How to Disagree Politely in English

Jun 28, 2016 | 11 comments

This lesson on How to Disagree in English was originally published in June 2016. It was updated with a new video in February 2019.

At work or university, with colleagues and friends, in a business meeting or discussion with your professor, sometimes it’s necessary to disagree or say no.

And that is ok! In English-speaking culture, it is important to share your opinion and express your ideas. But how should you do that in English – politely?

Today you’ll learn exactly how you can disagree politely in English with 3 simple strategies.

Note: The art of disagreeing with others differs from one culture to another and person-to-person. 

With this lesson, you’ll learn the best English phrases you can use to show you disagree in both formal and informal situations without offending anyone. These expressions will also help you learn how to share your opinion.

But one thing is important to remember: Always stay calm. 
Keep your voice and your body movements calm – that will help you and the other person feel good about the disagreement. The goal is for everyone to walk away from the disagreement happy (or at least not angry).

Three strategies to disagree politely in prickly ( = irritable, crotchety, disagreeable) situations.

Lesson by Annemarie

Professional English for Disagreeing with Others

The most polite way to disagree with someone is to use one of these strategies when introducing your disagreement:

  • show that you understand the other person’s opinion
  • apologize before introducing your disagreement
  • pretend to be in the middle or unsure about your position

Using these strategies helps to soften the disagreement and make your position or argument more effective. 

  • I see what you’re saying but I think…
  • I respect your point but from my perspective (or but in my opinion)…
  • I take your point but that isn’t the way I see it; instead, I think that…
  • True, that is a fair point, but I have to say I disagree…
  • I understand where you are coming from but…
  • There is some truth to what you’re saying but don’t you think that…
  • I’m sorry but I have to disagree with you on…
  • I’m not sure I agree with you on…
  • I don’t think you and I have the same opinion on this issue.
  • I’m afraid I disagree.
  • I’m sorry but I don’t agree.
  • I don’t see it that way.
  • I’m sorry but I disagree with you on this.
  • I respectfully disagree.
  • I have a completely different opinion on that.

In a Polite Disagreement, Always Offer an Alternative Solution

To effectively argue for your position or opinion, it is best to finish your disagreement by offering an alternative or a suggestion. This is a solution-focused argument and can also soften the disagreement.

Here are some great expressions to use after expressing your disagreement:

  • Instead, I think we should/could…
  • My suggestion would be to…
  • An alternative solution might be…
  • I would recommend that we…
  • How about we…
  • What do you think about _______ instead?
  • If you ask me, I think we should…

Informal English for Disagreeing with Others

With close friends and family, we can use these more informal (and often direct) expressions to say we disagree. These would not be appropriate for the workplace unless you know your colleagues very well.

  • No way!
  • You must be joking!
  • You can’t be serious!
  • I totally disagree.
  • I don’t think so.

But what if…?

What if you talk and talk and talk but neither of you can agree with each other? This, of course, does happen at times. Perhaps you and your colleague or friend will never see eye-to-eye ( = agree on something).

We have the perfect expression for this situation. And it will help you end the disagreement in a polite, amicable way. If you cannot discuss it anymore or you cannot find an agreement, just say:

  • Let’s just agree to disagree.

Yes, if you agree to disagree then at least you find something to agree on!

Everyone wins.

After you’ve watched the video and reviewed the language you need for disagreeing in English, I’d love to hear from you!

  1. Have you ever had a disagreement in English? Maybe with a colleague, client, or friend? What is one tip or piece of advice you have to disagree with someone politely?
  2. Imagine you and your colleagues are discussing a team-building weekend. Your boss prefers a specific weekend, but many of your colleagues will be away. Once co-worker thinks you should choose the weekend your boss wants but you disagree. How could you do that?

As always, this is a great opportunity to get practice in the language + help others in the Confident English Community by sharing your thoughts and questions.

And if you loved this lesson, please be sure to share the Confident English love with your friends.

~ Annemarie

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