Students often misuse “in contrast” and “on the contrary.”  This article will explain how they can be used correctly.

In Contrast

This is the easy one.  Use “in contrast” to compare two dissimilar things or statements.  Like:

Harold likes cats.  In contrast, Simon likes dogs.


The Hulk uses his strength to solve problems.  In contrast, Bruce Banner uses his intelligence.


Most people prefer to study in groups.  In contrast, I like to study alone.

“In contrast” functions a lot like “however” in these cases.  To my eye, “however” is probably more natural. 

On the Contrary

This one is tricky.  “On the contrary” is not used to compare two things or statements.  Instead, it is used to emphasize an aspect of a single thing or statement.  We use “on the contrary” to express something like “actually, here’s what is true.”  Like:

I’m not tired.  On the contrary, I’m full of energy.


Harold didn’t fail his test.  On the contrary, he got the highest score in the class.”


Thor isn’t weak.  On the contrary, he is extremely strong.

Do you see what I did there?  I stated something which isn’t true.  I then emphasized my point by using “on the contrary” and stating that something else is  true.

By Contrast

Many people use “by contrast” instead of “in contrast.”  Some people might argue that there is some difference between these two phrases.  I don’t think there is.  I think they can be used interchangeably.  

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