On the one hand… on the other hand

(Language that is theatrical and powerful)

Level: B1+

Italian is a language that we can both hear and see. English, on the other hand, is shy when it comes to painting pictures in the air with your hands, fingers, shoulders and face.

However, there are a few expressions to liberate the Italian in you and make your English more visual, theatrical and powerful.

On the one hand… and on the other hand, is used to contrast two opinions about a subject; one usually positive and one usually negative. We use our hands to reinforce our spoken language. We hold out one hand, palm up when we say on the one hand and then the other hand palm up when we say on the other hand.

On the one hand, he’s the best man for the job, but on the other hand, he’s often late for meetings.

On the one hand, expansion would be profitable, but on the other hand, we’ll be working much longer hours and under greater stress.

On the one hand, it’s a high-paying job doing what I’ve always wanted to do. But on the other hand, I’d have to move halfway around the world, far from all my friends and family.

 On the one hand, the UK is a full of history and interesting places, but on the other hand, the weather can be really depressing, especially this time of the year.


Practise the above examples in front of a mirror or better still with your teacher. You’ll soon be a natural.



The palm of your hand is the inner surface of the hand between the wrist and the fingers.

My mother is a palm reader. She can read your future by looking at the lines on your palms.


The Fortune Teller, by Caravaggio


Expressions with the word HAND

  • To experience something first-hand. It has happened to you.

You have no idea how challenging it is to be a parent until you experience it first-hand

  • I’ve got my hands full at the moment. I am too busy.

I’m sorry I’m not available. I have my hands full with the monthly salaries for the next few hours.

  • Can you give/lend me a hand? I need some help.

I can’t carry three bags. Can you give me a hand?

  • My hands are tied. I can’t do anything.

The decision came from head office. My hands are tied. I can’t do anything about it.

  • I wash my hands of this situation. You’ll have to find a solution by yourself.

I’ve done all I can. I wash my hands of the situation. You’ll have to solve it yourself.

  • That’s handy. Really practical.

That’s a great app. Really useful. It’s really handy for organising our time.

  • Tarzan knows the jungle like the back of his hand. He knows it extremely well.

Speak to John. He studied Calvin at university. He knows Calvin like the back of his hand.

  • Do you like my coat? I bought it second hand at Hazard. It is not new. It used to belong to someone else.

It’s not new. It’s second hand, but in excellent condition.

  • Is it true? I only heard the news second hand. Somebody told someone else, who told me.

 I wasn’t sure if it was true. I didn’t receive the memo from HR. I heard it second hand.

  • This dress is a hand-me-down. It belonged to my older sister.

I don’t buy many new clothes for Sean. He wears his big brother’s hand-me-downs.

  • His drinking problem has got out of hand. It cannot be controlled. He’s probably going to lose his job and his family.

This problem has got out of hand. It might soon be a disaster.

  • You are in good hands at The Language House

It’s a great school. They will look after you. You’ll be in good hands.


Garry Littman

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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