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We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. On one hand, we have to prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it, on the other hand, to find a way of long peace for the society.
(my own translation of a Chinese article)

An American friend told me that we should sift through more the original structure of the Chinese sentence in order to give a fluent translation. ALthough correct, it is awkard in English.The main problem, he says, is "on one hand..on the other hand".

This is really a big problem for me, because in the article I am going to translate, there are abundant "on one hand..on the other hand". I am aware that it comes from English. But now in Engish it has become a cliche? Whereas in Chinese we desperately need it to clarify the logic in our thinking.

It seems to me, "on the other hand", if used independently, is acceptable. But when being used together" with "on one hand", is actually boring and dull.

I donot know which phrase substitute perfectly for "on one hand..on the other hand".Please give me some advice.

closed as primarily opinion-based by Kris, p.s.w.g, user49727, choster, MetaEd Oct 1 '13 at 4:53

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • 5
    If I may be a grammar nazi, it's on the one hand. Not on one hand. I know, it's not intuitive, but that's the idiom. english.stackexchange.com/questions/8846/… – Talia Ford Sep 30 '13 at 10:09
  • There is indeed something clunky about your translation. Your first hand holds a complete sentence with both subject and finite verb, while your second hand holds nothing but a non-finite verb and no subject, nor any connection back to the first part other than by rote repetition of the text seen in the sentence anterior to that of the first hand. – tchrist Sep 30 '13 at 10:50
  • Context might help for this, but the 'long peace' also makes it sound foreign to the English language. As I said though, context might help if long peace has already been defined in the source material and you are continuing the concept. If not, you might also try synonyms for 'long', such as enduring, or lasting. – THEAO Sep 30 '13 at 11:04
  • 1
    Off topic (writing advice request). – MetaEd Oct 1 '13 at 4:53
  • @TaliaFord: On one hand, that question has answers that support both possibilities. On the other hand, pfft...nGrams says that 'on the one hand' is ten times more prevalent than 'on one hand'. Not incontrovertible, but 'on one hand' is still used some. – Mitch Oct 2 '13 at 2:25
19

I don't think most readers would bristle at a single instance of the phrase – it's not tremendously trite and cliché.

That said, the expression's overuse could be distracting to the reader. You said:

in the article I am going to translate, there are abundant "on one hand .. on the other hand".

If that's the case, there may be times you could eliminate the expression altogether, and adjust the wording to convey the same meaning; for example:

We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. We must prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it, while at the same time we must find a way of long peace for the society.

We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. We must prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it, yet we must also find a way of long peace for the society.

We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. We must do two things: prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it, while also finding a way of long peace for the society.

We should find a Way of long peace instead of living just for today. We must prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by it. That said, we must also find a way of long peace for the society.

Any of those would suffice in place of "on one hand .. on the other hand."

In short, I don't think you should be afraid to use the expression; on the other hand, you don't want to use it so often that it becomes distracting and overused within the article itself.

By the way, it is acceptable to use "on the other hand" without an "on [the] one hand" preceding it, as I just did.

3

First, you are under no obligation to reproduce the idiom, in its entirety, word for word. On the other hand, you do need to avoid repeating yourself. Therefore, use alternative words to add variety to your text while helping your readers follow a list of different ideas and concepts at the same time.

Basically, these handy expressions act like sign posts that inform the reader what the next paragraph is going to be about. Be it confirming or contrasting an opinion, as in the OP's excerpt. As a result, the ideas should connect to one another and the writing flow more naturally.

These fixed expressions are called: linking words, connectors, and formal discourse markers. They will help connect sentences and give them greater coherence. One word of caution though, be careful not to overdo it (as I have) and use them sparingly to avoid your writing sounding too heavy and artificial.


I'm not a writer, writing for me is difficult and if I had the time to refine and edit this paragraph, I would probably do a much better job. But I hope I have at least illustrated how these expressions can be used as a tool, in your job as a translator.

List of expressions for contrasting

  • However • nevertheless • nonetheless • still • although • even though • though • but • yet • despite • in spite of • instead • instead of • in contrast (to) • in comparison • while • whereas • on the other hand • on the contrary • conversely

List of expressions for reinforcing and confirming

  • Similarly • likewise • also • just as • just like • similar to • same as • compare • compare(d) to/with • not only ... but also • notably • furthermore • moreover • obviously • particularly • especially • specifically

Source: RMIT University

2

The problem with using the on one hand . . . on the other hand construction is that the two things being compared must have some sort of difficult problem of mutually exclusive conflict with each other, some kind of paradox or competing interest that is difficult or impossible to resolve.

The two abstract ideas presented here for contrast with each other don’t seem to be incompatible in any way. If there is a conflict between them, you must tell the audience what that conflict is. You would summarize the conflict after you explain what the problem is with an on one hand . . . on the other hand construction.

I think you cannot do this. I think there is no actual conflict here. You should probably just make a list:

We need to do 2 things, X and Y.

Or just drop one of your concepts, because

prevent the community from coming apart

and

find a way of long peace for the society

are almost identical ideas. No contrast exists between them. One says do not fight, the other says get along. It is as though you have said do not not make peace and attempted to contrast that with make peace. Because the two negatives cancel each other out to make a positive, now both sides are saying the very same thing, and there is no contract.

Whatever distinction you’re trying to draw — if there indeed is one — you need to explain it better.

  • @tchrist what charset are you using? The ellipsis and some other weird char are not displaying as UTF8. – mplungjan Sep 30 '13 at 12:39
  • @mplungjan I am using UTF-8. Those are U+202F NARROW NO-BREAK SPACE characters separating each dot. Sometimes U+2009 THIN SPACE or U+200A HAIR SPACE are better, but they lack the “no-break” semantics. See this answer. – tchrist Sep 30 '13 at 12:47
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    They do not work on either FX not Chrome on my windows box so I do not know where you get this from – mplungjan Sep 30 '13 at 12:56
  • @mplungjan you need to set your browser to use UTF8 or auto-detect encoding. In FX that's View=>Character Encoding. – terdon Sep 30 '13 at 18:52
  • I find it downright silly to change one char to a set of 6 chars just for the sake of a narrowspace. It adds nothing to the display and inconveniences a part of the visitors. – mplungjan Oct 1 '13 at 10:16
1

One one hand/on the other hand is a well understood and much used idiom, but I see what you may mean. I do not personally see it as awkward at all

In the '80s a 3rd option was added and a lot of nerds SF lovers will understand "on the gripping hand" as such a reference

Your sentence would be syntactically correct as

We have to prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by this and on the other hand find a way of long peace for the society.

Note I changed it to this

However I do not see the two as opposites so

We have to prevent the community from coming apart and suffering the disasters caused by this, as well as find a way of long peace for the society.

  • You remind me of the logical connection between the two clauses. The Chinese article was wrong about it, I failed to notice it too. Thanks for your help! – benlogos Sep 30 '13 at 11:19
  • I see a downvote, that is not done here without comment! – mplungjan Sep 30 '13 at 20:14

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