There are two slightly different expressions which do mean the exact same thing, these are:

  • On the one hand [...]. on the other hand [...]
  • On the one side [...]. on the other side [...]

Is using side here correct? I'm sure the hand version is tremendously widespread, whereas the side version just shows up from time to time.

My English teacher always told me "'on the one side..., and on the other...' does not exist!", however I do see it sometimes.

So is it grammatical or not?

  • It is difficult to say what is 'legal' in language usage, however in the side-version I wouln't use "on" because this particle has a bidimensional connotation, while the side, instead, is monodimensional.
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 13:08
  • @Carlo_R. I'm afraid I do not understand your reasoning. What preposition would you then use with the word "side"? I thought that "on" was perfectly safe, as in the Stones' song "Time is on my side".
    – Paola
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 21:57
  • @Paola If the Stones said that, then I retrocede. :)
    – user19148
    Commented Jul 2, 2012 at 12:39
  • 1
    Normally one would not say "On the one side", but rather "On one side" or "On the left side" or something similar. Though "From one/the other point of view" is perhaps more common than a use of "side".
    – Hot Licks
    Commented Jan 28, 2016 at 2:58
  • Agree with you @HotLicks.
    – Ram Pillai
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 12:01

7 Answers 7


It's not a matter of "legal" or not, but hand is far more common in OP's construction...

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I doubt it's meaningful to explain this as anything other than an accident of linguistic history and idiomatic usage - people tend to repeat the form they hear most often.

  • 1
    What do you mean by saying OP's?
    – Michael
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 13:40
  • 2
    @Michael: OP is you (Original Poster of question). Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 13:42
  • 2
    I think "on the one side" is even more rare than the Ngram indicates. Leafing thru the hits, many examples don't fit this context (e.g., "six cubits wide on the one side," or, "the join fields on the one side of a one-to-many relationship," or, "every advantage gained on the one side would be a disadvantage on the other."). Yet some are indeed parallel with the "on-the-one-hand" construct ("On the one side, a moral pestilence, watched day and night...; on the other, a chaste kindling of every soul together on the same hearthstone." ~ V. Hugo), so it's by no means wrong or "illegal."
    – J.R.
    Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 17:32
  • 1
    J.R.: Yes, I didn't want to clog up the answer itself with that level of detail, but when the word "the" is part of the "the one side/hand" juxtaposed with "the other side/hand", most of the instances with "hand" are exactly OP's context, but very few of the (far less common anyway) instances of "side" are actually for that "weighing up of alternatives" sense. Nevertheless, you can't rule out "side" on grammatical grounds - it's just a matter of idiomatic usage. Commented Jul 1, 2012 at 21:07

"On the one hand" is more commonly used in English than "on the one side," unless you're referring to legal arguments, e.g. when attorneys are representing opposing sides in a legal matter. English is a Germanic language. In German, "on the other hand" is "anderseits" and "auf der anderen Seite." "Seite" is also the German word for "side."


"On the one hand"... "on the other hand" to separate arguments. "On one side"... "on the other side" to separate two lists of things with opposed qualities.

  • 1
    Welcome to EL&U. It would help if you gave some examples of usage in your answer. Commented Jan 26, 2021 at 4:57

I always thought that 'on the one side / on the other side' came into English fairly recently because of the influence of Indian languages. Or perhaps it has merely occurred more frequently for that reason.

Tamil: irendu pakam = (on the) other side

  • "Indian English" actually has little or no influence on "mainstream" Anglophones. Commented Jan 4, 2021 at 13:50
  • Why should Tamil not have an influence on English, I find that quite probable, since it is such a huge English-speaking community. You can definitely see the influence of English on German. One thing I do find slightly annoying is that people have been adding 'in' in front of the year (like in English). Commented May 2, 2022 at 17:14
  • I'd suspect it's German influence.
    – shuhalo
    Commented Oct 21, 2023 at 17:26

In my own opinion, two pairs are different to use. Your hand only has 2 sides, right? So 'on the one hand' and 'on the other hand' should be used to mention about 2 opposite ideas in terms of an issue.But if you use 'on the one side' and 'on another side' to mention about something, it means that the problem maybe has more than 2 opinions; and it doesn't need to be contrasting. A good example for this is a cube with 6 sides. And that is also the reason why you should use 'on the other hand' but 'on another side'. But I indicate that 'on the other side' and 'on the other hand' are just the same due to the use of 'other' here.


I would say that "on the one hand..." is a natural expression, used normally to indicate contrast: e.g. On the one hand that city is expensive. On the other hand, it's beautiful.

"On the one side" is not a natural expression to indicate contrast, in my opinion. It is a direct translation form Spanish, for example, which is where some doubts may arrive. It can be used to indicate position though: e.g. He left his bike on the one side of the road which was free...".


I believe that the use of "on the side" refers to placement rather than views. For example, I put the meat on the side and prepared the gravy.

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