Idiomatic Expressions with ‘HAND’ –  Speak Smart English

So what is it that you can do with your hands? I can obviously write with my hands, I can wash things with my hands. Sometimes we can also love others with our hands and if you are too angry, you might even give a tight slap to someone with your hands but in this Spoken English lesson, we are leaning some interesting English expressions that we can use in our daily English conversation which has the word hand in them.  These are idiomatic expressions and don’t have literally the same meaning as you read them.  Stay tuned in this English Practice lesson to learn more about your English Course Teacher – Michelle. Learning English online with Let’s Talk Free English speaking Lesson is easy and fun.

Complete Lesson Transcript

So what is it that you can do with your hands? I can obviously write with my hands, I can wash with my hands. Sometimes we can also love others with our hands and if you are too angry, you might even slap someone with your hands but in this lesson, we are leaning some other expressions that we can do with our hands. Not literally but idiomatically. Stay tuned to learn more with me, Michelle, you’re tutor.

So let’s have a look at the first expression that we have on the board and that is, be hand in glove with someone. So what is a glove? A glove is a covering that you wear over your hand. may be to protect your hand in winters from the cold, from the bitter cold, at other times to protect your hand from the heat when you are cooking but how can you be hand in glove with someone? So if we think the glove and the hand are really close, they are touching each other and they are very, very close. So in your life, you’re close to someone if you’re very close to someone, you’re hand in glove with someone. So you could say, John and Sally are hand in glove with each other. So they are close to each other. That’s not all, you can use this expression at your workplace also, so you can use this expression with the word, work. You could say that the teacher and the principal and the teachers work hand in glove with each other. So you can use the word work before the expression at a professional place to show a professional relationship and you can also use this expression to talk about a suspicious situation where you’re doubting someone. So you could say, let’s take a crime situation. So you may say that the gangs are  working hand in glove with the police. So you can’t even trust the police now. So these are three ways to use this first expression. Now let’s look at the second expression, can’t lay hands on someone. Lay means to put your hand upon someone. So if you can’t put your hand on someone, what does it mean? Maybe that you can’t find them or you can’t find something. If you’ve borrowed your books from your friend and your friend wants them back but you just can’t find the book, you  don’t know where did you keep them. Your friend calls up, tring, tring, hi where are my books? Can I please get them? And you’d be like, I can’t lay my hands on the books, please wait I’ll respond to you soon. I’ll get back to you soon when i lay my hands on the book, which means when I can find them, to find something. If you say, can’t lay your hands means to not find something.


There’s a similar meaning to this phrase which is, that you’re waiting to grab someone or grasp someone to do some harm to them. Has it ever happened to you? It’s happened with me, it’s my experience that once my roommate, she left the home, sorry she left the house and she took the keys with her and sadly I had recently lost a pair of keys. So I had none and she didn’t turn up for hours. I was trying to ring her but she just didn’t pick up and I called another of my friends and he was like, what’s  wrong? And I told him, I’m just out of the house. He said, why? What happened? I said, Tommy has gone again with the keys and I’m waiting to lay hands on her which means that once she’s back, I’m waiting to hit her or I’m waiting to fight with her in a way. Obviously, I won’t do that, it’s just figurative.

Okay, let’s look at the third phrase, to change hands which means to go from one hand to another hand. In other words, to change owners, to change owners. You can surely expect this phrase from your grandpa, he m9ght  just say that we built our house in 1970 and since then no one has changed hands. This means that no one has ever laid hands on the house or the owner of the house has never changed.

Let’s look at the next phrase that we have, to eat out of someone’s hands. So whose hands do you think you can eat out of? Like practically, you know you can’t eat out of a stranger’s hands. Most probably your mother’s hands, why? Because she is in absolute control of you. The same way, when you are in absolute control of a situation, then you’re eating out of someone’s hands. So it was in a concert, when I went to a concert I saw this band performing and they were just go good. The moment they were on stage, everyone was listening to them and they were wrapped in the music. So the guys were eating, sorry the crowd was eating out of the guys’ hands just with some opening numbers. So this means to be in absolute control.

Now let’s look at the next phrase, first hand, second hand, third hand, fourth hand. Of course, you’ve heard the term second hand which means that you use an already used thing. So that means you reuse an already used thing but first hand. Are we talking about usage here? Not really, we’re talking about experience. Have you ever had a firsthand experience of something? Have you ever seen an accident with your own two eyes? If you have, then you had a firsthand experience. If you’re listening from someone else about their experience, then that’s not a firsthand experience but when you’re watching it with your own eyes, that’s a personal contact or a direct view. So you use a first hand for a direct experience.

The next phrase that we have is, have a free hand with something.  So having a free hand, what can you do with a free hand? You can possibly do everything with a free hand and that’s exactly what this phrase means. That when you have the freedom to do whatever you want. So if you’re working on a project, how do you like it? Do you like to be guided by someone? Or do you like to work freehand? Which means work the way you want. If you want to use this phrase in a sentence, you could say, I could have performed much better, had I got a freehand with the last project. So this is the way, you can use it.

The next phrase we have is, off hand. Well the word, off, we can guess from it. The word says that something that is not available. Something that you do not have. This is the meaning of this word, it usually means something that is not there. So what is that we don’t have with this expression. If I ask you, what is the capital of Tanzania? Do you have an answer right now? Maybe some of you have but those of you don’t have, you don’t have the answer off hand. Maybe you can get me the answer later but if you cannot get me the answer at the spur of the moment that is right now then you don’t have the answer off hand which means at the moment or at the spur of the moment.

Let’s move on to the next phrase coz it’s getting only more interesting. In hand, something that is in hand or something that is at hand. I’m sorry, at hand. What we do we mean by something that is at hand. so, if something is at hand’s distance, it is very near physically but if you’re not talking about something physically and we’re talking about some idea in our head, then that means that something is very near. What happens when the holiday season is at hand? Everyone is very excited. This means when the holiday season is very near or when the holiday season is at hand, everyone is very excited

To wash one’s hands off, what does that mean? You must have guessed. You’re getting rid of something. To wash one’s hand of means to get rid of something. So when you’re really done with something and you don’t want to take any more responsibility for it, you could say, I’m done with him, it’s time I wash my hands off. This means it’s time I get rid of my responsibility for that particular person or maybe for a particular project.

Here we have the last phrase, to be in someone’s hands. This means you’re safe in someone’s hands. To be in someone’s hands means more like someone is responsible for you. To be someone’s responsibility. If you’re taking your girl out at the night, then she is in your hands. This means that you are responsible for her safety.

Thank you so much for this amazing lesson about hands and surely I’m sure now you know that there are many more things that you can do with your hands and not just washing, sapping or loving. Come back for more lesson with me, this is Michelle, signing off.

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