Collocations With The Word Hand

Collocations are words that usually go together in English.

Here we are going to look at words that go with the word 'hand' to make useful and popular expressions you will hear in social and professional contexts.

Free hand

If you have a free hand it means one of your hands is empty or not occupied with doing anything. One of your hands could be busy and the other is a free hand. It can also be used in more professional contexts to express that someone is trusting you to use your skills and judgement to make decisions without restrictions (the same as giving someone 'free rein')Don't confuse this collocation with the word 'freehand', which means to draw, write or sketch something without using any additional tools or help.


  • With his free hand he lifted the lady's suitcase.
  • Would you mind opening that door for me?  I don't have a free hand at the moment.
  • If you have a free hand would you mind taking those papers to my office for me, please?
  • I gave the designer a free hand in redecorating the office space.
  • The new CEO will have a free hand in making any changes within the organisation.

Sympathetic hand

To have a sympathetic hand means to behave in a way which is sympathetic or showing understanding towards somebody else. It can be used in both social and professional contexts, but it is mainly used to deal with an emotional situation or when someone is suffering.


  • Anyone affected by this terrible natural disaster should know that we extend a sympathetic hand and aim to help in any way that we can.
  • During the trial, Anna reached out with a sympathetic hand to comfort her sister.
  • Please know that we intend to deal with your case with an understanding and sympathetic hand.

Busy hand

When we speak of busy hands we mean hands that are occupied or doing something or focused on a task. It can also be used in a colloquial or slang context in order to describe inappropriate or unwanted physical behaviour or touching.


  • Her busy hands turned the simple ingredients into an amazing feast.
  • My father always has busy hands. He's always making something new for the house.
  • I'm afraid I can't help you right now. Can't you see I have busy hands?
  • I refuse to dance with Tom at the work party, Maria told me he has busy hands.
  • Men with 'busy hands' in the office will now face disciplinary action under new laws coming into effect today.

Shake hands

When you shake hands your right hand meets another right hand in a movement that can be a greeting or an apology. In business situations, you might shake hands in order to cement an agreement. This is an everyday expression that you will hear a lot.


  • In Italy, it is customary to kiss people on the cheek when you greet them but in the UK it is much more usual to shake hands.
  • I think we have come to a great agreement let's shake hands on it and go for a drink to celebrate.
  • It's important to make eye contact when you shake hands.

Extend a hand

When you extend a hand it means to hold out your hand in order for someone to shake it.

It can also be used figuratively such as in the phrase 'extend the hand of friendship', in order to talk about making an offer.


  • I always get nervous when people extend a hand for me to shake. I never know if my handshake is too firm or soft.
  • As your new neighbours, we wanted to extend the hand of friendship and deliver this package to welcome you to our town.
  • When you enter an interview, always remember to extend your hand confidently, maintaining eye contact.

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