“On The Left” or “To The Left” – Difference Explained

Marcus Froland

Are you confused about the difference between ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’? Knowing when to use each phrase is important for effective communication.

In this article, we’ll explain why it’s important to understand the distinction and offer tips for properly using them in everyday language.

Learn how these phrases affect your understanding of what someone is saying and discover what to consider when choosing which one to say.

Key Takeaways

  • ‘On the left’ refers to something positioned in a specific place, while ‘to the left’ suggests motion towards a particular direction.
  • The precise description of directions using ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’ helps avoid confusion.
  • ‘On the left’ refers to something directly next to someone on their left side, while ‘to the left’ refers to a general direction of the left side, not necessarily immediately beside them.
  • Factors to consider when choosing ‘on the left’ or ‘to the left’ include whether the object is stationary or in motion, whether the intention is to describe a location or indicate a direction, and the use of the terms as adjectives or adverbs.

What Is the Difference Between ‘On the Left’ and ‘To the Left’

The difference between ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’ is that ‘on the left’ means something is positioned in a specific place, while ‘to the left’ suggests motion towards a particular direction.

For instance, if you are standing in front of two buildings and one is on your left-hand side, then you would say it’s ‘on the left’. However, if you need to move towards that building, you’d say ‘go to the left’.

Another example could be when giving directions: if someone needs to turn at an intersection they would usually be instructed to ‘turn left’, which implies movement away from their current location. In contrast, if they are asked what street is on their right hand side while looking down a road they would answer saying it’s ‘on the right’.

The key distinction lies in whether something is located or being moved towards.

Examples of ‘On the Left’ and ‘To the Left’ in Everyday Language

Using contractions can give a person pause in everyday language. Here are four examples of how these phrases might be used:

  1. He placed the book on the left of his desk.
  2. She wanted to turn to the left at the next intersection.
  3. She was looking for her keys, which should have been on the left.
  4. I asked him to take two steps to the left.

In each of these situations, a subtle but distinct difference is present between ‘on’ and ‘to.’ When describing physical placement, one uses ‘on,’ while when describing motion or direction, one uses ‘to.’

For someone who desires understanding, learning this distinction can be beneficial in conversing with others accurately and effectively.

How ‘On the Left’ and ‘To the Left’ Affect Your Understanding

Understanding the difference between ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’ can have a major impact on one’s ability to communicate effectively. It is important to be precise when describing directions, as it will help avoid confusion.

For example, if you are asked to ‘take a right at the intersection,’ it would not make sense to turn left. Similarly, if someone asks you for something that is ‘on the left,’ they mean something that is directly next to them on their left side. If someone asks for something ‘to the left,’ they mean in a general direction of their left side, but not necessarily immediately beside them.

Knowing these subtle differences will help ensure that you are accurately conveying information and understanding what others are saying correctly.

What to Consider When Choosing ‘On the Left’ or ‘To the Left’

When deciding whether to use ‘on the left’ or ‘to the left’, consider the context of your conversation and what you are trying to communicate. Here are four things to consider:

  • Is the object stationary or in motion? Use ‘on the left’ for stationary objects and ‘to the left’ for objects in motion.

  • Are you referring to location or direction? Use ‘on the left’ for location and ‘to the left’ when indicating direction.

  • Are you using it as an adverb or adjective? Use ‘on the left’ as an adjective and ‘to the left’ as an adverb.

  • Is there a difference between British English and American English? Yes, with some regional variations. Know which version of English is more appropriate based on your audience.

Overall, be precise about what you mean when using either phrase—be sure that it accurately reflects your intended meaning.

Tips for Properly Using ‘On the Left’ and ‘To the Left’

Knowing how to correctly use ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’ can be tricky, so here are some tips for getting it right.

First, when referring to something that is placed at a distance from you, use ‘to the left.’ For example, ‘Look to your left and you’ll see a tree.’

Second, when referring to something closer in proximity or relationship with you, use ‘on the left.’ For example, ‘My house is on the left side of this street.’

Finally, always be precise in your wording; don’t assume people will understand what you mean without clear instructions.


When it comes to choosing between ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’, consider what you’re trying to say. Both phrases have a slightly different meaning, so think about which one best conveys your message.

Keep in mind that using them correctly can help you be more precise and clear when communicating. With practice, you’ll soon get a feel for when to use each phrase and how it adds to the conversation.

So go ahead – take some time to understand the difference between ‘on the left’ and ‘to the left’, and watch your communication skills improve!