Agreeing and disagreeing
English is a polite language, so it is important to be able to disagree without giving offence. Because English people are so careful not to challenge you directly, you need to be careful - what you might think is someone agreeing with you, or discussing something, might really be an English person trying hard to disagree. Also the English are fond of irony and sarcasm, and sometimes what seems like complete agreement is really the opposite.
Here you will find how to agree and disagree both rudely and politely, and how to avoid agreeing or disagreeing if you don't want to argue.
There are two kinds of sentence you will have to agree or disagree with - suggestions and statements .
Why don't we buy that book? (suggestion)
We should buy that book. (statement)
Agreeing with suggestions: Remember English is polite (even if English people are not always!). So sometimes suggestions are actually orders.
Policeman: Would you mind getting out of your car, sir?
Driver: Very well, officer.
Boss: Maybe you should finish that before you go?
Employee: Yes, of course.
With informal suggestions, your replies can also be informal.
Fancy a coffee?
I don't mind if I do.
Agreeing with statements. You can answer a statement with just 'yes' or 'no', but this called 'being short' and it is not polite. You are expected to add something to the conversation.
Fred can be so unreasonable.
Yes, I've noticed that.
London is so crowded.
Yes, that's what I always say.
Remember if someone gives you a very short answer, listen to the tone of voice, and see if the person is looking at you. If the tone is lower than usual, and the person won't look at your face, then that person is angry or offended for some reason - or just does not want to talk to you.
Fred: I always enjoy talking to strangers.
This means that the stranger is not enjoying talking to Fred!
Asking for agreement with question tags:
Sometimes a person will use a question tag at the end of a statement to ask you to agree. The form of the question tag tells you whether you are expected to answer positively or negatively. Since you should not give a 'short' answer (unless you want to!), your reply should use the subject pronoun and modal of the main statement.
It's really cold, isn't it?
Yes, it is.
That wasn't very clever, was it?'
No, it wasn't.
You are coming, aren't you?
Yes, I am.
You aren't coming, are you?'
No. (A short answer because I wanted to come, so I'm annoyed!)
Giving agreement with question tags:
You can also show agreement with a question tag, using the usual question tag form.
It's really cold!
Yes it is, isn't it?
He can't run very fast.
No, he can't, can he?
Agreeing with opinions. Opinions are more dangerous than statements, because you might not want to agree with them.
The road is very busy today.
This is stating a fact so you might comment 'Yes, isn't it?'. But here:
The town council should do something about this road.
is an opinion, so you must consider whether you think this is the council's job, or if they need to do something if it is.
With opinions, you can't just answer 'yes' to agree, but there are many other ways of expressing agreement. As well as I agree you could have said That's right or definitely, or absolutely or, if you strongly agree I couldn't agree more. If you must use 'yes', you should add another sentence.
The town council should do something about this road.
Yes, and they should do it soon.
When you disagree, you have to decide whether you want to upset or argue with the person you are disagreeing with. More often you will want to show that you do not agree with what that person has said, but you do not want to be offensive.
If you are disagreeing with a suggestion, it is polite to give a reason.
Why don't you come for a drink?
No, I can't - I'm driving.
Let's go to France next year.
Actually, I would prefer Italy.
English people often disagree indirectly. Instead of saying 'no', they tell you only the reasons.
Let's go to a club.
It's getting late, you know.
Disagreeing with opinions and statements.
You can also disagree indirectly with opinions and statements. (Sometimes one person's opinion is another person's statement!)
No-one goes there any more.
It was quite crowded last Saturday.
English people do not like to say 'No, you are wrong', so they do this as gently as possible. Sometimes they will use words like Well, Actually or even Yes, but at the start of their sentence to make their disagreement seem less forceful. They might also suggest that other people will disagree, or not give their own opinion.
Everyone hates the Prime Minister.
Actually, he is very popular with some people.
That is the worst restaurant in Britian.
Yes, but lots of people go there regularly.
Janet is a really nasty person.
I wouldn't say that.
If you are going to disagree strongly, you can apologise before you do it.
You are sitting in my chair.
I'm sorry, but I don't think I am.
Note: If an English person starts his disagreement by using the words 'With the greatest respect' he is about to say something disrespectful.
And if you don't mind having an arguement, you can be even more direct.
It's my turn now.
No it isn't - it's mine.
I think you should leave now.
Well, I won't.
Or you can give your opinion of the opinion.
Everyone from that country is stupid.
That is complete rubbish.
It's all your fault.
What a stupid thing to say.
But maybe you prefer not to argue about something, but you don't want to agree. In that case, you can say something neutral.
I support the best football team in the world.
Oh, do you?
Maybe, maybe not.
That's your opinion
or even an American expression
Let's not go there. (Meaning 'I don't want to talk about it'.)
So now you know how to agree (Yes, I do). And how to disagree (Yes, that's right). In fact you are a real expert. (I wouldn't say that.) So why don't we do some exercises? (Sure, good idea.) They'll be great fun! (Well, that's your opinion.)