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Quick answer
"In contrast" is an adverb which is often translated as "por el contrario", and "on the contrary" is a phrase which is often translated as "al contrario". Learn more about the difference between "in contrast" and "on the contrary" below.
in contrast(
An adverb is a word that describes a verb, an adjective, or other adverbs (e.g. to run quickly, very tired).
1. (on the other hand)
a. por el contrario
I like classic cars. Mark, in contrast, prefers modern cars.A mí me gustan los autos clásicos. Mark, por el contrario, prefiere los modernos.
A preposition is a word that indicates the relationship between a noun and another word (e.g. He ran through the door.).
2. (unlike; used with "to")
a. a diferencia de
In contrast to you, I care about other people's feelings.A diferencia de ti, a mí me importa lo que sienten los demás.
3. (compared with; used with "with")
a. en contraste con
Her black hair in contrast with the white pillow fascinated him.Le fascinaba su pelo, tan negro en contraste con la almohada blanca.
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on the contrary(
A phrase is a group of words commonly used together (e.g once upon a time).
1. (general)
a. al contrario
Marissa is not angry with Scott. On the contrary, they had a great time this weekend.Marissa no está enojada con Scott. Al contrario, se divirtieron mucho este fin de semana.
b. por el contrario
French toast isn't very difficult to make at home. On the contrary, it's very easy.Tostada francesa no es difícil de hacer en casa. Por el contrario, es muy fácil.
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