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(your) hands are tied

Meaning: You can say your hands are tied if you're prevented from doing something that you'd normally have the power or the authority to do.

For example:

  • The president says he'd like to spend more on schools in poor districts, but says his hands are tied by what he calls "budgetary restrictions".

  • I'd really like to give you the contract, Mr Gambino, but my hands are tied because of those laws on giving contracts to people with criminal records.

Quick Quiz:

The guy in the bank who approves loans said his hands were tied and he
  1. can't untie them
  2. would be happy to give us the loan
  3. couldn't approve our loan

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