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AGREEING AND DISAGREEING: I couldn’t agree more!


Spotlight - epaper ⋅ Ausgabe 7/2019 vom 29.05.2019

Die richtigen Worte zu finden, um diplomatisch die eigene Meinung zu vertreten, ist schwierig genug. Aber könnten Sie Ihrem Gesprächspartner auf Englisch gekonnt widersprechen? ADRIAN DOFF präsentiert die wichtigsten Wendungen rund um Zustimmung und Widerspruch.


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Have you ever had an argument with someone in English? Have you disagreed with someone’s opinion? Or have you expressed an opinion that other people disagreed with?

It’s usually quite easy to agree with someone in a foreign language. In English, you can just say “Yes, I agree”, “Yes, you’re right” or “Yeah, that’s true” — or you can ...

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... simply nod your head and smile.

However, it’s much harder to disagree.

Usually, you want to show that you disagree, but still be polite — after all, you don’t want to start a fight. You can’t just say “No, you’re wrong” or “That’s nonsense”, even if that’s what you are actually thinking. So you need to find a more careful and less direct way to say that you disagree.

Often, you don’t simply agree or disagree.

Life isn’t as simple as that. Maybe you half agree, or you disagree slightly. Maybe you strongly disagree, and you want to show quite clearly how strongly you feel about it, but you don’t want to come across as unfriendly.

What’s more, if you have an argument and disagree with someone, you don’t simply want to stop there; it would probab ly leave you feeling bad. So you’ll want to find some points of agreement or some common ground so that you can still remain friends.

But how do you do all of that in English?

Which phrases and expressions do you need to express exactly the right degree of agreement or disagreement? Read on to find out.

appropriate [E(prEUpriEt]
→ angemessen, passend

Be careful what you say!

In English, people tend to express opinions quite indirectly, especially if they disagree. Here’s a conversation between two people who have just met:

Alex: I think footballers deserve to earn lots of money.
Bill: No, you’re wrong.

Of course, Bill could reply in this way, but it’s very direct and it sounds rather aggressive. So instead, Bill would probably say something like this:

Alex: I think footballers deserve to earn lots of money.
Bill: Hmm, do you really think so? I’m not sure I agree, actually.

Here, Bill disagrees, but he’s saying it in a careful way. To do this, he uses expressions like “really”, “do you think so?”, “I’m not sure I agree” and “actually” to make what he says sound “softer”.

Of course, in English, as in other languages, people sometimes want to make it clear that they disagree strongly. Here are two friends chatting in the pub:

Anne: I think footballers deserve to earn lots of money.
Bella: What? You must be joking! They earn far too much.

Here, Bella wants to make it quite clear that she feels strongly about the matter, so she’s very direct. This is fine, because she’s talking to a friend, but she probably wouldn’t say this to someone she has just met.

In English, therefore, it’s useful to learn appropriate expressions to help you disagree, argue and express opinions without sounding impolite or aggressive. Find out how to do this with style in the following three-part scenario.

Meet Paula and Rob Preston. They’ve been working very hard, so they’ve decided to take a weekend break in Barcelona. They’ve booked their flight, but they still need to decide where to stay. Should they stay in a hotel or find a room through Airbnb? Read their conversations and find out what they think about it.

Paula and Rob have different ideas. Why is Paula worried about using Airbnb? And why does Rob like it?

Paula: So, where shall we stay?
Rob: Let’s stay somewhere in the old town centre. I’ll have a look at Airbnb. I’m sure I’ll find something…
Paula: Airbnb? Are you sure that’s a good idea?
Rob: Yes, why not? They’re really good value.
Paula: Yes, you may be right. But I’m not sure we should be supporting them, to be honest.
Rob: You must be joking! Why ever not? I think they’re a great idea.

Paula: Do you really think so? Don’t you think they’re bad for the local community?
Rob: Not really, no. We’d be paying money to someone who has a spare room. I don’t see anything wrong with it. It’s good for the local community. It helps support them.
Paula: Yeah, but it’s taking customers away from hotels. Small family hotels are having to close down in lots of places. It’s really bad.
Rob: I don’t agree at all. If you ask me, it’s up to hotels to offer better value. Lots of hotels charge far too much. As far as I’m concerned, they deserve to go out of business if they don’t offer good value. I think Airbnb has really helped to make prices fairer, because now you have more choice. I’m all in favour of it.

