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Ways to Disagree – Level Up Your English – Video

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You know, I think smoking in public should be allowed everywhere, even on planes.

What? I don’t agree.

I think children should leave school at 13. Higher education is a waste of time.

I don’t agree.

People today don’t work hard enough. Everyone should work longer hours.

I don’t agree.

What about you? Do you agree with our ‘opinions’? Of course, they’re not our real opinions!

If you don’t agree, how can you express this? Of course, you can say ‘I don’t agree’, but what if you want to be more direct, or more diplomatic, or if you aren’t sure? Even for simple language, like disagreeing, there’s a lot of different language you can use.

In this lesson, you’ll learn a wide range of vocabulary to express disagreement naturally and appropriately.

QUIZ: Ways to Disagree

Test how well you know the different ways to disagree by trying this quiz. There are 20 questions.

When you have finished, click ‘Finish Quiz’ to see your score. Then, you can have another go by reloading the page, or click ‘View Questions’ to see the correct answers.

Savannah: Wow! What a great film!
Oli: Really? I don’t think so.
S: You didn’t like it? How come?
O: I found it boring. It was sooooo slow.
S: I have to disagree with you. I thought it was really gripping.

Two people watching a movie

A simple way to disagree is to say ‘I don’t think so.’ This is neutral language – it’s not strong, it’s not too direct – you can use it in many situations.

Of course, you can disagree in a simple way: say ‘I disagree’ or ‘I disagree with you’. However, saying just ‘I disagree’ can sound blunt, so it isn’t always appropriate. ‘I have to disagree with you’ is a slightly more indirect alternative.

You can also add adverbs to these phrases to add emphasis. For example, instead of ‘I disagree with you’, you could say ‘I completely disagree with you’ or ‘I totally disagree with you.’

Oli: Don’t forget to check the visa regulations. You need a visa in advance.
Savannah: Not necessarily. I thought so, too, but they changed the rules last year.
O: Really? I thought everyone needed a visa.
S: Not quite. If you’re staying for less than ten days, you don’t need a visa any more for tourism.

‘Not necessarily’ and ‘not quite’ are both useful ways to disagree. Why are they so useful? There are two reasons.

First, you don’t need an auxiliary verb. So, you don’t have to think about the verb form that the person you’re talking to used. You can use these to disagree with sentences in different verb tenses, and you don’t have to worry about grammar.

Second, these are neutral, polite ways to disagree. ‘Not necessarily’ and ‘not quite’ both suggest that the other person is not completely wrong.

You can also say ‘not exactly’, which has the same meaning.

Savannah: Which should I get? The red ones, right? I think they look much nicer.
Oli: Hmm… I’m not so sure. I think the blue ones suit you better.
S: Really? They’re a bit too dressy for me.
O: I wouldn’t say so. I think you could wear them with jeans.

Red shoes

Sometimes, you want to disagree in a more indirect way, to be polite, or to avoid hurting people’s feelings. Or, perhaps you want to express that you’re not 100 per cent sure about your idea.

Phrases like ‘I’m not so sure’ or ‘I wouldn’t say so’ express more indirect disagreement. They include an idea of uncertainty.

Oli: Sydney is the capital of Australia.
Savannah: You’re wrong. It’s Canberra.
O: Canberra? Never heard of the place. It’s Sydney.
S: You don’t know what you’re talking about!

Here, you saw some more direct ways to disagree!

Saying ‘you’re wrong’ is extremely blunt, but you might use it in casual conversations, or perhaps to express a negative emotion. Using direct language like this can show that you’re annoyed or upset.

Learn more about emotions in this Oxford Online English Lesson: Talking About Emotions in English.

‘You don’t know what you’re talking about’ is similar – it’s very direct. You might use it with friends, or as a joke, but in other contexts it could be seen as rude.

Savannah: Love this tune! So good!
Oli: Are you serious? It’s garbage!
S: I guess you just have bad taste in music. What can I say?
O: I have bad taste… Well, what can I say? Different strokes for different folks, I suppose.

