How to Politely Disagree in English: Formal & Informal

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What do you say or what do you do when you disagree with someone’s opinion? If you are wondering how to do it, this post is for you. I’ll share some exclusive tips and English expressions to express disagreement politely.

To formally disagree, you can say, “I beg to differ” in British English and “I am afraid I disagree” in American English. However, in both British & American English, you can say “I disagree” or “I don’t agree” to express disagreement informally.

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As an ESL speaker, when you disagree with someone, they may feel offended if you can’t do it properly with proper English expressions. So, here, I share some exclusive tips so that you can confidently disagree in English.

7 Tips on How to Disagree in English

People don’t like to hear others disagree with them. So it becomes challenging to express disagreement without offending them. Therefore you must know the proper ways to express conflict in English.

7 Tips on How to Disagree in English

Now, let’s see some tips to do it correctly.   

#1 Start with an Apology to Disagree

While expressing disagreement in English, you must start with a tone of apology. You may begin with some words of apology, such as “sorry,” “apology,” or “I am afraid,” etc. This will help you to disagree without sounding offensive.

In the later part of the post, I will share some expressions that start with an apology word or phrase. Learn, practice, and use them.

#2 Be Polite & Genuine

Being polite in your choice of words, tone, and body language can help you to sound genuine and natural. You may completely disagree with someone, but still, you must politely react to it. However, through your body language and word choice, make sure your disagreement is genuine. If you are interested in learning about how body language works, you may check the book Understanding Body Language: How to Decode Nonverbal Communication in Life, Love, and Work (Amazon link).

Don’t just disagree because you don’t like someone or their statements or opinions. If you can avoid conflict, it’s always better not to disagree. However, if you really need to disagree, always have valid reasons.

#3 Be Indirect If Possible

No one likes to hear someone else disagrees with their statements or opinions. Therefore, you should always try not to oppose indirectly. There are so many ways you can indirectly disagree. In most cases, while you are in a formal situation, you must indirectly differ so that you don’t sound rude.

However, in informal situations, especially when you disagree with your friends, you may disagree directly. But, still, I would suggest not contradicting someone directly, even if you have a very close or casual relationship with that person.  

#4 Be Sure That You Understand the Speaker

It would be best if you did not disagree with someone so quickly. First, you must clearly understand what the person said and what he exactly means by it. Then, you may ask for further information or clarification to understand the real intention of the speaker. Once you clearly understand everything, you may finally decide whether to agree or disagree.

Even it would help if you always waited until the speaker ended talking. For example, suppose you find something conflicting at the beginning of someone’s speech. However, at the end of the speech, you may understand the concept clearly and don’t feel the need to disagree anymore.

#5 Appreciate the Other Person’s Opinion

When someone expresses their opinion, it may not always match yours. However, you must appreciate them for their valuable opinion. You should not just reject what they said. It would be best to acknowledge their opinion and then express your disagreement.

There are several ways you can appreciate someone. You should sound like you want to add something rather than rejecting or disagreeing with them completely.

#6 Give Suggestions & Ask for Options

Don’t just stop after disagreeing; instead, suggest something better or give options. While suggesting something, you must be very specific. If you can suggest something really better after the disagreement, there is a good possibility that the other person will not feel offended. They may accept it gladly.

You may also ask for other options when someone gives any opinion and you don’t quite agree. Asking for some more options from them will make them feel important.  

#7 Consider the Situation: Formal or Informal

How you disagree should vary depending on the situation: formal or informal. For example, you should not use the same language to disagree with your boss’s statement or the language you use to disagree with your friend’s opinion.

So, depending on the formality of the situation, your word choice, tone, and body language should vary. In the later part of the post, we will see how formal and informal language vary while disagreeing with someone’s opinion.

Formal Ways of Expressing Disagreement in English

When you need to disagree with someone in a formal setting, you must be more serious in picking your ways of expression. Usually, in a business setting, we maintain a formal attitude.

Formal Ways of Expressing Disagreement in English

Now, let’s learn some English expressions that you can use while disagreeing in formal situations.

  • I am afraid that I disagree with your statement.
  • I beg to differ with your opinion.
  • I see what you are saying, but I have a different opinion.
  • I understand why you think so, but I have a different thought.
  • You raised a good point, but I am afraid that I disagree.
  • I am sorry to disagree with what you said.
  • Concerning your perspective, I still beg to show a different perspective.
  • Though I understand your stand, my opinion is a bit different about this issue.
  • I apologize for not considering your point.
  • I am sorry, but I do not see it as you do.
  • Even though you got a valid point, I got something different to share.
  • I am so sorry, but I have to say I disagree.
  • I am sorry, but I disagree with you on this matter.
  • I see what you mean, but I am not entirely convinced.
  • I am sorry, but I must tell you that we don’t have the same opinion.
  • I think we are not on the same page.
  • I respectfully disagree with what you think about this issue.
  • I am sorry to have a completely different opinion on that.
  • You may be correct, but I have something different in my mind.

Informal Ways of Expressing Disagreement in English

While disagreeing in an informal setting, you may directly express what you think compared to the formal setting. However, you must be polite regardless of your relationship with the other person.

Informal Ways of Expressing Disagreement in English

Now, let’s see some informal English expressions to disagree with someone.

  • No way.
  • Impossible.
  • I disagree.
  • Of course not.
  • Certainly not.
  • Absolutely not.
  • I don’t think so.
  • Not necessarily.
  • I totally disagree.
  • I think otherwise.
  • That is not correct.
  • I feel the opposite.
  • I can’t entirely agree.
  • I don’t think this way.
  • I don’t see it that way.
  • I take a different view.
  • That’s not always true.
  • I don’t think you’re right.
  • I’d say the exact opposite.
  • That’s not necessarily true. 
  • I don’t share the same view.
  • That’s not always the case.
  • I disagree with what you say.
  • I don’t agree with you on that.
  • No, I’m not so sure about that.
  • I completely disagree with you.
  • I partially disagree with your opinion.
  • I have a completely different opinion.
  • That doesn’t make much sense to me.

Expressing Disagreement Through Making Suggestions

  • I think we should select the other one.
  • Let’s find something less expensive.
  • My suggestion would be to reconsider the budget rather than stop the project.
  • The best alternative might be an Android phone.
  • I would suggest that you also accept some new faces.
  • What if we stop this project next month, not now?
  • What do you think about changing the design slightly?
  • Why don’t we think about it again?

In Conclusion

Disagreeing with someone without offending them is challenging for many ESL students. To help you all, I have already shared some tips and English expressions above in the post. If you learn and regularly use them, you can master the skill.

Thank you for reading.

Happy learning.    

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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