On the other hand… (Words which express a contrast)

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by Kate Woodford

You probably know the English expression on the one hand … on the other hand. It is used in the following way for comparing two opposing opinions or facts about something (note that just one half of the phrase is often used):

On the one hand, Maria has experience, but on the other hand, she doesn’t have the precise skills that we’re looking for.

I don’t really want any more work at the moment. On the other hand, I could use the extra money.

We often express two different thoughts about the same subject, often giving one thought and then the other. Sometimes, one of the thoughts is our own and the other is someone else’s. Sometimes (because life is rarely simple!) both thoughts are our own. In this post, I aim to provide some more words and phrases for expressing opposing opinions.

In spoken English, an alternative to ‘on the other hand’ that expresses an opposite thought from your previous one is then again or but then again:

I don’t know if I’d describe myself as sociable or not. I like socializing but then again, I enjoy spending time alone.

That’s quite a lot of money for a chair. Then again, it’s good quality and it’ll probably last a lifetime.

In British, spoken English, we also use mind and mind you with the same meaning:

Anna was really fed up. Mind you, I’d be pretty angry in her position.

know I’m lazy – I did go swimming yesterday, mind.

Note that both ‘mind’ and ‘mind you’ sometimes come at the end of the sentence.

Two other such phrases used in spoken English are having said that and that said. Again, these phrases come before a second statement that in some way seems to go against or weaken the first:

Tom very rarely helps around the house. Having said that, he does keep his bedroom tidy.

It’s a very nice restaurant with fantastic food. That said, the service could be better!

A useful alternative to ‘despite that’ is all the same:

She is, of course, very wealthy. All the same, it was a generous gift.

The weather wasn’t so great but we had a good time all the same.

The phrase at the same time introduces an opposing fact that ​must also be considered:

Of course I don’t want to upset her but at the same time, this is something she needs to know for her own good.

Finally, two single words meaning ‘despite what has just been said’ are nonetheless and nevertheless:

It was a small gesture. Nonetheless, we appreciated it.

I only got to speak with her for ten minutes. It was nice to see her nevertheless.


24 thoughts on “On the other hand… (Words which express a contrast)

  1. Teodoro Catalan

    She is, of course, very wealthy. All the same, it was a generous gift.

    On this statement, I’m not sure whether she is receiving or giving the gift…
    I know that ‘all the same’ here is a equivalent for ‘dispite of’.


    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi Teodoro! I’m sorry this wasn’t clear. She has given the gift and the person is commenting that it was still a generous gift even though she has a lot of money. I hope that helps.

  2. Monia

    I think interrogative pronoun examples are given wrong actually these r the examples of interrogative adjective as per my knowledge.

  3. Annie

    Hello ,
    In learning English !i have a class today,
    Here in Québec its a rainy Day,

    I hope you make your Day well !!
    Bye bye Annie

  4. gurdeep singh

    These expressions are quite unique and handy for english exam like ielts.incidentally,these also show the wide range of vocabulary of paticular person.

  5. Ani

    Congrats for your blog. I’d like to learn more about degrees of (in)formality in the examples you provide. Thanks in advance ,))

  6. Mateusz

    Dear Liz Walter,
    If life was as clear as these explanations, we would see through it all-)
    Best regards,

    1. Kate Woodford

      Kate Woodford, this time, Mateusz! But Liz Walter writes great blogs – I agree! Best wishes to you.

  7. Olga

    Hi Kate! Thanks for the article 😉
    However, what I’ve learnt from Longman English books is that it is ‘On one hand’ (without the article) and ‘on the other hand’.
    Do you think either of the options is a mistake, or it is not so important?

    1. Kate Woodford

      Hello Olga. Actually, I’ve never noticed the phrase without the article. If it is used now and then, I think it’s very much less common than ‘On the one hand’. I hope that helps!

  8. Bing

    Hi Kate, Could you please explain the usage of while as it has the meaning of “despite the fact,although” and “but”? Can it be used for expressing contrast?

    Thank you very much.


    1. Kate Woodford

      Hi there! Yes, it can. You could saying this, for example: ‘While I accept that he’s not perfect in many respects, I do actually like him#.

  9. Matt

    What are the differences between “in contrast” and ” on the other hand?”
    Ex: Although May and her sister look alike, they have different personalities. May is outgoing. ________, her sister is shy. (a. In contrast b. On the other hand)
    Ex2: May’s room is clean and tidy. ________, his brother’s room is a mess. (a. In contrast b. On the other hand)

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