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 Jul 1 '12 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 Jul 1 '12 at 21:57
  • @Paola If the Stones said that, then I retrocede. :) – user19148 Jul 2 '12 at 12:39
  • 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 Jan 28 '16 at 2:58

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.

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    What do you mean by saying OP's? – Michael Jul 1 '12 at 13:40
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    @Michael: OP is you (Original Poster of question). – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '12 at 13:42
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    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. Jul 1 '12 at 17:32
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    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. – FumbleFingers Jul 1 '12 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."

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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

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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.

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