Expressions used in Everyday Spoken English in Social and Professional contexts

hands are tied

hands are tied
1) unable to act as you would wish due to circumstances beyond your control
  • How to MemorizePopularity HighProfessional HighSocial
    • sorry, I'd like to help you, but my hands are tied
  • Analysis
    The idiom 'my hands are tied'  means that you are restricted or unable to make a decision or act because something or someone else is stopping you from doing so. This idiom is often used in situations where regulations or rules are stopping you from making a simple decision or from helping someone with something. You might want to help someone but tell them that you can't help because your hands are tied. This idiom is also useful when someone is asking you to bend or break the rules to give them special treatment. "I'd love to cancel your fine, but I can't. It's on the system and my hands are tied."
  • Social Examples (Basic)
    1. Sorry, I'd like to be able to help you out with your financial problems, but my hands are tied until the sale of my house goes through.  
    2. We can't make an exception for you, our hands are tied by regulations.
  • Social Examples (Advance)
    1. The judge did not wish to give the defendent a lengthy prison sentence, but she said her hands were tied by archaic legislation that was long overdue an overhaul. As a result, the man will have to serve a minimum of fifteen years.
  • Professional Examples (Basic)
    1. I went to see my manager to ask him why he picked Frank for the promotion instead of me. He agreed that I deserved it more, but said his hands were tied because Frank is the boss' nephew. 
    2. The CEO of the company was anxious for staff to know that she was not behind the decision to cut their salaries, insisting that her hands were tied on the matter due to the business going into administration.
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