expression get your hands dirty, aussie english

AE 674 – Expression: Get Your Hands Dirty

Learn Australian English in this Expression episode of the Aussie English Podcast where I teach you how to use GET YOUR HANDS DIRTY like a native English speaker.

Transcript of AE 674 - Expression: Get Your Hands Dirty

G'day, guys and welcome to Aussie English. My objective here is to teach you guys the English spoken Down Under. So, whether you want to speak like a fair dinkum Aussie or you just want to understand what the flipping hell we're on about when we're having a yarn, you've come to the right place. So, sit back, grab a cuppa and enjoy Aussie English.

Alrighty. G'day, you mob and welcome to this episode of Aussie English, the number one podcast for anyone and everyone, that's all of you, interested in learning Australian English.

If you guys want to get access to the transcripts for all of these podcast episodes, there are over 700 episodes now for which there are transcripts, go to and you can sign up for the Premium Podcast. If you would like to get access to all of the courses that I've created for the Academy, including courses for the expression episodes in the past, Australian culture and history, there's loads of natural conversations in their interviews in there, the Goss episodes are in there as well, and it includes the Premium Podcast, Make sure that you go to

So, with that aside, guys, welcome to this episode. Today, we're going to try something a little bit different. I've been thinking recently about restructuring these expression episodes and no longer adding them to the Academy in terms of fleshing out the expression episodes and making them into courses. Obviously, I would love your feedback to let me know, but at the moment, I think, as it stands, in the Academy, there are a hundred, probably 110 expression courses, including Aussie English facts.

You know, multiple videos for each course, loads and loads of exercises, and so I think it's getting pretty overwhelming, and instead of just continually adding to that library, I'm going to try and start creating other content that's going to help you guys, which I will add to the Academy and maybe other courses as well that I'm going to sell on the website.

So, I'm going to try this, see how it goes. Obviously, give me your feedback, guys. That is always really crucial for my decision making, but yeah, let's just get into it.

So, today the expression is 'get your hands dirty', 'to get your hands dirty'. I wonder if you've heard this one before? Have you ever gotten your hands dirty? I hope you have and I hope you haven't.

We'll start with a joke, though. So, I thought I'll try and find a joke about dirt, right? Let's find a joke about dirt. So, here's the joke.

Why did the farmer's coffee taste like dirt?

Why did the farmer's coffee tastes like dirt?

Because it was ground that morning.

Get it? It was ground that morning.

So, the joke here, 'why did the farmer's coffee tastes like dirt? Because it was ground that morning', the pun here is with the word 'ground', which could be a verb, meaning, you know, the past tense of 'to grind', which is what you do to coffee beans, right?

You grind them up and then you pass boiling hot water through those grinds and turn it into a coffee and espresso. You add milk, make cappuccino, latte, whatever it is, whatever floats your boat, right? Whatever kind of coffee that is up your alley. But ground can also be obviously the thing on which you stand, right? The ground.

Dirt is always found on the ground, unless you've thrown it in the air, but that's the joke here, right? Because it was ground that morning, the coffee could have been literally ground, you know, you are grinding the coffee, but it also could mean that someone has taken dirt from the ground. You know, that was ground and they've used that to make the coffee. Bad jokes.

Anyway, so the expression is 'get your hands dirty'. As usual, let's go through the definitions of the different words in this expression 'to get your hands dirty'.

So, 'get'. Man, 'get' is one of these verbs that has so many different meanings. In this case, if you 'get your hands dirty', you are coming to have something. You're receiving something, so it would be like you are achieving that thing. It's that your hands are becoming dirty if we were to think about it literally, right?

So, you might get cold, you become cold, you receive coldness. You might get tired, you become tired, right? You come to have tiredness.

'Your'. I'm sure you guys will know the second person possessive pronoun 'your', right? It's not my car, it's your car. He's not my father, he's your father.

'Hands'. Hopefully you guys know what a hand is and hopefully you have two hands, each of them with five fingers or forefingers and a thumb, depending on whether or not you want to get into semantics. So, a 'hand' is the end part of a person's arm beyond the wrist, and it includes the palm of your hand, the fingers on your hand and your thumb.

And then lastly, 'dirty', 'dirty', right? This is an adjective, You are dirty. You become dirty, you get dirty. If you are dirty, it means that you are covered or marked with an unclean substance, for instance, dirt, right? If you become dirty, it's that you become covered in dirt. But you could become dirty from dust, you could become dirty from pieces of plastic on you, you know, it doesn't have to be dirt itself, it just means that you are unclean.

