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.
3 Services for Transcribing Audio to Text
If you’ve been manually transcribing your audio files to text, it’s time to upgrade. With...
Grammar Tips: Transitive Verbs
At its most basic, a fully-functioning sentence in English will need a subject and a...
How to Write an Annual Report
Writing an annual report can be an overwhelming task to undertake. In this article, we’ll...
How To Cite Course Material in Harvard Referencing
As a student, course material can be a valuable resource when writing a paper or...
How to Write Blank Verse Poetry
Ever heard of blank verse? It’s poetry that doesn’t rhyme but follows a regular meter....
Grammar Tips: Prepositions
In the English language, prepositions can be tricky to master because they’re usually idiomatic. However,...
institutions and businesses