In German, we have a phrase "jmd. in die Tasche spielen", literally "to play into someone's pockets". I am looking for a fitting English equivalent.

The phrase means, you are causing a third party financial gain with your actions. These words are nearly always used in a negative context.

For more details read on:
In a story, a character is asked to do a small favor, but by doing so an unnamed third party would gain money. Sarcastically, he responds: "Sure, I'll play into their pockets".

I'm looking for an actual phrase that keeps the meaning but is valid English.

  • I'm sure there must be better words, but "Sure, I will run small errands for them." comes to mind. Another one is "Sure, I will get my commission later." Nov 21 '13 at 2:39
  • Not sure if this is what you mean, but: be a cat's paw, be someone's tool / lackey, be a doormat, dance to someone else's tune, do someone's dirty work Nov 21 '13 at 2:43
  • I like the question, but I do not have a good answer. "I've got my hand in his pocket" suggest that I am stealing from him, but I cannot think of an English equivalent when a third party is benefiting. Nov 21 '13 at 2:56

There are several idiomatic phrases in English that have to do with activities that result in another's financial gain, such as

line someones pockets


feather one's own nest

but those are more often used to describe a self serving activity, one's own gain.

The phrase is often used to describe working at the direction of, and for the benefit of, another but does not have specific financial implications, and reflects a direct, rather than a collateral benefit.

The closest I can think of is play into his hands

to assist one in one's scheming without realizing it

This generally reflects a battle of wills and may or may not concern financial matters.

  • Thank you very much, I'm going to go with "line their pockets".
    – Satoh
    Nov 21 '13 at 15:46

The phrase "working for the man" has some of this flavor to it, and there are various quotes from the song "Sixteen Tons" that show up sometimes:

You load Sixteen Tons, and what do you get?
Another day older, and deeper in debt.
St. Peter don't you call me, cause I can't go,
I owe my soul to the company store.

The most common phrase in English in this space has things turned around, however; the third party is earning money "on the backs of" the other people.


line somebody's pockets - I think this is a right fit here.

If money or a system is lining someone's pockets, that person is receiving too much money or is receiving money that is not intended for them There's to be an investigation following allegations that the money raised is lining the pockets of officials.

got this from - http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/pocket

  • Sorry.. It seems the same answer had been posted here by @bib before I saw it.
    – Suresh
    Nov 21 '13 at 3:33

to play into the hands of

to give someone an advantage - If this information is made public, it will play into the hands of people who are demanding an investigation of the police.
Usage notes: usually an advantage one person believes another should not have

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.