Agree & Disagree in English: Written & Spoken / Formal & Informal

“So... do YOU agree?” You are about to disagree or agree in English! Are you sure you are not going to offend them with the way you disagree? Or even the way you agree!

Key Points of Agreeing and Disagreeing in English:

A key factor when deciding what might be the best way to agree or disagree is if we are speaking or writing and perhaps more importantly if the interaction is formal or informal.

Let's have a look at each of the four combinations...

Formal Writing

    Agreeing: Be careful to NOT sound indifferent, the person cannot see your face, so be very positive!
  • Don’t Write: I think your idea is fine.
  • Do Write: I think your idea is exactly what is needed.
to be indifferent: to not care

    Disagreeing: Be careful to NOT offend the person, do not dismiss the idea without first acknowledging it as having some value.
  • Don’t Write: I think your idea will not work, I am sorry.
  • Do Write: I think your idea is good but it just will not work in this particular situation.
to acknowledge:(here) to show that it has been noticed


Formal Speaking

    Agreeing: When speaking, it is possible to be less positive because your voice and/or face will communicate a lot of positivity, however, do remember to not be TOO brief.
  • Don’t Say: That is a good idea.
  • Do Say: I agree, that approach is a good idea because...
brief: short

    Disagreeing: When speaking, there is a risk that the listener will not pay attention to a short acknowledgment and may concentrate on the negative message alone. To avoid this, focus properly on the acknowledgment phrase.
  • Don’t Say: Yes, that is valid but I think that…
  • Do Say: Yes, I think that is a very valid approach. However, I think one issue is that...


Informal Writing

    Agreeing: In writing messages, texts etc, brevity is key and often exclamations are used to give energy. Unless you feel you need to be more supportive, keep it short and energetic!
  • Don’t Write: Sounds great
  • Do Write: Sounds great!
brevity: shortness, from 'brief'

    Disagreeing: People are still easily offended even in informal settings – perhaps more so! - so remember to always acknowledge the idea and stress that opinions are yours and not absolute.
  • Don’t Write: That’s not a good plan
  • Do Write: Maybe, but I’m not sure it’s a good plan
to be absolute:(here) to be fixed and final


Informal Speaking

    Agreeing: It should be easy to agree with people informally, but there are some potential problems. The main one is to sound as enthusiastic as the other person.
  • Don’t Say: Yeah, why not (If someone asks you to marry them, instead...)
  • Do Say: What! I’d love to!

    Disagreeing: Again, let’s not accidentally offend our friends or colleagues, always acknowledge the other person’s idea properly and give your idea as an opinion not as an absolute. Don’t be too short when speaking, especially if you are about to disagree!
  • Don’t Say: That won’t work, we need to do this first.
  • Do Say: That’s not a bad idea, you know. Still...I thought maybe we could…


That was a general overview of how to approach agreeing and disagreeing and below I will be listing more and more example phrases, and at the bottom I will be giving you TWO VERY PRACTICAL TIPS on how to agree and disagree without offending anyone!

But first some more details about the context of the communication exchange...

What do I mean when I say Formal or Informal?

Firstly though, a short note on Formal versus Informal. Many of the formal expressions I will list are often used in informal situations where the topic or tone of the conversation is ‘Serious’.

And many of the informal expressions here can be used in formal situations (eg work) but where the conversation is more relaxed or ‘Casual’.

So perhaps a better way to label the phrases would be as so:

  • General
    • Useful in all types of situations
  • Formal or Serious Situations
    • Where either the situation is formal or the conversation itself is serious even among friends, or that you just like to be a serious person!
  • Informal or Casual
    • Where either the situation is informal, or where the setting may be formal but the actual conversation is relaxed. For example, a social chat with work colleagues. Or, another option is that you just like to be a casual person!

Please remember there are no fixed rules and I will try to group them as best I can, but do not worry too much! Just pay attention to the general principles if you are in doubt.

to group: to put together

Another point to add here is that it is common for spoken conversations to move between a ‘Serious’ tone and ‘Casual’ tone all the time, and this change of tone can occasionally happen in writing too, but it is less common.

tone:(here) level or quality of something

Degrees, or Levels, of Agreement and Disagreement

Next we need to have a look at the degree of agreement (or disagreement!) we might want to express.

degree:(here) level, extent, value

We can put our responses into about 5 or 6 groups, with examples in each.

