1: my hands are tied 0

These three micro-dictations all contain the expression ‘my hands are tied’. Complete each exercise, and then try to guess the meaning/usage of the expression from the context.

Dictation #1

Accent: Ireland

I wish a larger , but my .
I wish I offer a larger , but I’m my hands are .

…I wish I could

The structure I wish + past is used to make wishes/express regrets about the present. e.g. I wish I could help you, but I’m just too busy at the moment.

Dictation #2

Accent: Australia

I’m regulations require at least 5 experience, so .
I’m afraid regulations require applicants have at least 5 of experience, so my are tied.

…our regulations require applicants to have

Notice the useful verb pattern to require someone to do something. In many cases, the passive form to be required to do something would be more natural, e.g. Applicants are required to have at least 5 years of experience…

Dictation #3

Accent: Scotland

tied I’m . I’ve but to .
My are tied I’m . I’ve got choice but to you go.

…I’ve got no choice but to let you go

to have no choice but to do something is a more formal way of saying that something is your only option or choice. e.g. Given the circumstances, we have no choice but to pull out of the deal.

to let sb go is an alternative way of saying to fire sb. e.g. The company had to let most of their staff go after the financial crash.

my hands are tied: meaning and explanation

My hands are tied is a very useful expression, which means that you have no freedom to act in any other way. The thing that you are doing or are about to do is your only option.

This expression may be used as a way of preventing attempted negotiation or argumentation – if your hands are tied, then there is no point in someone challenging the situation because there is no other option available.

Using this expression may also suggest that you would like to act in as different way, but are unable to do so.

As in the three examples, it is common to pair this expression with some kind of apologetic phrase, such as ‘I’m afraid (that)…’ or ‘I’m sorry but…’.

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