Highlight the phrases that…

• Paula uses todisagree carefully . For example, she says, “But I’m not sure…” Find three more phrases.
• Rob uses todisagree strongly . For example, he says, “You must be joking!” Find two more phrases.
• Rob uses to say heapproves of Airbnb. For example, he says, “They’re a great idea.” Find two more phrases.
• Rob uses toexpress an opinion . For example, he says, “I think…” Find two more phrases.

Paula and Rob argue about Airbnb. What points does Paula make? What points does Rob make? Do they agree with each other?

Paula: Yeah, but it’s not just about hotels.
Rob: What then?
Paula: Well, for a start, some of the people who let rooms on Airbnb don’t live there themselves. They buy a flat and then rent it out. So, you aren’t always helping local people.
Rob: Are you sure about that?
Paula: Yes, I read an article about it. Sometimes, companies buy up flats and then let them out on Airbnb. They’re not supposed to do that, but they do it anyway.
Rob: OK, maybe you’re right. I can see that doesn’t help local people much. But on the other hand, a lot of the places I’ve stayed in have been in people’s houses, so they certainly were local people.
Paula: Were they? Are you sure?
Rob: Yes, definitely. And they were really friendly: you could chat with them, and they’d tell you where to go. You can get to know people. It’s much nicer than a hotel.
Paula: Yes, OK, I agree. That is quite nice.
Rob: And what’s more, you can often use the kitchen, so you can cook your own food.
Paula: Yeah, that’s all very well, but…
Rob: But what?
Paula: Well, another thing is that, in a lot of cities, people can make more money from Airbnb than they can from renting out flats. That’s the problem.
Rob: I don’t get that. Why’s that a problem?
Paula: Well, it means there’s a shortage of flats to rent. So, the prices go up, and people from the city can’t find a place to live. My sister went to Lisbon last year to work for six months, and it took her ages to find a flat. People were letting them out to tourists for a few days at a time.
Rob: Hmm, well, you’ve got a point, I suppose. That’s obviously not very good.

Highlight the phrases that…

• Paula and Rob use tolist arguments . For example, Paula says, “For a start, …” Find two more phrases.
• Paula and Rob use toagree (or agree partly ) with each other. For example, Rob says, “Maybe you’re right.” Find three more phrases.

Can you also find the phrase that Rob uses to say hedoesn’t understand ?

In the end, Paula and Rob reach an agreement. What do they decide to do?

Rob: So, do you think we shouldn’t book through Airbnb?
Paula: Well, I’m not saying we shouldn’t.
Rob: Oh, really?
Paula: Well, if it’s just a room in someone’s flat, I’m sure it’s OK.
Rob: Yes, and it would be much cheaper.
Paula: Yes, you’re probably right. We’d certainly save a lot of money. Did you find anything suitable?
Rob: Well, there’s this one here: “Quiet flat in city centre. Rooftop views. Large room, balcony, use of kitchen. €40 a night.”
Paula: Hmm, that is good value. Maybe we should book it… What do you think?

Highlight the phrases that…

• Paula uses tofind common ground . For example, she says, “I’m not saying we shouldn’t.” Find one more phrase.
• Paula and Rob use toask the other’s opinion . For example, Rob says, “Do you think…?” Find one more phrase.

Here’s a list of some of the phrases from the dialogues you might have highlighted while reading this article. They will come in handy the next time you want to agree or disagree with someone or express your opinion. Say what you really think — while being wonderfully polite about it!

Disagreeing carefully • Are you sure…? • I’m not sure… • Do you really think so? • Don’t you think…?

Disagreeing strongly • You must be joking! • Why ever not? • I don’t agree at all.

Partly agreeing • OK, maybe you’re right, but… • OK, I agree… • That’s all very well, but… • You’ve got a point, I suppose.

Saying you approve of something • I think they’re a great idea. • I don’t see anything wrong with it. • I’m all in favour of it.

Expressing an opinion • I think… • If you ask me… • As far as I’m concerned…

Asking for an opinion • Do you think…? • What do you think?

Listing arguments • For a start, … • What’s more, … • Well, another thing is…

Saying you don’t understand • I don’t get that.

Finding common ground • I’m not saying… • Yes, you’re probably right.


Illustration: danjazzia/Shutterstock.com

Illustration: danjazzia/Shutterstock.com

Illustration: danjazzia/Shutterstock.com