For example (phrases that can be used in all situations):

    Strongly Agree:
    • I couldn't agree more.
    • You're absolutely right.
    Agree:
    • I agree with you.
    • I’d go along with that.
    Partly Agree:
    • That is generally true.
    • I agree with most of your points.
    Partly Disagree:
    • I don’t quite agree with you.
    • That is not always true.
    Disagree:
    • I am afraid I disagree.
    • I can’t go along with that.
    Strongly Disagree:
    • I completely disagree.
    • I would say the exact opposite.


Two additional factors to remember here are that:

FIRSTLY: In informal speaking and writing we would definitely exaggerate our own agreement, especially if it is to match the speaker’s level of belief. I am not saying we always agree with others, just that the following conversation might be disappointing for Person A…

to match:(here) to equal, to correspond to
  • Person A: I would love to see that film tonight!
  • Person B: Yeah, sounds ok.

SECONDLY: In all forms of communication many native speakers would begin any strong disagreement with a phrase that begins as a partial disagreement, or even partial agreement, before they start what is really a serious criticism.

For example:

“Yes I can see you have some great ideas there, (partial agreement), but I wouldn’t quite agree with everything you have said (partial disagreement) in fact I think maybe I would argue that the complete opposite is true (complete disagreement!).”

This approach is to try and not offend the other speaker – not because what is being said is false, but more to make sure that the other person does not take the criticism personally and so the group can continue to discuss the matter in hand objectively!

the matter in hand:(here) the subject being talked about

Useful Expressions to Agree and Disagree in ALL Situations!

The following expressions are suitable for ALL situations. They are generally considered suitable for formal or informal exchanges, in written or in spoken communications, and in casual or in serious conversations.

The key idea in your choice of language is to always mirror the type and tone of language that the other person is using.

key idea: main idea, 'biggest' idea
to mirror: to copy and reflect back

But, in general, these phrases will not seem out of place in any situation!

out of place: not suited to the surroundings

If you would like a decisively more informal tone, you can use contractions where possible.

    Strongly Agree
  • I completely agree with you.
  • I think you are absolutely right!
  • I could not agree with you more.
  • I could not agree more.
  • You are absolutely right.
  • That is exactly how I feel
  • That is so true.
  • No doubt about it.

    Agree
  • Yes, exactly! And...
  • Actually, I think you are right….
  • You have a point there.
  • That is a good point
  • I take your point
  • I agree with you.
  • Sounds good to me.
  • Looks good to me.
  • I am with you.
  • I would go along with that….
  • I feel/think the same.
  • That is true
  • I think so too.
  • So do I.
  • So am I
  • Neither can I (agree with a negative idea)
  • Neither do I (agree with a negative idea)
  • I do not either (agree with a negative idea)
  • Nor me (agree with a negative idea)

    Agree Partly
  • Well, I agree with you here when you say…
  • I would go along with that view up to a point…
  • That is quite true
  • I agree with you up to a point
  • I agree with some of your points, yes.
  • That is generally true
  • Some of your points are great
  • That is mostly correct
  • You are right about that, though not about…
  • Your argument was going so well until you realize/consider that…
  • You had me right up until you said…
  • I agree with most of what you said
  • I do not disagree with most of what you have said.
  • I see what you are getting at.

Now let’s look at some phrases of disagreement...but first...

REMEMBER it is always appreciated to begin any level of disagreement with some sort of positive acknowledgment of the other speaker!! We will return to this idea below!

[Please see the section below on How to Start A Sentence That Disagrees With The Speaker]


    Disagree Partly
  • That is not always true.
  • Well, I do not quite agree with you
  • I would not quite put it that way myself
  • That is not always the case.
  • I do not know, are you sure?
  • Not necessarily.
  • We do not seem to be in complete agreement

    Disagree
  • I am afraid I disagree
  • We do not seem to agree here
  • I cannot go along with that
  • I still have my doubts
  • I am not sure I go along with that view
  • (I am afraid) I do not share your opinion.
  • I have to side with her on this one, I am sorry.
  • I am afraid I agree with James
  • I disagree with some of your points.
  • I do not agree that...
  • I cannot agree with you on that point, sorry.
  • I am afraid I cannot agree with you.
  • We are not sure you are right.
  • We do not share your opinion on that.
  • You are off mark a little there I am afraid.

    Disagree Strongly
  • I find that very difficult to accept
  • That is out of question
  • I would say the exact opposite.
  • That is completely incorrect, sorry.
  • I completely disagree with (all of) your points.
  • I do not agree at all
  • I could not agree with you less.
  • You are way off the mark!
  • That is just plain wrong
  • There is no way I am buying that!
  • Nothing of the kind!
  • Speak for yourself
  • We don’t see eye to eye here.


