I’m afraid I disagree with you.

by Kate Woodford
Last week we looked at the ‘softeners’ (polite words and phrases) that people use to make requests sound nicer. This week we’re taking a look at the sort of phrases that people use when they are disagreeing with people and they don’t want to sound rude or express opinions that sound too strong.

The statement, ‘I disagree with you.’ sounds very strong in English and people often choose not to use it. However, if people do want to express strong disagreement and they use this phrase, they often ‘soften’ it slightly by first apologising:

I’m afraid I disagree with you there.

I’m sorry, I disagree with you there.

Another way of slightly softening the statement ‘I disagree with you.’ is to introduce it with ‘I have to say’:

I have to say, I disagree with you, James.

Very often, though, people prefer to use phrases that are less strong when they are disagreeing with statements. A very common way of doing this is to use the phrase ‘I’m not sure…’ or another phrase with a similar meaning:

I’m not sure I agree with you there.

I’m not sure that’s always true.

I’m not convinced that’s the case.

Statements such as these usually mean, ‘I don’t agree.’ even though they seem to be saying something less certain. They are generally just a gentler way of saying it.

In a similar way, people may disagree with a statement by seeming to ask a question. Again, this is a slightly ‘softer’ way of disagreeing:

Statement: In any case, women are better at these sorts of tasks than men.

Reply: Is that really true? In my experience, men are just as good.

Response: Is that always the case? I know plenty of men who are just as good as women.

Response: Do you think so? I’m not so sure that’s the case.

A third way of ‘softening’ disagreement is by first saying that you understand what someone is saying, or that you accept that part of what they are saying is true. You may then go on to say exactly what it is that you disagree with:

I take your point – she’s a very experienced teacher, but I’m afraid I don’t think she’s right for this particular job.

I do understand what you’re saying. I just don’t think we have the resources to do this.

I hear what you’re saying – the problem needs fixing. I just don’t think now is the time to do it.

Of course, you are free to disagree in any way that you choose, but if you want to make sure that you don’t sound too direct or rude, here are a few useful hints.


20 thoughts on “I’m afraid I disagree with you.

  1. Some…times you are polite
    Using polite words …
    Sometimes you can’t do…
    If you behave patient…two faces…
    Might your cardiocytes will burst …
    If not your cardiocyes…
    Might…. your Astrocytes…
    Nothing left for your to breath and beat with…
    Behave brave and tell what you think …
    Let ‘thee’ know his mistakes
    and return back … take a deep breathe . . . !!!

    Sylva ~MD~Poetry
    Written instantly
    May 7, 2014

  2. Some of these euphemisms (= terms that mute strong points with fancy words) invite a well-formed reply. “Is that really true?” “I’m not convinced” — these issues can be addressed with direct and detailed replies. And the results appear every day on real estate blogs.


  3. Denise

    Thank you, it was very useful! I didnt know that “I disagree with you” sounded so rude. I will take these advises into account to make my opinion sound softer.

  4. safinazelkashef

    can i demand from you to post us a grammatical topic about ( more – much _ much more …etc. ) all the conditions .. thank you 🙂

  5. Pingback: Three ways to disagree with out sounding rude | oisesydney

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  7. lena

    Thank you for the very usefull material, as well as for the whole blog. I have a small question, however not regarding this topic. You wrote ” I hear what you’re saying – the problem needs fixing. I just don’t think now is the time to do it.” Can I change the last sentence to “I just don’t think now it is the time to do it”? I mean is “now” in your sentence the subject? And is it then two subjects “now” and “it” in my sentence? Can I also remove “now” and say “I just don’t think it is the time to do it”? Does it sound good? I would highly appreciate if you find time to explain me the case. Thank you!

  8. laxmidhar panda

    Thank you a lot for this useful material. ESL students find it hard to distinguish a command sentence from a request one . Could you please show us whether “Please lend me your pen for a while.” or Would you please lend me …..” is a request sentence ?

    1. udayakumar pachaiappan

      more than these two statement, i believe mine will help as ” could you please lend me your pen for a while?”

  9. Divya

    I am an IELTS student. This blog is helping me a lot in my studies. Thank you so much for such a wonderful resource.

  10. Pingback: Phrases and pragmatics | ELT Infodump

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