One Hand And The Other

Many people write:

‘On the one hand… and on the other…’

This is wrong. You should not use ‘the’ in the first phrase. The correct way would be to write:

‘On one hand… and on the other…’

Now, I’ve had various arguments about this with some friends who think they were grammarians in their previous birth and some who think they are now, even though the only writing their day job involves is filling cells in Excel sheets.

The worst are the lot that argue: ‘Both usages are okay because language is a living organism and it evolves with time.’

Yes, it is, but that has nothing to do with the matter ad manum (literally ‘at hand’ in Latin. See, what I did there?)

The purpose of evolution is to make language (or any species for that matter) better, more receptive and resilient. Evolution works to preserve an organism, and language cannot survive if evolved to be more confusing.

Coming back to ‘one hand… and the other’. To understand the simple, logical reason behind not using ‘the‘ in the first  phrase, you must know how to use article ‘the‘.

‘The’ is used to signify a specific noun and for things that are singular in the universe. There are many stars but only one Sun.

Hence: ‘He saw a new star through his telescope, as big as the Sun.’

Now, when you are talking about two hands, the first phrase refers to any of the two hands, a person has. It could be ‘the‘ right one or ‘the‘ left one but still it is ‘a’ hand and not ‘the’ hand. You have chosen to refer to one hand randomly and then you are referring to ‘the’ other in relation to the first one. Of course, now, the second hand becomes the only hand in the world that can make your sentence logical.

Hence: ‘the other hand…’

Unless you are talking about someone with more than 2 hands. Or a person with one hand, which then becomes ‘the’ hand leaving you no other hand to use these relative phrases for.

Obviously, I have too much time on my hands because on one hand I say time is money and on the other I’m writing this for an unpaid blog post.

#English #Grammar #Language #MidnightMusings

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *