The difference in meaning between the two phrases “on the left” and “to the left” can be a subject of confusion for readers and writers everywhere. This helpful guide will explain the difference between these two phrases, in combination with helpful sentence examples to assist towards your own reading and writing.
Is It “On The Left” Or “To The Left”?
Both the phrases “on the left” and “to the left” are correct to use within a sentence. “On the left” should be used when referring to something or someone in the left direction. “To the left” refers to a more specific location in a left direction and implies movement.
The usage of “on the left” and “to the left” should be dependent on the context of the sentence because each phrase has a subtly different meaning in relation to movement.
Both phrases are fine to use, but the subject of movement should be taken into account. Both phrases also sound natural in conversation.
The phrase “to the left” is more specific in location than the phrase “on the left”.
The phrase “to the left” implies or suggests that a degree of movement is required. In general, the phrase “on the left” is more colloquial and can be used more naturally in sentences.
What Does “On The Left” Mean?
The meaning of the phrase “on the left” refers to something or someone positioned in a direction to the left.
The phrase “on the left” also implies that a frame has been split into two areas: left and right.
Note the following helpful sentence examples to assist in your understanding of the meaning of the phrase “on the left”:
- I think Sarah lives at the last house on the left side of the street, but I’m not too sure.
- I like the painting, but the tree on the left is not really finished compared to the rest of the scene.
- It is normal in Britain for vehicles to be driven on the left; try to remember this rule for the future.
- They turned through the gates on the left of the main road and walked into the park together.
- There is a lot of space on the left side of the page for any extra annotations if needed.
- As I walked out of the pub, the man threw a bottle and it hit me on the left side of my face.
- Look out of the window; on your left, you should be able to see the hotel clearly now.
- When you enter the main doors, you should see reception on your left.
What Does “To The Left” Mean?
The meaning of the phrase “to the left” means that something or someone is positioned in a direction to the left, but the reference point is established and specific. This phrase also often implies an action of movement.
To aid your understanding of the phrase “to the left” and understand how to use it in your written work, check out the following sentence examples:
- The road twisted abruptly to the left, and Martin had to slow down quickly to avoid a collision.
- Mary turned the wheel sharply to the left to avoid the cat that was walking slowly down the road without a care in the world.
- To the left of the school is a small street of 10 houses and a post office.
- The large grey horse seemed to be out of control and cantered away to the left of the paddock.
- The bus turned sharply to the right to avoid a speeding vehicle in pursuit of another car at the junction.
- To the left of the new plush blue sofa was a tasseled rug and a brown chair; the living room was looked beautiful.
- The switch for the TV is on the brown wooden table to your left.
- If you need to use the bathroom whilst you are here, just walk down the hallway; the bathroom is the large door to the left.
Are “On The Left” And “To The Left” Interchangeable?
Due to the phrases “on the left” and “to the left” being so similar in meaning, they are indeed often used interchangeably in sentences. However, as discussed in this article, the meaning of the two phrases is subtly different.
This means that when referring to specifics in terms of movement in conversation, choosing each phrase carefully is important.
When using the phrase “to the left” a reference point has been established.
Is “On The Left” Or “To The Left” Used The Most?
The phrase “to the left” is currently used more than the phrase “on the left”.
This graph from Google Ngram Viewer shows the usage of the phrases “on the left” and “to the left” in the period 1800 to 2019. The line in red represents the usage of “to the left” and the line in blue represents “on the left”.
As you can observe from consulting the graph, the phrase “to the left” is currently used the most, but usage of the two phrases has fluctuated over the years. Previously “on the left” was used more often than “to the left”. In general, the usage of the two phrases is fairly similar.
When Should I Use “From The Left”?
The phrase “from the left” should be used when describing an object or person which is traveling or a level of movement in a direction from the left. This phrase implies movement from a left direction to a right direction.
Since the meaning of the phrase “from the left” can be confusing, consult the following helpful sentence examples to show you how to use this phrase within a sentence:
- It is necessary to give way to cars approaching from the left.
- The sound of people running was getting louder; the sound was coming from the left of the school canteen.
- I collected my suitcase from the left side of the holding bay and proceeded with my journey.
- The car turned in sharply from the left, much to the surprise of Jason and his passengers.
- The cyclist is approaching the traffic lights from your left side.
- The train is coming; I can hear a loud sound from your left.
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Martin holds a Master’s degree in Finance and International Business. He has six years of experience in professional communication with clients, executives, and colleagues. Furthermore, he has teaching experience from Aarhus University. Martin has been featured as an expert in communication and teaching on Forbes and Shopify. Read more about Martin here.