In every language there are many expressions and idioms regarding colours, animals, food and so on, but this time I would like to introduce you to idioms and expressions regarding... hands.


In Italian, there are many expressions with hands with completely different meanings and learning how to handle these expressions will make you feel more comfortable when speaking Italian. Of course, using these expressions often could lead to misunderstandings or you could just appear as an expressions-freak, so my personal advice is to use them with moderation. Let's start our journey:


Metterci la mano sul fuoco (to put one's hand on fire)


When you are extremely sure or positive about something, you can bet what you want, you are right:


  • Sono sicuro che lei sapeva tutto, ci metto la mano sul fuoco! (I am sure she knew everything about it!)
  • Non preoccuparti, andrà benissimo: ci metto la mano sul fuoco! (Don't worry, it will be fine: I'm sure of it!)


Forzare la mano (to push the hand)


We use this expression when we want to push someone into doing something against his/her will:


  • Lasciala decidere, non forzare la mano! (Let her decide, don't push her to do what she doesn't want to!)
  • Non forzare la mano, se vuole, tornerà (Don't push him, if he wants, he will come back).


Avere le mani in pasta (literally “to have the hands in the dough” or in English “to have a finger in the pie”)


Italians use this expression to say that someone is involved in a situation, a business or an event. It can have a positive or negative meaning:


  • Ha le mani in pasta per un progetto nuovo! (He is into a new project!)
  • Ha le mani in pasta in qualcosa, e non mi piace per niente! (He is involved in something I don't like at all!)


Mettere le mani avanti (prevent, anticipate something)


We can use this expression to say that we want to anticipate the result of an action or event, or when we want to protect ourselves from a foreseen situation (that is usually negative):


  • Non so come andrà, ma metto già le mani avanti (I don't know how it will end, but I have already tried to protect myself from the outcome).
  • Metti le mani avanti e risparmia dei soldi per il futuro! (Protect yourself and save some money for the future!)


Avere le mani bucate (literally “to have hands with holes”, in English “to be a spendthrift”)


In Italian, we say that a person who spends a lot of money (usually for silly or useless stuff) has “hands with holes!”:



  • Hai già speso tutti i soldi?? Ma hai proprio le mani bucate! (Have you already spent all your money?? You are really a spendthrift!)


Stare con le mani in mano (to be idle)


This means we are doing absolutely nothing:


  • Mentre gli altri giocavano fuori, io stavo a casa con le mani in mano (While the others were playing outside, I was at home doing nothing).
  • Sono stata a casa tutto il giorno con le mani in mano (I have been at home the whole day doing nothing).


Dare una mano (to lend a hand)


This basically means to help someone.


  • Aspetta, ti do una mano! (Wait, I'll help you!)
  • Puoi darmi una mano? (Can you lend me a hand?)


Venire alle mani (to come to blows)


Better not to do this! It means we are having a fight with someone!:


  • Leri sera quei due sono venuti alle mani! (Last night they came to blows!)
  • Se non se ne vanno subito, verranno alle mani (If they don't leave now, they will come to blows).


Lavarsene le mani (to wash the hands of it)


This has a slightly superficial meaning: it means that we don't care at all about something or someone:


  • Non mi interessa, me ne lavo le mani! (I don't care at all about it!)
  • Se a lui non interessa, me ne lavo le mani anche io (If he doesn't care about it, I also wash my hands of it).


So, as you can see there are very many expressions you can use to say many things. Of course we don't use idioms in every single sentence, so don't worry, you don't have to learn them all, but I am sure you will now find it a bit easier to understand spoken Italian. And if you want to improve your skills in Italian, don't forget to download my free e-book here. You will find free resources for improving your reading, listening and speaking skills.


I hope you enjoyed this quick overview on expressions with hands!


Image Sources

Hero Image by Nate Steiner (CC BY 2.0)