On The Other Hand

We use “on the other hand” to introduce an idea which is different or contrasting from the thing we have just said previously.

“On the other hand” is an idiom that comes from the image of holding out two hands to someone with two different options. If you choose the option on one hand, it will be different to the option on the other hand.

For example:

“I want to buy a new pair of shoes. On the other hand, I really need to save some money.”

“I really want to see my friends tonight at the party. On the other hand, I would quite like to stay in and rest.”

“My sister likes jazz music. I, on the other hand, prefer pop music.”

The important thing to remember is that the two ideas must be different or in opposition to each other, not similar.

For example:

“I want to buy a new pair of shoes, on the other hand, I need to save money.”

I am considering two opposing ideas:

  1. spending money
  2. saving money

These ideas are in opposition to each other. It’s not possible to spend money and save money at the same time. I can only do one.

“I really want to see my friends tonight at the party. On the other hand, I would also quite like to stay in and rest.”

Again, I am considering two opposing ideas:

  1. going out to a party
  2. staying at home and resting

It’s not possible to go out to a party and stay in and rest. I am considering two different options.

“My sister likes jazz music. I, on the other hand, prefer pop music.”

Here, I am not considering two options like in the other examples. Instead, I am emphasising how our preferred type of music is different, not similar.

“This government have wasted lots of money on unnecessary roads. On the other hand, they have improved job opportunities for young people.”

Here, I use “on the other hand” to say something negative about the government and then something positive:

  1. “They have wasted lots of money on unnecessary roads” (negative / against)
  2. “They have improved job opportunities for young people” (positive / in favour)

Sentence Position

We usually put “on the other hand” at the beginning of the second idea and often use a comma to separate it from the rest of the sentence. It can go at the start of a sentence after a full stop like this:

“I really want to see my friends tonight at the party. On the other hand, I would also quite like to stay in and rest.”

or in the middle of a sentence, like this:

“In the UK, many young people prefer to go to university far away from home. In other European countries, on the other hand, it’s more common for young people to go to university close to home.”

On the One Hand…on the Other Hand

We can use “on the one hand” to introduce the first idea before we use on the other hand.

For example:

“On the one hand I want to buy a new pair of shoes, but on the other hand I need to save money.”

“On the one hand I really want to see my friends tonight at the party. On the other hand, I would quite like to stay in and rest.”

It’s not necessary to use “on the one hand”, but it helps make it clearer that we are discussing two opposing ideas.

It’s not possible to use “on the one hand” alone.

Don’t Confuse “on the Other Hand” with “in Addition”

Remember, we use on the other hand to introduce an opposing idea or to emphasise a difference.

A common mistake for English learners is to use on the other hand to introduce any new information.

“The government have built many new roads for transport. On the other hand, they have created jobs for young people.” ✘

This use is incorrect because both sentences speak in favour of the government. It would be better to say “in addition” or “moreover” because we are giving similar information, not different.

“The government have built many new roads for transport. Moreover, they have created jobs for young people.” ✓

Is “On the Other Hand” Formal or Informal?

“On the other hand” can be used in both formal and informal writing and speech.

For example:

“I really want to hang out with my friends tonight at the party. On the other hand, I also really feel like just staying in and chilling out. I don’t know what to do!” (informal)

“The government would like more energy, on the other hand it is not prepared to find more investments in order to obtain it.” (formal)

Practise

Conclusion

“On the other hand” is an excellent idiom that you can start using from today to improve your English. Use it as a connector in your speaking and writing when making arguments or discussing different options.

Start practising now, write a comment below using “on the other hand”.

If you have any questions at all, please ask in the comments too.

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