Idiom:  force someone’s hand


Idiom:  force someone’s hand

  • to make someone do something they don't want to do
  • to make someone do something sooner than they are ready to do it

Note:  This idiom alludes to a game of playing cards (e.g., poker) in which one player is compelled to play a card that reveals other cards in his or her hand.

Example sentences

— I wanted to wait three months before I told my boss I was pregnant, but my morning sickness forced my hand and I had to explain why it was always late.

— When our neighbors all bought iPads for their children, it forced our hands to do the same.

— I hate to have to force your hand, but if you don't sign the contract by tomorrow we can't promise we'll be able to finish the job by the date you want.

— The travel agent is forcing our hand.  If we don't put down a deposit for the tour by this afternoon, they won't be able to hold our reservation  any longer.

— Take all the time you need to decide. I'm not going to force your hand on a decision that's this important.

— The government had wanted to wait until the following week to discuss the proposed budget cuts but a story in the newspaper forced their hand.

— I really didn't like how that sales person tried to force my hand, so I'm looking at getting the car from another dealer.

— The movie star wanted to keep her fertility treatments private but the paparazzi forced her hand when they snapped photos of her coming out of the clinic.

— Unfortunately, this client's account is seriously in arrears so we will have to force their hand and stop work until we get their payment.

— I wanted to wait 24 hours before making a decision about surgery but the doctor's schedule forced my hand.

— We need to force our first candidate's hand. If she doesn't accept the offer by tomorrow, tell her we'll also have to contact our second choice.


  • put/hold a gun to one's head
  • pin down
  • put the screws on somebody

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