I'm looking for a way to translate the Portuguese phrase 'fazer força com a mão', which literaly translates as 'to exert strength with the hand'.

I've searched the Internet and I came across a lot of 'hand grip strength' but not a verb that could fit the bill. I've also toyed with phrases such as 'apply strength', but they just don't feel natural.

I'd like something that could fit sentences such as:
- She exerted strength with her hand and hurt herself.
- She had to exert a lot of strength with her hand before she could open the lid.
- She couldn't exert strength with her hand because of her hurt thumb.

The phrase should imply that there is a strong grip (which is mostly stationary) followed by exerting strength to produce a (twisting, horizontal, vertical, what you may) movement. In a sense, it's a "strong grip immediately followed by strong production of movement".

  • Does grip or grip hard fit the bill? It's difficult to tell from the examples exactly what is required.
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 23, 2016 at 18:50
  • Grip does not convey the sense of applying strength to cause movement (I believe). You can grip the lid as hard as you want, it will not open until you exert that strength into producing a twisting movement to remove the lid. So it's more than just grip, it's to grip and cause a movement, all requiring strength. Sep 23, 2016 at 18:55
  • Aha. That's useful. Could you edit that clarification into the question?
    – Andrew Leach
    Sep 23, 2016 at 18:58
  • Push, press, squeeze, pound.
    – Hot Licks
    Sep 23, 2016 at 19:07
  • Consider "act with a steady hand".
    – Graffito
    Sep 23, 2016 at 19:07

3 Answers 3


Your direct translation could be improved. Although it is possible in English to "exert your strength" it is also possible to "exert a force". "Force" is a direct translation of "força" and is more appropriate in your examples.

In order to make your examples more natural in English, I've also reworded/added some extra words:

Instead of "She couldn't exert strength with her hand because of her hurt thumb" I would say:

She couldn't exert any force with her hand because of her hurt thumb

Instead of "She had to exert a lot of strength with her hand before she could open the lid" I would say:

She had to exert a lot of force with her hand in order to open the lid

Your first example, however, I am finding more problematic. Your example is "She exerted strength with her hand and hurt herself". As we don't really have a stock idiomatic phrase for "using the strength of your hand", this sentence feels to me like it's missing context, i.e. what she was trying to do with her hand. My best attempt would be to include the "lid opening" context:

She tried opening the lid by hand, but hurt herself.



to pull something forcefully with a quick movement:

  • She hurt her hand when she yanked the jar lid off.
  • She couldn't yank the lid off because her thumb hurt.
  • She yanked hard at the rope but hurt her hand in the process.
  • ‘In a couple of strides, Sonrisa made her way to the door, yanking it open with force.’

and as a noun ...

  • ‘Eventually with a hefty yank and a banshee-like howl, the damn thing came out.’
    Oxford Dictionaries
  1. She couldn't summon up dexterity because of her hurt thumb.

Summon up: To call upon for specified action. (M-W)

Dexterity: The ability to perform a difficult action quickly and skillfully with the hands...(Cambridge Dictionary)

  1. She had to manhandle it before she could open the lid.

Manhandle: To handle roughly. (Free Dictionary)

  1. By resorting to fisticuffs she hurt herself.

Fisticuffs: To fight with fists. (M-W)

  • @Sara Costa Noted. I'll try to come up with one phrase for the three I've offered. Stay tuned. Sep 26, 2016 at 10:37
  • Have you given up on finding one single phrase or are you still mulling it over? Sep 29, 2016 at 18:59

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