Task at hand vs task in hand

Are there differences of meaning between 'task at hand' and 'task in hand'?


  • Mt first thought was that In my speech at hand means 'at one's disposal' — based on the idea of being within reach. I would find it hard to speak of a task at hand. I suppose I could say it in the context of constructing a test by selecting items from a conveniently accessible bank of tasks.

    Then I realised that at hand can also mean 'imminent'. So a task at hand could be one that demands immediate attention.

    The metaphor is different for in hand . Rather than being within reach, something is actually in your grasp. So a task in hand is one that is somehow possessed by you — perhaps because it has been allocated to you or has presented itself to you, perhaps one that you have made a start on, or at least taken the first step of identifying.

  • I would suggest:

    1. "the task at hand" - the task that currently needs to be dealt with.
    2. a task in hand - that a person has the said task under control. Whether or not they are currently performing the task, but that you should be assured they will complete it.
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