know a hawk from a handsaw
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British pronunciation/nˈəʊ ɐ hˈɔːk fɹɒm ɐ hˈandsɔː/
American pronunciation/nˈoʊ ɐ hˈɔːk fɹʌm ɐ hˈændsɔː/
to know a hawk from a handsaw
01

to be able to show or recognize a difference between two individuals or things

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to [know] a hawk from a handsaw definition and meaning

What is the origin of the idiom "know a hawk from a handsaw" and when to use it?

The idiom "know a hawk from a handsaw" comes from Shakespeare's play "Hamlet." In the play, Hamlet uses this phrase to express his doubt and frustration about being able to tell things apart or make accurate judgments. The phrase asks if it is possible to distinguish between similar objects, like a hawk and a handsaw. It's not clear where the phrase came from before Shakespeare used it, but it has become well-known and still used today frequently. It is often employed when discussing situations where distinguishing between similar or seemingly identical things is challenging or confusing. It is often employed when discussing situations where distinguishing between similar or seemingly identical things is challenging or confusing.

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Example
examples
It's like he doesn't know a hawk from a handsaw when it comes to choosing the right investments.
You'd think after all these years, he'd know a hawk from a handsaw, but he still can't operate a simple computer.
He truly doesn't know a hawk from a handsaw.
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Definition & Meaning of "To [know] a hawk from a handsaw"
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