Vocabulary Tips: On the One Hand, On the Other Hand
  • 3-minute read
  • 7th March 2019

Vocabulary Tips: On the One Hand, On the Other Hand

The phrase “on the one hand… on the other hand” is common in English. But what exactly does it mean? And whose hands are we talking about? Well, if you take our (metaphorical) hand, we’ll be happy to walk you through how to use this phrase correctly in your writing.

What Does “On the One Hand, On the Other Hand” Mean?

We use “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” to present opposed ideas or points of view:

On the one hand, I would like to go to the party. On the other hand, I should get an early night.

Here, for example, we can see how “on the one hand” introduces one possibility (i.e., going to a party), while “on the other hand” introduces a contrasting possibility (i.e., an early night).

The phrase therefore works as a conjunctive adverb, which is an adverb that connects two ideas. And as for whose hands we’re talking about here, the phrase draws on the simple idea of offering someone one choice in your left hand and a different choice in your right hand.

Can You Use “On the Other Hand” by Itself?

One point of controversy is whether we should always use “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” as a pair. In practice, many people use “on the other hand” by itself to introduce a contrasting idea. For example, we could rephrase the example above as follows:

Find this useful?

Subscribe to our newsletter and get writing tips from our editors straight to your inbox.

I would like to go to the party. On the other hand, I should get an early night.

“On the other hand” here has exactly the same meaning as it does above. The only difference is that the first “hand” is implicit rather than explicit. And most English speakers will understand this without any problems. As such, it is fine to use “on the other hand” by itself in many contexts.

However, some consider using “on the other hand” by itself informal. As such, you may want to avoid this in formal writing, such as academic papers or business documents.

In addition, if you do use “on the one hand” and “on the other hand” as a pair, try to keep them close together. This is so the reader can see the connection between the two. It could be within a single sentence, or it could be in successive paragraphs. But if there are several paragraphs or pages between the “one hand” and the “other hand,” the connection may be hard to spot.

Comments (0)

Upload a document

Instant Quote

Need more help perfecting your writing?

Proofed has the perfect editor!

Instant Quote

Price

You can also upload a document to get an instant quote

Icon of cloud upload

Drag & drop your file

or browse your computer

Browse from your device

Icon of cloud upload

Drop your file here!

Icon of loading status

Your file is being
uploaded!

More Writing Tips?
Trusted by thousands of leading
institutions and businesses

Make sure your writing is the best it can be with our expert English proofreading and editing.