In trades I really need to know if is correct the use of this idiom. If its ok or not, would you tell me what are the common ways to express when we need to buy or sell some goods when the buyer and the seller are face-to-face? Please, teach me the formal and informal ways to treat someone properly (without being rude).

  • Er, why not "face-to-face? Nov 18, 2019 at 8:35
  • @DanielRoseman So,"face-to-face" is more common than "hand-to-hand"?
    – J-Mello
    Nov 18, 2019 at 8:49
  • The only idiomatic use of "hand-to-hand" that I can think of is in "hand-to-hand combat". Nov 18, 2019 at 8:52
  • @DanielRoseman yeah! This use is very frequent,but I'm in a doubt if face-to-face sounds like hand-to-hand so that is not polite in trades,at least as I think it sounds a bit rude...And I never seen hand-to-hand use in businesses.
    – J-Mello
    Nov 18, 2019 at 9:42
  • @J-Mello "Face to face" is not rude or offensive at all, although in a formal context I think it's more common to say "in person" ("Could we meet in person?"). As already pointed out, "hand-to-hand" has a completely different meaning and is not correct for this purpose.
    – TypeIA
    Nov 18, 2019 at 10:03

2 Answers 2


I would certainly not say hand to hand, as that implies unarmed combat. However, I also wouldn't say that buying something face to face is a natural expression either.

Instead, this would be a far more natural dialogue:

"Did you order it from him on the phone?"
"No, I bought it from him in person."

Alternatively, you could say that something is an in-person sale.

  • Can you tell me some formal alternatives to say "in person" too? Thank you!
    – J-Mello
    Jan 5, 2020 at 17:57
  • 1
    @J-Mello I'd say that in person is already formal—and I can't think of any alternatives. Jan 8, 2020 at 6:42
  • So,as @Astralbee explained,the use of informal expression "face to face" is about "selling something" and not "buying" in this case. But about "buying something" do we only have the formal way to express?
    – J-Mello
    Jan 8, 2020 at 8:00
  • 1
    @J-Mello No, none of these expressions specifically means buying or selling. They are simply used adjectivally to modify any number of actions. Face to face is more informal, and in person is more formal—but they each apply to many different things. Jan 8, 2020 at 12:38

No - "hand to hand" has a different meaning, and refers to a kind of fighting, ie hand-to-hand combat. "Changing hands" is a term used to describe the sale of something from one person to another, but is mostly used to describe the sale of businesses themselves rather than goods. The term "second-hand sales" also refers to the sale of pre-owned goods.

Any kind of meeting in person can be referred to as "face to face". Face to face selling, or face to face retail are expressions used in the sales industry, as is personal selling, all of which describe meeting with clients to make sales.

There are other terms for selling in specific locations - for example, "high street retail" refers to selling from a shop or store.

I think the phrase you are looking for is probably "face to face sales", although this is more of a literal description of what you are doing rather than an idiom.

  • It's ok saying "negotiation" instead "changing hands" ? Indeed. The phrase that I'm looking for is "face to face selling/retail".
    – J-Mello
    Nov 18, 2019 at 13:07
  • 1
    "Negotiation" does not mean a sale, it means discussion prior to a sale, for example over the price. A sale can also be called a "transaction", but neither of these explicity mean face-to-face, at least not on their own.
    – Astralbee
    Nov 18, 2019 at 13:09

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