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Agreeing & disagreeingHow to do it politely

This page continues the academic discussion skills section by looking at how to agree and disagree. There is also an example discussion to show how to use some of the phrases.


How to agree and disagree

At university you will need to argue your point, in other words give your opinion on certain topics, with reasons and evidence. This academic 'argument' is different from ones you may have in everyday life. Although it may get heated, it will always be civilised and polite. It is important to remember this even when you disagree with another speaker's argument. In such cases, you should try to disagree politely, by first acknowledging their opinion before saying why you disagree. It is also possible to simply disagree, but you should avoid doing this too often as it may seem rude.


Phrases for agreeing, acknowledging someone else's idea, and disagreeing are shown in the language phrase box.


Agreeing

  • Yes.
  • Yes, that’s right.
  • Yes, I agree with you.
  • I agree (with/that)...
  • That’s what I think too.
  • Absolutely.
  • Yes, absolutely.

Acknowledging ideas

  • Yes, OK, but...
  • I see what you mean, but...
  • I accept that, but...
  • That may be true, but...
  • I take your point, but...
  • I can see your point. However...
  • That’s a good point, but
  • I see what you're getting at, but...
  • I see where you're coming from, but...
  • I agree up to a point, but...
  • Yes, but what about...

Disagreeing

  • No, I don’t really agree.
  • I don’t really agree with you.
  • I don’t agree with that at all.
  • (I’m afraid) I don’t think that’s right.
  • I’m not sure that’s right.
  • I wouldn’t say that.
  • I'm not so sure about that.
  • But (surely)...
  • But don’t you think...
  • That's not always the case because...
  • That's not necessarily true because...
  • This idea isn't supported by the evidence...


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Example discussion

Below is an example discussion on the topic of transportation in a particular city. There are three students involved. Phrases for agreeing, acknowledging ideas, and disagreeing are shown in bold.


Agreeing
 
Disagreeing
   
Acknowledging ideas
  

Student A: I think that the transportation here is excellent, because there are so many different options: bus, underground, taxi. I really love the buses here. They run many different routes, and the cost is quite reasonable, under one pound for most of the places I go to. What's your opinion?
Student B: I agree with you. The buses are very convenient and cheap. And the subway is good too, it's not expensive at all.
Student C: That may be true, but you are only considering the cost. If we look at how frequent the transport is, then it's not so good. For example I often have to wait twenty or thirty minutes for a bus when I go to the university. It's really not convenient for me.
Student A: I really don't agree with you. In my opinion the transport is extremely convenient. As I just said, the buses run many different routes, so you can get anywhere in the city quite easily. For instance I can take a bus from where I live to the university, or another one to the train station, another to the football stadium. They'll all direct and I don't need to change.
Student B: So you mean that convenience in terms of destination is important in a good transportation system?
Student A: Yes, that's certainly one aspect. In terms of the buses, there are also the number of bus stops, which again makes them very convenient.
Student B: Yes, I see.
Student C: I don't think I'd say that. In some ways, the more stops there are, the less convenient it is. It makes the journey longer. And how about frequency? Isn't that important too?
Student A: Yes, in my opinion it is. But I don't have any problem with that. I never have to wait more than about ten minutes for a bus, so in terms of frequency they are very convenient for me.
Student B: That's what I think too. I never have to wait long for a bus either. It could be that you're just unlucky with where you live.
Student C: I take your point, but I still don't think I agree. As far as I'm concerned the transportation needs improving in many aspects, because it's just not good enough. You mentioned taxis, but they're far too expensive. For example I once took one to the train station in the evening, and I paid almost ten pounds.
Student A: I'm not so sure about that. Ten pounds to me seems quite reasonable for a taxi fare. And isn't that just the nature of taxis? That they are more expensive?
Student C: I don't think so. I mean of course they should be more expensive than other forms of transportation, but not so expensive.
Student B: What do you mean by expensive? How much is too much?
Student C: I would say that two or three times as much as other forms of transport is fine, so maybe three pounds for a typical journey. Certainly not as much as ten pounds!
Student B: I see. So what do suggest to improve the situation? Taxi drivers have to make a living, after all.
Student C: Well, I think what the local council should do is reduce the starting fare for taxis. That would at least make them more economical for shorter distances. If the fare for longer distances is higher, it would equal things out. Alternatively...

Agreeing
Disagreeing
Acknowledging ideas



Checklist

Below is a checklist for this page. Use it to check your understanding.


Area OK? Notes/comment
I know a range of phrases for agreeing in an academic discussion
I know how to acknowledge ideas in a discussion to make disagreement more polite
I know phrases for disagreeing in a discussion




Next section

Read more about clarifying in the next section.




Previous section

Go back to the previous section about asking for and giving opinions in discussions.






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