‘Are you serious?’ is another direct – possibly rude – way to disagree. If you want something even stronger, you could say ‘Are you crazy?’ or ‘Are you drunk?’

At the end of the dialogue, you heard this phrase: different strokes for different folks. What does this mean?

This phrase means that people have different opinions, and that’s OK. When you use a phrase like this, you’re saying that you don’t agree, but you don’t want to discuss it further. It’s a conversational phrase, so you would generally use it only in informal situations.

In the next dialogue, you’ll hear another phrase with a similar meaning. Try to find it!

Oli: You bought another Android phone? How come? I thought you were going to get an iPhone.
Savannah: Yeah… In the end, I thought it wasn’t worth the extra cost.
O: I’d say the exact opposite. They’re worth every penny!
S: Well, I guess I have a different viewpoint.
O: You really should have got an Apple phone. The features you get…
S: Look, maybe we should just agree to disagree, yeah?

Two people disagreeing about a smart phone

Did you hear the phrase which means something similar to ‘different strokes for different folks’?

It was ‘We should just agree to disagree.’ Again, this says that you and the person you’re talking to have different opinions, and there’s no point discussing things further.

You can use this phrase in different ways. For example, you can say ‘Let’s just agree to disagree’, or ‘Why don’t we agree to disagree?’

There was one more phrase in the dialogue to express disagreement. Do you remember it?

It was ‘I’d say the exact opposite.’ This is useful, because it expresses strong disagreement, but in a polite way.

You’ll hear another polite phrase in the next dialogue. Again, try to find it when you listen!

Savannah: Have you seen the new shopping centre they’re building?
Oli: Yes, it’s hideous, isn’t it? What were they thinking?
S: You think? I beg to differ. I think it’ll look better once they’re finished.
O: It doesn’t fit at all with the surrounding architecture. It’s much too modern-looking.
S: I take your point, but you can’t build everything in the same style forever.

Did you find it?

‘I beg to differ’ is a formal, very polite phrase to express disagreement. You’d mostly use it in more formal situations. In a casual conversation, it might sound strange.

Often, you express disagreement by using a phrase which means that you agree, and then adding the word ‘but’.

In the dialogue, you heard ‘I take your point, but…’ You can do this if you partly agree with someone’s idea, but disagree with other parts. Or, you can use this to be polite, to avoid using very direct language.

You could use different verbs, other than ‘take’ here. You could say ‘I see your point, but…’ or ‘I understand your point, but…’

You’ll see more examples like this in the next dialogue. Try to find them!

Oli: So, which one? I think we should get the L-shaped one. It’s much more comfortable.
Savannah: I get what you’re saying, but I think it’s too big for our living room. We won’t have space for anything else.
O: I think it’ll fit. Which one do you think we should get, then? Don’t say the green one…
S: Well… It’s a good price, and it’s a nice couch.
O: OK, but the colour is disgusting! I don’t want to see that every day.

Did you hear them?

You heard ‘I get what you’re saying, but…’ and ‘OK, but…’

These are useful when disagreeing; you’re showing that you understand the other person’s point of view, but also that your opinion is different.

So, now you’ve seen many different phrases to disagree. Let’s see what you can remember! Try to complete the phrases from the lesson.

  • I d— —-k so.
  • Not —–.
  • I ——- say so.
  • You don’t know what you’re ——- about!
  • Different ——s for different —-s.
  • I’d say the exact ——–.
  • I — to differ.
  • I get what you’re ——, but…

Pause the video and try to complete the phrases. Can you get all eight?

How did you do? Let’s see the answers.

  • I don’t think so.
  • Not quite.
  • I wouldn’t say so.
  • You don’t know what you’re talking about!
  • Different strokes for different folks.
  • I’d say the exact opposite.
  • I beg to differ.
  • I get what you’re saying, but…

Did you get them all? So, next time you’re talking to someone in English and you want to disagree, try to remember these phrases. Even for simple functions, like saying ‘I disagree’, there’s a lot of different language you could use.

Thanks for watching!

Continue leveling up your English skills with our other lesson: Agreeing in English – Level Up.

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