I have heard the following line in the TV series "How to Sell Drugs Online (Fast)":

Polizeiarbeit ist eigentlich wie Angeln. Bei dem einen beißen sie und bei anderen eben nicht. (= Police work is like fishing, actually. They bite for one guy but for another guy they don't.)

I understand the metaphor between police/fishers and criminals/fish (referred as "sie"), but I do not understand the article "dem" before "einen". Would "bei einem beißen sie und bei anderen nicht" be wrong or mean something else? Or is "dem einen... anderen" an idiomatic expression (as the illogical/idiomatic expression "on the one hand...on the other hand" in English) ?

2 Answers 2


"Bei einem beißen sie und bei anderen nicht" (without the word "dem") would work as well and mean the same.

The idiomatic variant would be "bei dem einen ... bei dem anderen". In this case the speaker left that idiomatic train mid-sentence and continued with "bei anderen ...", emphasizing that there seem to be relatively more policemen where criminals don't "bite".

  • 1
    The grammar tricky to parse here but I don't think I'd go as far as to call it an idiom; it's still the sum of its parts in terms of meaning. The main issue as I see it is *dem" is less an article than a relative pronoun -- more like "one of which" than "the".
    – RDBury
    Nov 22, 2020 at 17:03

I would argue that it occurs in this form only in the spoken language and that otherwise one would choose one of these alternatives.

Bei dem e/Einen ... bei dem a/Anderen (nicht).

Bei manchen / einigen ... bei anderen (nicht).

Bei einem ... bei anderen (nicht).

But all options are possible.

bei einem beißen sie und bei anderen nicht

would not be wrong and would have no other meaning except that I think that "dem Einen" emphasises the individual person (den Einen / the one) more. With "einem" it would also be conceivable that several people are meant (even if einem is actually singular), but perhaps others see things differently.

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