On the one hand / on the other hand

Discussion in 'Spanish-English Grammar / Gramática Español-Inglés' started by Lord Byron, Jun 5, 2006.

  1. Lord Byron New Member


    I have a doubt concerning the correct form of say "Por una parte" and "por otra parte".
    It´s right to translate those sentenses to "On one hand" and "On the other and"?

    For example:

    On one hand there is the blue team and on the other hand there is the red team.

    Thanks you folks
  2. HeatherR Senior Member

    New Brunswick, Canada
    Welcome Lord Byron.

    It's almost perfect.

    'On the one hand there is the blue team and on the other hand there is the red team.'

    I have heard it said without the first 'the', but if you want to say it correctly, you should add the extra 'the'.

  3. Lord Byron New Member


    Do you mean that don´t put the first "the" is much colloquial than put it?
  4. HeatherR Senior Member

    New Brunswick, Canada
    I'd say put the first 'the' in. I think it's more a question of some people not knowing that the expression is 'on the one hand.......on the other hand......'.

    'On the one hand there is the blue team and on the other hand there is the red team.':tick:
  5. tortor24tortor Member

    It works either way. I would never put the first the in there, but I do not use correct grammer when I speak.
  6. lucylovesmarmite Member

    English, UK
    The first 'the' always has to be there, because it's an expression.
  7. Salsamore

    Salsamore Senior Member

    USA English (Mich. & Calif.)
    "On one hand" is as much an expression as "on the one hand". It seems very prescriptive to use "the" in this expression, as much so as applying the nominative predicate rule in "It is I" (rather than "It is me"). However, this is a question of usage and not grammar, and of expression usage rather than vocabulary usage at that. This makes the rules more hazy.

    The logic behind "on the one hand" is for parallelism to "on the other hand". But consider the logic behind "on one hand ... on the other hand" when used in a different context:
    Michael Jackson wears a glove on one hand but not on the other hand. :tick:
    Michael Jackson wears a glove on the one hand but not on the other hand. :cross:

    We can see from this analogy that "on one hand" introduces one side of an argument; "on the other hand" continues with the other side of the argument. When the arguments are first presented, there is not yet a concrete image of the two sides of the issue in the reader or listener's mind; from this logic, the first argument would have to be presented without a definite article since it has not been presented previously as a known quantity. Why then would the second one be given a definite article? (Why is it not appropriate to say "on another hand"?) Because by using the word "hand", we have implicitly stated that there are exactly two arguments - after saying "on one hand" we have established that there is only one other known side to the issue. Returning to the Michael Jackson analogy, we certainly would not say:
    Michael Jackson wears a glove on one hand but not on another hand. :cross:
    (Unless he had three or more hands ... of course Jacko is known for much stranger things. :D)

    So even though Google suggests (by 7.5x) that "on the one hand" is more proper in formal writing, it doesn't mean that "on one hand" should be completely discounted, just as "vos" shouldn't be completely discounted as an exclusively lower-class form of "tú".
  8. WordCrazyGuy New Member

    Heather basically says to put in the first 'the' because "the expression is 'on the one hand......."
    A bit circular, no? You believenthat's the expression - I don't. So far neither of us has proved our belief.

    While I agree with Salsamore's third paragraph, the Michael Jackson example does more harm than good. It talks about a specific person's actual anatomy. What is debated here is the correct form of a phrase referring to a metaphorical pair of hands, with no reason at all to start with one or the other. May I suggest "On one hand, Michael Jackson is a musical genius; on the other hand, his fiscal sense is nearly non-existent."

    I grew up hearing "on one hand", so the following is probably just rationalization of that habit, but please read on.

    - First of all, adding the first "the" prompts the question "Which one is the 'one' hand?"

    - "On one hand" is consistent with the fact that this is a metaphor, in which it doesn't matter which hand the first of two competing propositions is linked to. "On one hand..." (either hand, I don't care, doesn't matter).
  9. Thomas Veil Senior Member

    English - USA
    Salsamore and WordCrazyGuy have covered the issue of "the" vs. "no the" rather well, but there's still the issue of whether this is the correct translation. I think that "On one side is the blue team; on the other side is the red team" is probably a better translation. The "hand" expression is used in discussing a debate or contrasting views, not merely to discuss a sporting event.

