English Usage Topics > Agreeing and Disagreeing
Agreeing and Disagreeing
Asking for agreement
You can ask someone if they agree with your opinion of something or someone by using a question tag. When you do this, you usually expect them to agree with you.
That's an extremely interesting point, isn't it?
It was really good, wasn't it, Andy?
People sometimes use question tags like this and carry on talking because they think a reply is unnecessary. You can also use a question tag to ask someone if they agree that something is a fact.
Property in France is quite expensive, isn't it?
You don't have a television, do you?
You can also show that you want someone to express agreement by using a negative yes/no-question, or by saying a statement as if it were a question.
So there's no way you could go back to work?
He's got a scholarship?
You can use the tag don't you? after a clause in which you say that you like or dislike something, or think it is good or bad. The pronoun you is stressed.
I adore it, don't you?
I think this is one of the best things, don't you?
In formal situations, people sometimes use expressions such as `Don't you agree...?' and `Would you agree...?'
Don't you agree with me that it is rather an impossible thing to do after all this time?
Would you agree with that analysis?
When you want to show that you agree with someone or something, the simplest way is to say yes. People often say something further, especially in more formal discussions.
`That was probably the border.' – `Yes.'
`It's quite a nice school, isn't it?' – `Yes, it's well decorated and there's a nice atmosphere there.'
You can add an appropriate tag such as I do or it is to Yes. This tag is often followed by a question tag.
`That's fantastic!' – `Yes, it is, isn't it?'
`I was really rude to you at that party.' – `Yes, you were. But I deserved it.'
You can also just add a question tag to Yes, or use a question tag by itself. You do not expect a reply.
`He's a completely changed man.' – `Yes, isn't he?'
`What a lovely evening!' – `Isn't it?'
If you want to express agreement with a negative statement, you say No, not `Yes'.
`I don't think it's as good now.' – `No, it isn't really.'
`That's not very healthy, is it?' – `No.'
You can also express agreement using expressions such as `That's right', `That's true', or `True', when agreeing that something is a fact. You say `That's true' or `True' when you think a good point has been made.
`Most teenagers are perfectly all right.' – `That's right, yes.'
`You don't have to be poor to be lonely.' – `That's true.'
`They're a long way away.' – `True.'
People sometimes say `Sure' when accepting what someone has said in a discussion.
`You can earn some money as well.' – `Sure, you can make quite a bit.'
The expression `I agree' is quite formal.
`It's a catastrophe.' – `I agree.'
When someone has made a statement about what they like or think, you can show that you share their opinion by saying `So do I' or `I do too'.
`I find that amazing.' – `So do I.'
`I like basketball.' – `Yes, I do too.'
When you want to show that you share someone's negative opinion, you can say `Nor do I', `Neither do I', or `I don't either'.
`I don't like him.' – `Nor do I.'
`Oh, I don't mind where I go as long as it's sunny.' – `No, I don't either.'
You can show strong agreement by using expressions such as the ones shown in the examples below. Most of these sound rather formal. `Absolutely' and `Exactly' are less formal.
`I thought June Barry's performance was the best.' – `Absolutely. I thought she was wonderful.'
`It's good exercise and it's good fun.' – `Exactly.'
`They earn far too much money.' – `Yes, I couldn't agree more.'
`We reckon that this is what he would have wanted us to do.' – `I think you're absolutely right.'
The expressions that use quite are used in British English, but would not be used in American English.
`I must do something, though.' – `Yes, I quite agree.'
`The public showed that by the way they voted.' – `That's quite true.'
If you agree with someone, but not entirely or with reluctance, you can reply `I suppose so'.
`I must get a job.' – `Yes, I suppose so.'
`We need to tell Simon.' – `I suppose so.'
If you are replying to a negative statement, you say `I suppose not'.
`Some of these places haven't changed a bit.' – `I suppose not.'
Showing that you do not know something
If you do not know enough to agree or disagree with a statement, you say `I don't know'.
`He was the first Australian Prime Minister, wasn't he?' – `Perhaps. I don't know.'
If you are not sure of a particular fact, you say `I'm not sure'.
`He was world champion one year, wasn't he?' – `I'm not sure.'
Rather than simply expressing complete disagreement, people usually try to disagree politely using expressions which soften the contradictory opinion they are giving. `I don't think so' and `Not really' are the commonest of these expressions.
`You'll change your mind one day.' – `Well, I don't think so. But I won't argue with you.'
`It was a lot of money in those days.' – `Well, not really.'
The expressions shown below are also used.
`You'll need bolts', he said.`Actually, no,' I said.
`I know he loves you.' – `I don't know about that.'
`It's all over now, anyway.' – `No, I'm afraid I can't agree with you there.'
People often say `Yes' or `I see what you mean', to show partial agreement, and then go on to mention a point of disagreement, introduced by but.
`It's a very clever film.' – `Yes, perhaps, but I didn't like it.'
`They ruined the whole thing.' – `I see what you mean, but they didn't know.'
The following examples show stronger ways of expressing disagreement. You should be very careful when using them, in order to avoid offending people.
`That's very funny.' – `No it isn't.'
`You were the one who wanted to buy it.' – `I'm sorry, but you're wrong.'
The expressions of disagreement shown in the following examples are more formal.
`University education does divide families in a way.' – `I can't go along with that.'
`There would be less of the guilt which characterized societies of earlier generations.' – `Well, I think I would take issue with that.'
In formal situations, people sometimes use `With respect...' to make their disagreement seem more polite.
`We ought to be asking the teachers some tough questions.' – `With respect, Mr Graveson, you should be asking pupils some questions as well, shouldn't you?'
When people are angry, they use very strong, impolite words and expressions to disagree.
`He's absolutely right.' – `Oh, come off it! He doesn't know what he's talking about.'
`They'll be killed.' – `Nonsense.'
`He wants it, and I suppose he has a right to it.' – `Rubbish.'
`He said you plotted to get him removed.' – `That's ridiculous!'
`He's very good at his job, isn't he?' – `You must be joking! He's absolutely useless!'
With people you know well, you can use expressions like these in a casual, light-hearted way.
Note that the word `rubbish' is not used in this way in American English.
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