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Is it grammatically OK to use only one part of "On the one hand... . On the other hand...."?

On the one hand they'd love to have kids, but on the other, they don't want to give up their freedom [OALD 8].

Opposed to the preceding example, can I say?

They'd love to have kids. On the other, they don't want to give up their freedom.

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    On the other hand, we have this question. – snailcar Dec 11 '14 at 7:28
  • @snailboat that questions is slightly different in that it discusses lack of the second part, opposed to mine that addresses exclusion of the first part. – codezombie Dec 11 '14 at 12:05
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    Right, it's the opposite question. That's why I introduced it with "on the other hand" :-) – snailcar Dec 11 '14 at 12:29
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On the one hand they'd love to have kids, but on the other, they don't want to give up their freedom.

We do not need to use the phrase on the one hand, before the first sentence if we do not want to. It can make things more interesting for the reader if we do though, because they will be waiting for the new and different piece of information.

However, let's look at the original sentence again:

  • On the one hand they'd love to have kids, but on the other, they don't want to give up their freedom.

Notice that because we already used hand in the first part of the sentence we don't need to use it again in the second part. We can just say on the other, instead of on the other hand. But - if we didn't say On the one hand, we need to use the full phrase 'On the other hand', we cannot just say 'on the other':

  • They'd love to have kids. *On the other, they don't want to give up their freedom. (wrong)
  • They'd love to have kids. On the other hand, they don't want to give up their freedom. (good)

Hope this is helpful!

  • Grammatically, you could say "On the one hand ... on the other ..." But that's not the idiom. No one says that. – Jay Dec 10 '14 at 15:19
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    @Jay That's what I might have suspected. However, here's three quarters of a million examples for you but on the other, they – Araucaria Dec 10 '14 at 16:50
  • Well, huh. I concede the point. – Jay Dec 11 '14 at 14:21
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Yes, if you say "on the other hand" without a preceding "on the one hand", that meaning is implied.

Indeed, people often use the idiom this way in conversation, as opposed to writing, when at the time they make the first statement, they have not considered that there is a drawback or an alternative. Like two friends might be chatting and one says, "Time for lunch, let's go to McBobs. [pause] On the other hand, we go to McBobs all the time. Let's go somewhere else today." This would be less applicable to writing, where you would likely edit the sentence to add "on the one hand" before the first option.

And I am suddenly reminded of a review of a book by Peter Shickele: "On the one hand, Peter Shickele is very funny. On the other hand he wears a ring."

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    I'm reminded of "The toenails, on the other hand, never grow at all." - Rosencrantz (from Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead, Tom Stoppard). – steeldriver Dec 10 '14 at 22:48
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You can say "on the other hand" without having previously said "on one hand". However, you probably should not use "on the other hand" when there are more than two possibilities. That's too far.

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    A sci-fi-geek version for three options is "On the one hand ..., on the other hand ..., on the gripping hand ..." – David Richerby Dec 10 '14 at 18:27
  • I often use multiple other hands for comedic effect. – Timbo Dec 11 '14 at 0:01
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You can say "on the other hand" by itself as long as it's implied what the first "hand" was. You skip ahead to saying the advantage (or disadvantage) to doing the opposite then.

We could eat lunch. On the other hand, if we eat later we can get shopping out of the way."

It's a little wrong to say "on the one hand" without the other hand, because the listener is waiting for the other hand. However, if "the other hand" is too gruesome, funny, or otherwise both obvious but offensive to say aloud, it's possible to omit and draw the end of the sentence out to imply "you know what the other hand is."

On the one hand, she is really good at basketball... [but we both know she really isn't good at anything else]

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