My shift at work's kinda long, so I've got some time on my hands to, you know...whatever. Think, I guess.

What does "I have got some time on my hands" mean in the above quote?

  • 2
    It would be useful to share where you found this quote. We can answer your question regardless, but context is always useful :)
    – WendiKidd
    Sep 13, 2013 at 20:45
  • The question as written is too broad: it can generate too many answers. Please try checking a good dictionary and then edit the question to ask specifically about what still confuses you.
    – user114
    Sep 13, 2013 at 23:20
  • @Carlo_R. I'm confused, how is this too broad? If the OP looked the words up in a dictionary, they'd be left with the literal meaning: "Time (an abstract idea) is literally on my hands." I can definitely see how that would be confusing. Can you explain this further?
    – WendiKidd
    Sep 13, 2013 at 23:34
  • 1
    The short asnwer is, it means: I've usually got plenty of spare time (as shown in this dictionary entry).
    – J.R.
    Sep 14, 2013 at 1:14

3 Answers 3

  1. Having time on your hands usually implies you're bored - and actually looking for something to do, because you don't want to simply sit around doing nothing.

  2. To have time in hand usually implies you did have something to do, but you've completed it early. Maybe you'll just kick back, relax, and do nothing - or maybe you'll start tackling another task.

It should be clear from the above that sense #1 usually describes an unsatisfactory state of affairs (you need something to do), whereas #2 applies to a desirable state (you're available to do something extra).

By extension from sense #1 you'll often come across variants of...

Time weighed on his hands (he was bored, having nothing to do).

  • I've encountered plenty of uses in sense 1 that are not negative. Busy people I know or work with will say they have some time on their hands to indicate the positive fact that they can devote some time to a project that we are jointly working on together. Not because they are bored (they have lots of other things to do) but because their usual work or set of obligations has given them some free time. Maybe you know a different set of people to me :-). Oct 13, 2014 at 7:29

In this context, “I’ve usually got some time on my hands” means that the speaker typically has some extra time or idle time during his or her work shift. That is, the demands of work don't take up all the time available in the shift, so there is time left over for thinking or whatever.


To have "time on your hands" is an idiom that means simply you have time in which to do anything you like.

Time, of course, cannot be held in the hands, so the word hands is a metaphor which means to have, or to possess. An equivalent expression would be

"I have plenty of free time."

Another way of phrasing your sentence would be

"My job gives me plenty of free time in which to think."


"At my job I have plenty of time on my hands to think or do whatever I like."

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