Phrases of Agreement and Disagreement specifically for Formal Writing or Speaking.

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal or Serious Writing: Ideas

Firstly, remember to actually say when you agree with something. Or that the points said were interesting or valid.

It can be very tempting to go directly to what you want to say, but the other person is looking for a response to their ideas. So please give feedback. Nicely!

to be tempting: to create a desire
feedback: a response or reaction to something

It is important to be very clear about what you are agreeing and disagreeing with. If the other person has made a number of points do specify with which points you agree with or not.

If you agree or disagree with everything, then specify that too, for example with a phrase ‘with all your points’, ‘with everything you have said’ etc.

It is also important to be enthusiastic about plans, ideas etc especially if the person would appreciate it. Being calm, or understated, may communicate indifference in a written format.

to understate: to not be explicit, to not express clearly, to minimise the importance of something

It is vital in formal writing to always begin any disagreement with some positive reflection on what the other person wrote.

[Please see the section below on How to Start A Sentence That Disagrees With The Speaker]

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Formal or Serious Speaking: Ideas

Once again it is important to recognise the other person before you start to say your own point of view.

Even if you agree, say so. Saying nothing about what the other person just said might appear that you either didn’t listen or don’t care about what they said.

This is obviously especially true when disagreeing. Do not directly disagree without giving some positive, or at least polite, reaction to the other person.

[Please see the section below on How to Start A Sentence That Disagrees With The Speaker].

When you are about to speak and disagree with someone make sure that your opening polite or positive statement is said clearly and sincerely.

One important difference between written and spoken language is that your voice can give a lot of information, so if you do have an expressive face or voice you can use much simpler language.

Although less common in Formal or Serious Speaking it is very common to use “Verbal Nods”, I have written a section on this below.

When speaking, in any situation, if you feel that your voice is flat or you have a little bit of an expressionless or ‘unhappy’ face then DO compensate with more positive language.

flat voice: a voice that stays at low volume and level of intonation

Specific Phrases that are generally considered more Formal

As well as the general phrases I have listed above here are some that might be thought of as more Formal.

However, do remember that in modern English usage in all but the most formal of situations the general phrases above are more than suitable, and quite possibly preferred for their simplicity and lack of arrogance or pompousness!

  • Strongly Agree:
    • You have my full agreement….
    • I agree entirely.
    • I share your view entirely.

  • Agree
    • I second that….
    • That is a convincing argument.

  • Partly Agree
    • I agree with you in principal, but looking at…

  • Partly Disagree
    • There are a number of small issues with your argument.

  • Disagree
    • I see things rather differently.
    • That's not going to carry here.

  • Disagree Completely
    • I cannot possibly agree with you on that.

Phrases of Agreement and Disagreement specifically for Informal Writing or Speaking.

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Informal or Casual Writing: Ideas

In general, informal or casual writing uses quite short phrases. Longer phrases may seem a bit ‘heavy’ and unnecessary in WhatsApp or on a Post-It note!

Notice here that unlike in informal speaking, when we disagree we wouldn’t use the more colourful phrases as they seem a bit over-the-top or theatrical for written formats!

a bit: a little
over-the-top:(here) exaggerated
theatrical:(here) dramatic, exaggerated

An exception may be to consider using the longer Informal/Causal Speaking Phrases if the informal writing is a bit longer (eg emails, letters or long notes).

Again though, remember that with writing the other person cannot see your face or hear your voice so it is always a good idea to be overtly enthusiastic if you agree.

overtly: clearly, publicly, outwardly

Just using an exclamation (!) can help. “Ok” and “Ok!” are not quite the same thing!

Also consider using stronger words, so we often say “Great!” or “Perfect!” for even the most simple of topics – like accepting an offer of a cup of tea!

It is interesting here that many of these short written phrases are used when we do verbal nods [see below where I explain this concept in more detail with examples].

Agreeing and Disagreeing in Informal or Casual Speaking: Ideas

The act of agreeing in social English is a fundamental part of how we talk and interact with others.

Below I talk about a key concept called ‘Verbal Nods’; have a look at that section as well as this.

When you are agreeing with someone in a speaking situation you can let your voice do lots of the work with simple phrases such as “I agree” or you can use one of the many colourful phrases to show how much you and the speaker are on the same wavelength.

to be on the same wavelength: to agree about something or to think in the same way

However, disagreeing in casual or informal situations is still taken very seriously, so be careful.

In a culture that looks to be ‘harmonious’ with verbal nods it is often not appreciated even among friends to be rudely dismissed and have your ideas ignored. No one likes that!