    Also, it's "sentences", not "sentenses".
  10. dote New Member

    English - Ireland
    Imagine you are the person holding the "scales of justice". The pans of the scales are your hands, for the saying "In the one hand......." is not meant to infer 'HAND' but SIDE or PARTITION.
    When you use this phrase you are balancing an argument, or self-debating a point, weighing up or pointing out both SIDES (not hands). So, it is correct to say "On the one hand (side, part)......On the other hand (side, part)".
  11. muerte2vida Member

    No offense, but changing the metaphor to using "sides" does not make any difference. Metaphorically, it still makes no sense to use the first "the," either for the hand metaphor or the side metaphor. Imagine you have a fence separating two yards, and there is a dog on one side of the fence and a cat on the other side. You would say "on one side, there is a dog, and on the other side, there is a cat." It would make no sense to say, "on the one side, there is a dog...". It is the same with hands--"on one hand the girl wears a ring, but on the other hand she wears no ring." Here, the phrase "on one hand..." is like saying "on one of her hands..."

    Now, I'm fully aware that the phrase is most often used when explaining concepts/ideas to people, such as one would do in an essay. Still, the phrase is based upon the original metaphor. However, I agree that in the academic world, a consensus has formed around using "on the one hand...on the other hand" during the last few years. I believe the reason this occurred is that English academic grammar loves to promote parallel structure in its sentences. An example of parallel structure would be this: "The chair, the table, and the desk are all made out of wood." Rules of parallel structure require that "table" and "desk" be preceded by "the" because the first word in the series ("chair") originally included a "the". This is considered better grammar (by those in academia) than saying, "The chair, table, and desk are all made out of wood."

    What I think has happened to this "one hand/other hand" thing is that, over time, people have forgotten that the phrase is built upon an actual image/metaphor, and they have come to view it simply as a sentence in and of itself. Because it is viewed only as a written sentence, people decided that the rules of parallel structure should be applied to it as well; that way, grammatical rules can remain consistent.

    So, what am I trying to say with all this? I am simply trying to say that, although today it is accepted as correct to say "on the one hand," it is helpful to understand how and why this happened, especially when this construction causes the phrase to lose its originally metaphorical image/meaning. Also, I am trying to say that it is not incorrect to continue using "on one hand." In fact, if you are speaking to someone face to face, this is what you would say. However, if you are writing a formal essay, or something of that nature, it would probably be better to write "on the one hand"--but it would be "better" not because it is somehow more "correct" but only because it has become the accepted norm, and it is wise to write formal papers in accordance with grammatical norms.

  12. Hi! what a good explanations! For a spanish speaker they are great explanations. I just wanted to ask about such example in the case that the person who say or think the phrase were really on the ground, in a yard, watching or up to watch a football game, shouln´t he or she say "side" instead of "hand"?.Sorry about my english, thanks a lot!!
  13. muerte2vida Member

    Certainly. If you are actually talking about a physical object like una cancha (de futbol), you would describe the two portions of the field as "sides" (como "lado" o "parte").

    I hope I understood your question correctly.
  14. Hi muerte2vida! thanks for answering!.Yes, you are actually in a yard sat among the public and you are rebroadcasting the game. You are describing the situation and you are talking about the teams that are going to play( one against the other, of course).In fact this is what I imagined on reading the first message.So, could you use, in this situation, "on one hand" and "on on e side" as the yard is actually divided in two sides?than you!
  15. irishlearningspanish New Member

    English - Ireland
    muerte2vida, what an excellent explanation! However, if I might add this, it may not necessarily be correct, but it is my belief that "on the one hand...on the other hand" is used to refer to two issues, for example:
    "on the one hand, the children will want to eat early, on the other hand the adults will want to eat later in the evening"
    whereas "on one hand...on the other hand" is used to refer to issues that are not confined to a pair. For example:
    "on one hand we have the problem of expensive heating bills, on the other hand there is the fact that it is freezing outside....and then we have to also take into account the impact of our carbon usage on the environment....". Perhaps this is not necessarily correct, however, if being used colloquially, and the "one hand, other hand" statement is followed by "and there is also the issue of....", then the is left out of "on the one hand".
    Obviously, there is the fact that "on the one hand, on the other hand" is supposed to refer to two things of opposing value, however the usage of this phrase has gone beyond its original meaning to become, as muerta2vida stated, a sentence in its own right. If anyone has an opposing view on this, please let me know, the irish aren't known for our excellent grammar structures :)
  16. duvija

    duvija Senior Member

    Spanish - Uruguay
    ... but maybe you should try using correct grammar when you write.

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