Get a handle on

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Get a handle on is an interesting idiom. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom get a handle on, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

To get a handle on something means to get it under control or to fully understand it. For instance, a student may be said to get a handle on his subject matter, meaning he has come to understand it. The expression get a handle on refers to gripping something firmly by its handle, which makes it difficult for that item to slip from one’s grasp. The term came into use around the 1930s with the definition that it has today. Related phrases are gets a handle, got a handle, gotten a handle, getting a handle.


Her comments come as the government tries to get a handle on the more transmissible Delta variant that has become the dominant form of COVID in the country. (Newsweek)

I still couldn’t get a handle on what was going on, but I’d entirely given up hope for anything positive coming out of the discussion. (The Atlantic)

“This is not a long-term reprieve, but this will definitely help the firefighters get a handle on the fires in the next couple of days with reduced fire behaviour,” said fire information officer Claire Allen. (Penticton Western News)

Want to know more idioms? Check out some others we covered:

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