So please do have a look at section on How to Start A Sentence That Disagrees With The Speaker – it may prevent a big argument with your partner or friend!!

Now it is possible to use the shorter phrases from Informal/Casual Writing – but a lot of those phrases may be considered too short to properly express your reaction and are slightly more common as verbal nods (see below).

Specific Phrases that are generally considered more Informal

What is interesting about very informal agreement and disagreement is that it is normally exaggerated.

Expressions usually communicate complete agreement or disagreement!

When we just agree or partially agree, or disagree of partially disagree, we use the general expressions that I listed above.

  • Strongly Agree
    • Why not!
    • Absolutely!
    • Totally!
    • You are 100% on the money.
    • He is absolutely spot on!
    • You can say that again
    • You’ve hit the nail on the head there.
    • You bet.
    • You’re dead right there.
    • You took the words right out of my mouth…
    • Exactly!

  • Strongly Disagree
    • Don’t make me laugh
    • Are you kidding?
    • You must be joking…:
    • No way
    • You’re dead wrong there.

When we disagree in informal situations we can use expressions like:

  • I guess (so) OR I suppose (so),
  • You could say that.

These are ways to not really confront or challenge what the other person is saying and also not really agree with them, very useful!

  • Also we use phrases like
    • “I kind of agree with you...”
    • “I sort of agree with you...”
    • “That’s one way of seeing it...”

These are all non-confrontational ways of moving the discussion forward.

non-confrontational: to avoid conflict, to not be aggressive

While the other person is speaking and we simply want to AGREE then we use the phrases that are listed below in the section on “Verbal Nods”.

TWO IMPORTANT TIPS FOR ALL LEARNERS OF ENGLISH

Verbal Nods as Signs of Agreement – Important to Remember!

People really appreciate in English when the listener shows signs that they not only are listening and following your logic – but also, that you agree with them as they continue.

This can be especially important on the telephone where the speaker cannot see your face or any involuntary nodding you may do!

involuntary: without thinking

So the key rule here is: Don’t stay silent!

Verbal nods can also happen in text messages and in ‘chat’ to show you are listening and that you agree and also that the person should continue telling their story or information.

But remember that these verbal nods are also very short, this is so that you do not interrupt the flow of the main speaker!

the flow:(here) the rhythm, the thinking, the energy
  • General Verbal Nods
    • Yes
    • Ok
    • Right
    • Exactly
    • Perfect
    • True
    • So do I
    • So am I
    • So have I
    • Same here
    • Sure
    • Definitely
    • Absolutely
    • Of course
    • Me too
    • Nor me

  • Formal / Serious Verbal Nods
    • Agreed
    • Certainly
    • Of course
    • Without doubt
    • No question

  • Informal / Casual Verbal Nods
    • ‘uhuh’
    • Yep
    • (For) sure
    • Yeah
    • Nice (one)
    • Good (one)
    • Me too
    • You’re telling me

IMPORTANT TIP NUMBER 2!

How to start a sentence that disagrees with the speaker

It is vital in formal writing to always begin any disagreement with some positive reflection on what the other person wrote.

But this is also good practice in ANY form of conversation; serious or casual, written or spoken, formal or informal.

The idea here is to respond to the person who has just spoken and let them know that what they said has been heard. It should mean that they are now also more receptive for your idea and not worrying about what other people think, or that feel offended because they feel that they have been ignored.

The easiest way to do this is start any response to another speaker with some positive feedback, and in the case of you disagreeing you can start with a partial agreement.

The phrases for partial agreement are an excellent way to start a comment about disagreeing because then it stops the feeling of “I am right, you are wrong”.

And then between the phrases of partial agreement and you starting to disagree you signal your change of direction. For example:

  • ...however…
  • ..but unfortunately…
  • ..yet…
  • ...that being said…
  • ...but on the other hand…
  • ...but still...

And finally remember to keep criticism specific, it is almost always best to avoid general disagreement and instead to precisely say what parts you disagree with!

So we might create a phrase as so:

  • “That is a very good idea yet I disagree with your conclusion.”
  • (Positive Acknowledgment + linking phrase + disagreement phrase + specific problem area)

or:

  • “I like the way you have broken down the project there, but still I find it hard to agree with some of your logic.”

Thanks for reading all of this, it was much longer and more detailed than I planned... oh well I guess there was a lot to say!!

Thanks for reading!

Adam Narbutt-Ryan

Here are some links that could be of interest!

Check out: Agree-Disagree