English for Everybody - Advanced course
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Agreeing and disagreeing

English is a polite language. Even when you think someone is wrong about something, it is rude to directly contradict that person. This means that you have to do so indirectly. You also have to be careful to notice when an English person wants to disagree, since you might think he is just discussing the subject, or even that he is agreeing with you.

This section teaches how to agree politely and how to disagree politely and how to do it rudely if you want to. It also shows how to avoid agreeing or disagreeing.

Sometimes you will have to agree or disagree with an opinion.
For example:
What a beautiful baby!
You may also have to accept or reject a suggestion
For example:
Would you like to finish reading this?

Orders as Suggestions

Sometimes orders are given as suggestions - the only difference is who gives them. If you refuse an order given as a suggestion, you must be very polite and give a good reason. Otherwise accept the suggestion politely.
For example:
Bus Conductor: Can you show me your ticket please?
Traveller: I'm terribly sorry, I seem to have lost it.
Yes, of course. Here you are


A formal suggestion is a complete question. Very formal suggestions are given in the third person.
For example:
Butler : Would Sir like to partake of coffee?
Lord Jones : I will, thank you.
Not at this time, thank you.

Normal formal suggestions use 'you'
Waiter : Would you like some coffee?
Harry Jones : Yes, thank you.
That would be nice, thank you.
I would indeed.
Not right now, thank you.
No thanks.
Do you have tea?

With informal suggestions, your replies can also be informal.
For example:
Sally : Coffee?
Harry: Why not?
I don't mind if I do.
Good idea.
Sure, okay.
I'll pass, thanks.
Let's have tea.
Later, maybe

If you are disagreeing with a suggestion, it is polite to give a reason.
For example:
Would you like to come up for a coffee?
I'd love to but it's late.
Let's go to the cinema this evening.
I can't. I've got to go to work early tomorrow.

Note that you can answer an opinion or a suggestion with just 'yes' or 'no', but this called 'being short' and it is not polite. If someone does this to you, 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.
For example:
Harry: Would you like some coffee, dear?
Sally: No.
Harry: What's wrong?


Opinions are stated as facts. You can agree with them, disagree (politely or rudely) ask for more information, or show that you do not want to discuss the matter.
For example:
That film is really good.
Yes, I really enjoyed it.(agreeing)
I can't say it's my favourite?(disagreeing politely)
What, that load of rubbish?(disagreeing rudely)
I don't watch films much.(not wanting to discuss it)

Notice that asking for more information is often a polite way of disagreeing.
For example:
That film is really good.
Oh, do you think so?
What did you like about it?
You didn't think it was a bit long?
might all be someone starting a discussion about the movie, but they may also be polite expressions of disagreement. It is impolite to directly confront an opinion
Well, I think it is a load of rubbish.
No, it's too long and boring.
It's the worst film I've seen this year

Question tags

Question tags at the end of a sentence demand a response. Therefore they are useful in asking for agreement, or in starting a discussion about an opinion.
For example:
That road is really dangerous, isn't it?
Yes, it is.
Janet is so stupid!'
You don't like her, do you?
Note that when agreeing to an opinion with a question tag, 'yes' or 'no' alone are impolite. You should answer with 'yes', 'no' and then the subject pronoun and auxiliary.
For example:
He wouldn't do that, would he?
No, he wouldn't.

Agreeing strongly

For example:
That film should be banned.
You are so right.
I totally/completely/fully agree.
That's exactly what I say.
Of course it should.

Agreeing mildly

For example:
That film should be banned.
I suppose so.
Well, yes, maybe it should.
Should it? Okay.
If you say so.

Staying neutral

For example:
That film should be banned.
Well, that's your opinion.
Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Ah. That film.

Disagreeing mildly

For example:
That film should be banned.
Do you think so?
Why that one in particular?
Well, it is challenging.
Isn't banning it rather extreme?

Disagreeing strongly

For example:
That film should be banned.
No, it shouldn't.
That's rubbish.
What are you talking about?
You are so wrong.

Disagreeing indirectly

Rather than confront your opinion directly, English people might tell you the reasons they disagree.
For example:
That film should be banned.
It is one of the most popular films of the year.
Many people think it is a classic.
It has not upset many people.

To make their disagreement seem less forceful, English people will use words like Well, Actually or Yes, but at the start of their sentence. They might also apologise for disagreeing
For example:
That film should be banned.
I'm sorry, but I don't think so.
Yes, but you want almost every film banned.
Well, actually, it's not that bad as a matter of fact.

Note: If an English person starts his disagreement by using the words 'With the greatest respect', or 'with all due respect' he is about to say something disrespectful.

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.)

Let's go!