have it both ways

have it both ways

to have both of two incompatible things. John wants the security of marriage and the freedom of being single. He wants to have it both ways. John thinks he can have it both ways—the wisdom of old age and the vigor of youth.
See also: both, have, way

have it both ways

to satisfy two opposing groups or opinions Americans want to have it both ways, saying they strongly believe in certain principles while reserving the right not to apply them in difficult situations.
Usage notes: often used in the form not have it both ways: I don't see how critics can say that it won't be effective and that it will be too tough – you can't have it both ways.
Related vocabulary: square the circle
See also: both, have, way

have it both ways

Achieve two mutually exclusive objectives, as in Bill wants to have it both ways-to enjoy Christmas at home and to travel with his friends . The related have it all means "to get everything one wants," as in It's too bad we can't have it all-the wisdom of experience and the fresh enthusiasm of youth . [Early 1900s]
See also: both, have, way