When someone falls down and you give your hand to her but she doesn't hold your hand, what's the proper word for the gesture you've done. You extend your hand? Is "extending a hand" right usage as a verb? Is there a better saying for the movement that you make when you are giving your hand to someone?

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    Welcome! Extend is perfectly fine. You could also say you hold out your hand. Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 22:49
  • 3
    You "offer" your hand.
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 16, 2015 at 23:04
  • A quick, decisive movement is sometimes described as "thrusting out your hand." Other options are more appropriate when the extension of the hand is less vigorous.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 10:19

5 Answers 5


"Extending your hand" is indeed correct, understood exactly in this way, and of long use for precisely this. At least one dictionary even lists "extend your hand" as a phrase with precisely that meaning. The OED doesn't, but does have a definition:

To stretch forth (the arm or hand). Also, to hold out, put forward (a staff, etc.).

And includes examples of Shakespeare and Dryden using it in this way.

All in all, you couldn't ask for a more apt word choice.


Both extend and offer are correct and current usage.

  • "As we were walking I offered her my hand."

  • "I offered my hand and he shook it."

  • "I approached him and extended my hand."

  • "He stared at me for a moment and then reluctantly extended his hand."

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    5 hours before I read the question and thought about an answer, you read my mind and typed the answer. Kudos for that.
    – killermist
    Commented Jan 17, 2015 at 4:15

"Hold out a hand" is one good option I don't see mentioned here. It's more casual and natural than extend or offer.

Here's an example of the exact situation you described:

Renly held out his hand to help Margaery to her feet.

But it can also be used when offering a hand to be shaken:

Alfred held out his hand. Jack hesitated momentarily, then shook it.

This last use is more frequent, but that's just because people shake hands more often than they help each other up.


Reach out is a useful expression:

  • Lit. to extend one's grasp outward.

    • He reached out, but there was no one to take hold of. I reached out and grabbed onto the first thing I could get hold of.
  • Nice phrasal verb. I love the example given, very original and refreshing. Used this way, the expression also adds a subtle touch of intention to the action, as in 'I need help' or 'I offer help', as opposed to simply alluding the physical act.
    – Chris
    Commented Jul 20, 2021 at 21:41

I suggest proffer.

OED has it as a verb : Hold out or put forward (something) to someone for acceptance e.g. he proffered his hand

and as a noun : (literary) an offer or proposal.

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