to have your hands full: meaning and explanation

to have your hands full = to be very busy with something, meaning you don’t have time to do anything else.

We can say that you have your hands full with something or doing something. e.g. I’ve got my hands full with the children/looking after the children.

This idiom is useful when making an excuse – you can’t do something because you’re too busy with something else. e.g. I wish I could come with you, but I’ve got my hands full looking after my nieces and nephews this weekend.

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

Dictation #1

Accent: Scotland

I'd , but I'm my getting everything conference.
I'd to help, but I'm to have my full getting everything for the conference.

…I’d love to help, but…

The phrase I’d love to (verb) but… is useful when you don’t want to do something and need to make a polite excuse. e.g:

Do you want to come over this weekend?
I’d love to, but I’ve got loads of work to do.

Discussion questions

Write your answers to these questions in the comments section, and I’ll get back to you with some feedback:

  • Tell me about a time you couldn’t do something because you were too busy (you had your hands full…)
  • Have you got your hands full with anything at the moment?

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