Two linking phrases that are often confused are ‘In contrast’ and ‘On the other hand’. Compare examples A and B.
'In contrast' and 'On the other hand'

A. Tourism often has a positive impact on less wealthy countries. On the other hand, this can damage local culture.
B. New Zealand has a good reputation for environmental safety. In contrast, many countries in Europe have high levels of pollution.

If you are contrasting ideas about the same general subject, use ‘On the other hand’. In Example A above, the focus is on balancing on the impact of tourism in less wealthy countries.

If you are contrasting the subjects and the idea (the object), use ‘In contrast’. In Example B above, the first sentence refers to New Zealand’s reputation and the second second sentence compares this to Europe and higher rates of pollution.
This is a simple guide to using these two linking phrases correctly. You may find exceptions to this rule, but if in doubt it is a useful rule to follow.

Now test your skills!

Sometimes it is difficult to identify whether longer paragraphs actually share the same subject. Complete the paragraphs below with either ‘On the other hand’ or ‘In contrast’.

Education is good not only for the individual, but also for society. A society without scientists, researchers and intellectuals has little ability to further itself in a number of fields, specifically medicine, literature and technology. (a) ______, the cost to the taxpayer has to be considered, as most countries offer either free or heavily subsidised schemes for further education.
Education should be made available to all. State-funded education systems offer a solid level of schooling with dedicated and qualified teachers. (b)______, private schools are advantageous only to those that can afford to pay to go to them, and this runs the risk of encouraging teachers only interested in the better wages and conditions offered in such establishments.

Show the answers The first paragraph needs ‘on the other hand’ because the same general subject is being discussed (education). However, in the second paragraph, ‘In contrast’ should be used as the subject in the first part is state funded education and the subject in the second part is private education.