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1. get out of hand (v.)
To get out of control.
- My uncle’s drinking problem got out of hand, and eventually he became an alcoholic.
2. experience something first-hand (v.)
To experience something yourself.
- I didn’t realize how hard it was to be a parent until I experienced it first-hand.
3. change hands (v.)
For an object to be passed or sold from one owner to another.
- This house has changed hands several times since it was built.
4. have (got) your hands full (v.)
To be completely busy or occupied with something.
- Barry and Martha have six children and four dogs – they’ve certainly got their hands full!
5. try your hand at (v.)
Try doing something for the first time.
- I’ve never taking a cooking class, but I’d like to try my hand at it.
6. at hand (adj.)
Available (used for objects, not people).
- I like to have a dictionary at hand when I’m reading a book in English.
7. give a hand / lend a hand (v.)
To help somebody with something – especially something that requires physical effort.
- I can’t carry all these books by myself. Could you give me a hand?
- When the politician finished his speech, the audience gave him a hand.
8. wash your hands of (v.)
To stop being responsible for or involved in something.
- The manager washed his hands of the whole situation and told us to solve the problem ourselves.
9. hands are tied
Not have the ability to help or take action.
- I’m sorry, there’s nothing I can do. My hands are tied.
10. know like the back of your hand (v.)
To know a place very well.
- She lived in New York for 20 years – she knows the city like the back of her hand.
11. hands down (adv.)
Obviously, unquestionably, without a doubt.
- Sarah was hands-down the best skater at the competition.
12. a hand-me-down (n. or adj.)
A piece of clothing that belonged to an older brother/sister and is passed to a younger brother/sister.
- My mother never bought me new clothes – she just gave me hand-me-downs from my sister.
13. second hand (adj.)
Something you know from another person or source, not directly.
- I wasn’t at the party – I only heard about it second hand.
14. in good hands (adj.)
In the care of somebody good or knowledgeable.
- Don’t worry, your car is in good hands – William’s an excellent mechanic.
15. have a hand in (v.)
Have a role in.
- Janet’s cousin, who is a vice-president at the company, had a hand in getting her the job.
16. take matters into own hands
To take action on a problem yourself because other people have failed to do so.
- The city hadn’t done anything about the trash in the park, so citizens took matters into their own hands and organized a day to clean it up.
17. tip your hand
To reveal a secret, especially about your own plans or opinions.
- The director tipped his hand on plans for his next movie.
18. on the one hand… on the other hand
This expression is used to compare two aspects of a situation.
- On the one hand, my job pays well, but on the other hand, it’s very stressful.
A fun & easy way to learn English idioms
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