So, what is the definition of the expression 'to get your hands dirty?' Is it as simple as just looking at this expression, 'get your hands dirty' and your hands are becoming unclean?

Not so much. So, the figurative meaning is not easily deduced from its literal definition of your hands just becoming unclean, right? The expression 'to get your hands dirty' can be used in two different ways, two different ways.

Firstly, 'to get your hands dirty' can mean to do hard physical labour or work right to take on a job which involves manual physical labour, to work arduously or do an unpleasant job. The idea here being that doing such a job is going to make your hands physically dirty, right? So, that would be the literal sense of it.

The figurative sense is that you're doing the hard work. So, for example, you know, digging a hole is the hard work, but literally your hands could become dirty because you're digging the hole.

But another example might be that you're cleaning a car, and as a result of cleaning the car, your hands become dirty, even though you'd probably be using soap, which would clean your hands, you'd imagine.

The idiom 'to get your hands dirty' can also be used, however, to describe a situation where you're taking part in something illegal. You're taking part in something immoral, right? A little bit dodgy, a little bit shady. Maybe it's not very kind or fair to people. Could be illegal.

Another cool idiom similar to 'get your hands dirty', or at least related to this expression, is 'your hands are clean'. And this is used when you aren't corrupt or you haven't done anything wrong or illegal or immoral, right? It's almost like the complete opposite. You get y our hands dirty doing something immoral and illegal and your hands are clean if you didn't do something immoral or illegal.

So, let's go through some examples, guys, of how I would use the expression 'to get your hands dirty'. So, example number one: imagine you are the CEO of a huge tech company in Silicon Valley in the US. So, maybe you are Mark Zuckerberg from Facebook, or you could be Jack Dorsey from Twitter. And one day stuff goes pear shaped outside your office, you know, you hear your employees battling with some huge issue with your online service, your social media service, and that they need your help.

So, you run out of the office and you start doing the everyday work or tasks that your employees would usually do. You know, coding online, calling your clients, touching base with them, writing up reports. So, you have to get your hands dirty. They're not physically dirty, you know, they're not unclean. They're not covered in mud, but figuratively, you're getting your hands dirty in that you're doing work that is arduous that you wouldn't otherwise normally do. That's not really your job, you're getting your hands dirty, right? You're doing this laborious job.

Example number two: imagine you are a policeman in Australia and you're a corrupt cop, right? You're a dirty cop, as we call them, a corrupt policeman. So, you receive things like bribes, you know, you look the other way when criminals give you money and you let them go. So, because you do these illegal activities, these things that are immoral, you're always getting your hands dirty. And maybe one day you get caught by, you know, a fellow officer and you point the finger at your partner and say, I'm not the dirty cop, it's actually this guy over here. He's the one who accepts the bribes, he's the one who looks the other way.

If your colleague, though, can prove that you're a liar, they might say, nah, I know my hands are clean, I can prove it. You're the one who's always getting your hands dirty.

The third example here is a real example where I was watching the TV series Narcos recently, and for anyone who hasn't seen this TV series, it's really interesting. It's about the drug cartels in Mexico and Colombia, in Central and South America.

And, so often these drug lords, these leaders, they have a lot of hired guns, you know, people that they've hired to protect them, to work for them, these guys are the muscle of the operation and they're the ones who carry out all the dirty work. So, usually the drug lords wouldn't get their hands dirty with jobs like roughing people up or trafficking the cocaine or assassinating or murdering people.

Instead, they leave all the dirty work to their muscle, to their hired guns, to all the men that they pay to do that work. They rarely get their hands dirty themselves.

So, there you go, guys. There is the expression 'to get your hands dirty'. Hopefully you understand. Now, remember, it has two meanings. The first one can mean that you do hard physical labour or work, you know, you take on a job which involves manual labour, you have to work arduously or maybe it's an unpleasant job that you wouldn't normally do, that's to get your hands dirty.

And the second meaning here for 'get your hands dirty' is that it can actually describe a situation where you're taking part in something illegal, in something immoral, right? Something a bit dodgy.

So, as usual, guys, let's go through a little listen and repeat exercise here where you can practise your pronunciation. The idea is that I will say these words and these phrases, I'll leave a gap after them and you can repeat them out loud, find somewhere private where you're on your own and you can practise your pronunciation, and over time you're going to level up your English accent.

