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  5. "Uma mão lava a outra."

"Uma mão lava a outra."

Translation:You scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

December 19, 2013

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Can someone confirm whether this phrase can translate into it's closer literal equivalent of "one hand washes the other"?

"One hand washes the other" is a phrase in English with almost the exact same meaning as "you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours", but is usually used more clandestinely. For example for corruption, "I'll give you a mensalão if you vote on my bill, one hand washes the other".


Never heard that in English. I feel as though I learn more English than Portuguese sometimes.


One hand washes the other is an English phrase. If you haven't seen the movie adaptation of the musical "Chicago" starring queen latifah, Richard Greer, and Renee zellwigger, you should. Mama Morton has a song, "When you're good to mama" in which the character sings, "Don't you know that this hand washes that one ([ her other hand]) too?"

Long story, sorry.


Actually, even longer. It was widely used in Latin ("manus manum lavat"), for example, by Petronius and Seneca. But the dictionaries say that Romans themselves borrowed the phrase from Greek, although from a more obscure source.


Haha yeah that's exactly what I thought of too when I saw this idiom. I've definitely heard "one hand washes the other" more often than I've heard "one good turn deserves another"


In my experience the case is the reverse in the UK. We frequently use, "One good turn deserves another!" either positively or sarcastically but I'd never heard 'one hand washes the other' in English before.


I've never heard "one hand washes the other" either...


"Uma mão lava a outra" could be used for that example. :]


Yes, i think it's the same. In Latvian it's also one hand washes the other with the same meaning you described


Рука руку моет


"One good turn deserves another" says that when a good deed or act (good turn) is done then it deserves to be followed by another. It's used to tell someone why you might be doing something. "No need to thank me. I helped you rake your lawn, because you helped me fix my gutters. One good deed deserves another."

For scratch "scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" (not sure they accept that answer), it indicates that if you were to do something to help me, I could do something to help you. "If you help me with my gutters, I'll help you rake your lawn. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. "


I would add, ""one good turn deserves another" is usually said when rewarding selfless acts of kindness.

"You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" is used to motivate a selfish person to do something by offering a reward. It appeals to the "What's in it for me?" attitude. It can be used in shady dealings to offer a bribe without actually speaking incriminating words. For example, a land developer who is having trouble getting required permits might tell a bureaucrat, "you scratch your back, I'll scratch yours." The land developer didn't explicitely ask for help with the permits, nor did he explicitely state the reward he would give. Regardless, the bureaucrat would understand the coded message and would know that a bribe was being offered.

"One good turn deserves another" is much less sinister. It is said when responding to another's act of unsolicited kindness by doing something equally kind.


The scratching backs idiom is more simply about making a deal, suggesting mutual benefit, and is usually used when trying to convince someone to accept the terms.

  • 157

??? I don't understand the English sentence here.

I thought "uma mão lava a outra" meant a cooperative work between two parts. (I never knew for sure)

See badacz's comment below, it's a perfect match.


It means that if someone does you a favor, then you should do a favor for that person in return. A similar idiom would be " you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours"


well I´m from colombia and here this idiom would be a little bit longer as continues: "una mano lava la otra y las dos lavan la cara"


In Argentina it's "una mano lava la otra y las dos lavan el culo"


That is even better! We should extend ours too. :)


I agree, 'you scratch my back, I'll scratch your' is a good english equivalent.

  • 157

Is that what the English sentence means? If so, then it's perfect.


I'd say the literal translation is fairly common; one had washes the other.


I think you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours has more shady undertones than one good turn deserves another. Can uma mão lava a outra have a negative insinuation in Portuguese or does it only mean good deeds?


It can have a negative insinuation, depending on context and tone. =]


"You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" is something with a more negative connotation in America, I'd say. Usually when used it's used by a bad guy helping out a good guy with no other choice and the badguy's going to use it as blackmail later. "One good turn deserves another" is more friendly here, but hardly used, as far as I know. Haven't heard it in a long time...


It just fits in those situations, but really implies making a deal that offers mutual benefit


maybe i'd be nice if they were to put the literal translations of the words in there also...


Why doesn't this sentence require "à" instead of "a"?


Because lavar is a transitive verb which doesn't require a preposition here.


I immediately saw "one hand washes the other." It's an old phrase, but rarely used, except by politicians and other corrupt persons.


this exercise is préjudice against people with only one hand... how do they wash their hand anyhow?


exactly the opposite, it's all about someone else washing your hand (or back) and getting the same in return)

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