An idiom a day keeps your English okay! In this series we examine English idioms and teach you how to use them.
9. A Bird in the Hand is Worth Two in the Bush
When you hear ’a bird in the hand’ you should think that you are literally holding a bird – let’s say a chicken – in your hand. Like, you’ve got the bird. It’s yours. Birds that are ‘in the bush’ are some distance away, sitting on a bush or maybe the branches of some trees, and they are free.
What it Means
This idiom has the meaning, ‘it is better to have one thing in your possession than to maybe be able to get two things later’. The bird in your hand is IN YOUR HAND. Let’s say the cash value of that bird is a hundred dollars. You might think ‘if I drop this bird I could walk over to the bush and collect those two birds and have 200 dollars’. The problem is, those birds might fly away before you get there.
So is it better to definitely have 100 dollars or maayyyyybe have 200 dollars?
When to Use It
Your friend is going for a job interview – the new job would be better and pay more. But if her current boss finds out about it, she’ll be fired. You might give her the advice that it’s better to stay in her current job instead of taking a risk with the new job.
There’s a tablet PC that you want, and you have enough money to buy it. The only problem is that you think there will be a new version released in a couple of months. The new version would probably have better specifications, better battery life, and so on. So should you wait for the new one? This idiom says no – just buy the one that is available, because the future model may never be released, might not be as good as the current one, and you’d lose months of pleasure from not buying.
Real Life Example
– Joe, my man! What are you doing?
– I’m wondering if I should call this girl. I met her last night and got her number. She’s cute.
– So what’s the problem?
– Well… I kinda like Stacey.
– Stacey doesn’t even know you exist.
– And you’ll never work up the courage to talk to her.
– So a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush! This girl is the one for you. I can feel it. Don’t worry about some relationship that will never, ever happen. Okay? So what’s this new girl’s name?
– Wait – not Trish who works at the coffee shop? I’ve had a crush on her for so long. Nooooo!