What does ‘Can you give me a hand?’ mean?

Do you know what it means when someone asks ‘Can you give me a hand?’?

If you hear the idiom ‘give (someone) a hand’, it means to help someone with something.  It is a more friendly and informal way of saying ‘Can you help me?’

Here are some examples using ‘give (someone) a hand’:

Can you give me a hand carrying these bags?  They need to be taken to the fifth floor.

Thanks for giving me a hand with the housework.

Mike gave Peter a hand with his  homework.

Sometimes we also say ‘lend (someone) a hand’ which has exactly the same meaning. 

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But, be careful, the ‘a hand’ part of this idiom is fixed and cannot change, so it cannot change to ‘your hands’ or ‘some hands’ even if you are talking about many hands.  Also, ‘give a hand’ can have another very different meaning.  It can occasionally mean for everyone in an audience to give applause (clap their hands) after a performance, for example:

What a great performance. Let’s give them a hand ladies and gentlemen.

 

So, how can you reply if someone asks you ‘Can you give me a hand’?  You can reply using phrases like:

Sure, I’d be happy to.  (=yes, I can help)

Sorry, I’ve got a lot on my plate now.  (=I’m too busy to help).

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The word ‘hand’ can also be used in other idioms with a meaning similar to help or assistance.  One example is ‘short-handed’ which means not having enough people to do a job, for example:

Can you help us out with this order?  We are really short-handed at the moment.

Another example is the idiom ‘all hands on deck’ which means everybody helping to complete a job, for example:

Our project deadline was the next day, so it was all hands on deck.

 

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