I hear what you are saying, BUT…

Giving your opinion…

(Giving your opinion B1+)

 

Giving an opinion can be quite easy. Simple expressions are:

I agree or I disagree, or I don’t agree (NOT I am agree).

I totally agree with you George.

I disagree. I don’t think it is a good idea.

 

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Simple options to introduce your opinion are:

I think / I believe / In my opinion / Personally, I feel…

I think plan A is great.

In my opinion, plan B is the best option.

Personally, I feel/think/believe that plan C would be better.

 

I agree with George, but…

 

However, when we give our opinion, we must be careful that we do not sound too cold and insensitive. And we often also need to give more subtle and nuanced replies.

We can partially agree or agree to some extent, and totally agree and completely disagree

This is where the famous BUT comes into play.

I agree with your George, but I am not sure about the pricing.

I think the idea is great, but I am not sure about the timeline.

The British are the masters of the BUT. How does it work?

The first sentence is a mini-compliment, but when we hear the BUT we know something less complimentary (negative) is coming.

I see what you mean (I understand what you are saying), but I don’t think we have the people to do it.

 I think that’s a good point, but it’s not really our decision.

The BUT quickly changes the meaning.

Compare:

That’s a good idea.

That’s a good idea, but there is no way the marketing team will agree.

A lot of the language used in giving your opinion is coded. It can drastically change meaning depending on the tone and intonation of the speaker.

Let’s look at the expression: I hear what you say

You might think it means I understand you. In fact, the expression is coded.
For a native English speaker, I hear what you say, means I understand what you are saying, but I don’t agree with you… because nine times out of 10 it is followed by that word but…

I hear what you say, but unfortunately the deadline cannot be extended.

A similar expression is: I see what you mean

Once again, you can say this if you understand why somebody thinks something, but you probably do not agree.

Alain: We can’t force her to leave him. It’s her decision.

Beatrice:”I see what you mean, but we’ve got to do something. We can’t let him treat her like that.

Senior trainer at The Language House Sian Tobin, who is from the UK, had this to say:

A British person is unlikely to ever say ´I disagree with you’ or ´I don’t agree’. We will mostly employ ‘I’m not sure about that’ , which means ‘I am 100% unsure, I’m just too polite to say it directly’. In a business meeting you might hear someone say: ´I would challenge that idea’. Translation: ‘I think you are 100% wrong.

Sian says (tongue in cheek) Brits strive for diplomacy at all times, ‘whilst secretly expressing that we are 100% right, 100% of the time‘.

 

Mmmm… interesting, but…

 

Then there is the word the word interesting.

Interesting can mean a lot of different things.

Depending on the tone and intonation, interesting could mean anything from very positive –  “Yes that’s got potential” to extremely negative – “What a stupid idea”.

Nine times out of 10, sorry to say, it has a definite negative meaning. It is often used as a polite reaction to say thank you for your input, BUT it’s not particularly interesting or relevant.

English speakers use it in many different situations especially when they can’t think of anything else to say. The tone of voice will show the listener whether its positive or negative. Better to use it when you are genuinely interested.

“That’s interesting!”

But, more often that not, you will hear:

Mmmm… interesting. Maybe we can talk about that in the next meeting. (Coded meaning: It is not relevant, and this is the not the right place or time).

Interesting… it might be worth a look. (Coded meaning: It’s very low priority)

 

Exercise 1: Match the phrases A – E with the phrases 1- 5 below:

(In cases more than one response is possible)

a. That’s a great idea!

b. I hear what you are saying,

c.Now, that’s really interesting!

d. Mmmm.. interesting,

e. Do you agree?

 

  1. I’ll ask George to start work on it right away.
  2. We definitely should do that.
  3. but I don’t think she will agree.
  4. but there is no way we can afford it.
  5. Yes, to a certain extent.

 

Answers:

a: 1 or 2     b: 3 or 4     c: 1 or 2      d: 3 or 4     e: 5

 

Exercise 2:  Giving your opinion

Meeting to decide on re-opening English school after the coronavirus.

Present: Susan (trainer), Mary (director of studies), John (trainer).

Put the following expressions in the right space in the exercise below. The first two have been done for you.

  • I totally agree
  • That’s a great idea! In my opinion
  • I think
  • Interesting… BUT
  • I see what you mean Susan, BUT
  • On the one hand,
  • BUT, on the other hand
  • I agree
  • we all agree on
  • I agree 100 per cent.
  • I agree to a certain extent

 

 

Susan: (a) Personally, I think all students and teacher must wear face-masks when we reopen.

Mary: (b) I hear what you are saying, BUT it’s impossible to learn a language if your mouth is covered.

Susan: Yes, I suppose you are right. But we must be safe.

John; Yes, (c)…………………………. with Mary. We have to come up with another alternative to make students safe.

Mary: What about putting transparent screens in the classrooms to separate the teacher and students?

John: (d) Yes! ………………………..this would protect both the students and teachers.

Susan: (e)…………………………… we should also ask students to bring a doctor’s certificate.

Mary: (f)……………………….that’s not practical. Not many people have had tests. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has had a test.

John: (g)………………………………………..if we ask students to wear masks and have medical certificates, I think we might as well close down the school.

(h) …………………………. we might be 100 per cent safe, (i) …………………………… we will probably have no students and no jobs.

Mary: (j) ………………. with John. So, do (k) ………………………….the screens?

John: (l) ………………………… It’s a brilliant idea!

Susan: (m) ……………………………but I still think it’s important to wear masks.

(Check your answers at the bottom of the page)

Expression to learn and use: to agree to disagree

agree to disagree – to accept that there are two different views. And stop arguing and agree to have different points of view.

After their discussion about politics intensified, Fred and Sue decided to agree to disagree before it affected their friendship.

I’m sick of arguing with you, so let’s just agree to disagree and move on.

 

 

Answers to exercise 2:

Susan: Personally, I think all students and teacher must wear masks when we reopen.

Mary: I hear what you are saying, BUT it’s impossible to learn a language if your mouth is covered.

Susan: Yes, I suppose you are right. But we have to be safe.

John; Yes I totally agree with Mary. We have to come up with another alternative to make students safe.

Mary: What about putting transparent screens in the classrooms to separate the teacher and students?

John: That’s a great idea! In my opinion this would protect both the students and teachers.

Susan: I think we should ask students to bring a doctor’s certificate.

Mary: Interesting… BUT not at all practical. Not many people have had tests. Personally, I don’t know anyone who has has a test.

John: I see what you mean Susan, BUT if we ask students to wear masks and have medical certificates I think we might as well close down the school.

On the one hand, we might be 100 per cent safe, BUT on the other hand we will probably have no students and no jobs.

Mary: I agree with John. So, do we all agree on the screens?

John: I agree 100 per cent.

Susan: I agree to a certain extent. I still think it’s important to wear masks.

Garry Littman

Garry Littman

Garry Littman est le fondateur de The Language House à Genève. The Language House propose des coachings d'anglais à Genève pour les particuliers et les entreprises, ainsi que des cours intensifs d'anglais dans les pays anglophones. Garry a été journaliste en Australie et en Asie, il a travaillé pour World Radio Switzerland.

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