upper hand: meaning and explanation

This is a very useful idiom for identifying who has the most power or control in certain situations, such as during meetings or negotiations.

If someone has the upper hand, then they are in a stronger or more powerful position than other people involved in the situation (see micro-dictation 2).

If someone gains the upper hand then something has happened which puts them in a stronger position than before (see micro-dictation 3).

When you want to talk about the reasons for someone being in a stronger position than others, you can talk about the things that give them the upper hand (see micro-dictation 1).

Have a go at these micro-dictation exercises to hear this expression being used in context – how much can you understand?

Listening exercises

Micro-listening #1

Accent: Australia

, .
I’m will be the easiest world, but strong Asia gives us .
I’m not it will be the easiest in the world, but I our strong presence Asia gives us the hand.

About the sentence

…I’m not saying it will be the easiest negotiation in the world, but

The structure I’m not saying…but is a way of making a comment in a more indirect/polite way. This is especially useful when criticising someone or giving negative feedback. e.g. I’m not saying it was your fault, but you should have called the client to check first. 

Micro-listening #2

Accent: England (RP)

, .
candidates for , and it isn’t has the .
There several candidates for position, and this stage it isn’t who has the hand.

About the sentence

…at this stage it isn’t clear

At this stage is a more formal alternative to at the moment or at present.

Micro-listening #3

Accent: North America

We’re partnership will gain the a very .
We’re that this partnership will us to gain the hand in a very competitive .

Photo by Alvin Mahmudov on Unsplash