have it both ways

have it both ways

To take two contradictory positions or actions simultaneously. Often used in negative constructions to indicate that such a thing is unrealistic or impossible. I know you love ice cream, but you can't eat it every day and lose weight—you just can't have it both ways. In demanding that the country be able to set its own laws and border controls but still retain the benefits of the single-currency market, the prime minister is trying to have it both ways.
See also: both, have, way

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

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

have it both ways

benefit from two incompatible ways of thinking or behaving.
1998 New Scientist It is only now dawning on the legislators that they cannot have it both ways—that cleanliness and ecological friendliness are incompatible.
See also: both, have, way
References in periodicals archive ?
But we can't have it both ways. I hear from people who say, `I was like Brian when I was 29--it's realistic and should be celebrated.' And I also hear a common criticism, `I don't want my mom and the straight world knowing about this,' even from people currently living that life."