So, let's get into it.


To get.

To get your.

To get your hands.

To get your hands dirty.

To get your hands dirty.

To get your hands dirty.

To get your hands dirty.

To get your hands dirty.

I'll have to get my hands dirty.

You'll have to get your hands dirty.

He'll have to get his hands dirty.

She'll have to get her hands dirty.

We'll have to get our hands dirty.

They'll have to get their hands dirty.

It'll have to get its hands dirty.

Good job, guys! Good job. Go back over that, listen to that exercise multiple times because you're going to notice things like assimilation where certain letters or words come together and the sound of them changes, right?

I don't say these words perfectly annunciating every single letter that's in them. So, pay attention to those details, right?

Things like 'get your' sounds more like a "get your", right? The T and the T & the Y takes a "chyeh" kind of sound instead of "t_yeh" sound, right? "Get your", "Get your".

And another one would be 'havta','havta', instead of 'have to'.

So, pay attention to those things and that'll really help you level up your accent, your pronunciation in English. It takes time, but paying attention to these things and then working on it overtime is the thing that's really going to help you in the long run, ok? So, keep working at that.

Before we finish up, let's go through a little Aussie Fact. And instead of doing really big episodes of Aussie Facts for a while, I actually really enjoy doing those, but they take a lot of work, I'm going to try and include shorter Aussie Facts at the ends of these expression episodes. So, to time with today's expression, 'get your hands dirty'. I thought, what can I talk about in terms of dirt and Australia? And I thought, you know what? Let's talk about why Australia's dirt is so red, at least in a lot of places.

So, if you see a map of Australia from space, if you see photos of the Australian outback at places like Uluru, you're going to notice that the ground is quite often bright red. When seen from space, much of Australia resembles the red surface of Mars more than other parts of the planet Earth itself.

So, why is this the case? Why is so much of Australia bright red? The answer lies in the continent's soil. The nature of soil depends on a large number of different factors, including things like climate time, the composition of the rock from which the soil came, and many other things.

In regions characterised by generally cool climates, rock weathering, that is where rocks and minerals break down on the earth's surface occurs, this is a physical process caused by factors such as changing temperatures, freezing water plants and animals, and salt absorption.

In places like Australia, where the climate is typically warm, chemical weathering is a more common process. This is where weathering occurs due to conditions changing the materials that the rocks or soil comprise. For the most part, the continent of Australia is hot and dry. A perfect environment for a specific type of chemical weathering called oxidation.

Oxidation is where oxygen binds with iron atoms, and it occurs in rocks that contain high levels of the element iron. In such environments, these types of rocks, literally, rust, just like an old car left out for decades, exposed to the elements. As this rust expands, the rocks begin to weaken, break down and disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces.

And the oxides, or compounds of oxygen and iron, resulting from the process give rise to the bright red colouration. Another piece of the puzzle, or explanation in this case, is the fact that Australia is a continent that is very inactive, geologically speaking.

Unlike many other regions in the Northern Hemisphere, Australia hasn't been affected by things like ice ages or other geological processes like volcanoes for millions of years. As a result, Australian soils are incredibly thick and have built up over millions of years, and these iron oxides have subsequently built up along the way through untold millennia of weathering or rusting.

On a final note, guys, this is a big reason why mining is so prevalent in Australia and why one of our biggest exports is iron ore.

So, that's it for today, guys. I hope you enjoy this episode. Let me know what you think of my ideas in terms of restructuring these expression episodes, and apart from that, I wish you an awesome week, and I'll chat to you next time. See ya.

G'day, mate! Thanks for listening to the Aussie English podcast. If you'd like to boost your English whilst also supporting the podcast and allowing me to continue to bring you awesome content, please consider joining the Aussie English Academy at You'll get unlimited access to the premium podcast as well as all of my advanced English courses.

And you'll also be able to join three weekly speaking calls with a real English teacher. Thanks so much, mate, and I'll see you soon.

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    1. Very interesting episode !!! Even more interesting to know that it can have different meanings depending on the context !!!
      Just one add: the people hired by drug lords to kill people are called SICARIOS πŸ™‚

    2. Hey Pete just in case if you struggle with the topic for the next episode could you some when enplane the way of using “you (we)’b better off…..” for instance “you’b better off asleep” and all the options of this phrase and meanings, thanks in advance, mate