive on little money
|to bite the hand that feeds you
At hand, to hand, on hand?
There are subtle distinctions here, complicated by differences between American English and British English.
To hand seems to be more common in British English. To me, it means an object that is physically nearby in case I need it:
“Keep your mobile phone to hand in case you need to take some photos.”
At hand means close in time or space. American English users would probably use at hand where I would say to hand. To me, it can mean something like ‘imminent’ or ‘it’s coming’ (‘retaliation is at hand’, ‘help is at hand’).
On hand means something closer to ‘available, nearby’: ‘The emergency services were on hand to give advice about heat exhaustion’.
Honestly, the distinctions are so small that it’s probably not worth worrying about whether you’re getting it wrong.
A poem to finish
Do you know this poem, one of my favourites, by Percy Bysshe Shelley?
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”