Welcome to today’s Lunchtime Lessons post. This week we are looking at functional language you can use to express your opinion, to agree and to disagree. Our Lunchtime Lessons are free Online English classes where we look at areas of English which are often difficult for students.
If you didn’t manage to join us for our live session, you can catch up with the highlights of the class below. If you’d like to join our live session for the chance to ask the teacher questions, you can book your place directly on our website. These classes are 100% free and are on Tuesdays at 12pm.
Giving opinions as well as agreeing and disagreeing is one of the most common kinds of functional language that we have to produce. This is not only the case in an exam situations, but also in our daily life.
So, first of all, let’s see what you already know. I’d like you to write down as many ways that you can think of to give an opinion, to agree and to disagree. For example, a way to give an opinion would be as far as I’m concerned. Let’s see with how many you can come up in one minute.
Have a look at your list. Do you have any of the following three on your list: In my opinion, I agree and I disagree? If so, cross them out. Because people don’t really use them. And it’s not only that proficient speakers don’t really use them, but they are overused by students. And those expressions are actually very boring. Today, we’re going to think of some much more interesting ways that we can use to express our opinions, agree or disagree. This will not only make your language more interesting but also more natural. And if you want to take an exam, it will also make your language more appealing and help you score a better mark.
Let’s start with some basics. Here’s a list with some nice and easy expressions for giving opinions, agreeing and disagreeing. I even teach these expressions to my beginners quite often. Have a look at the list, don’t they sound so much better than in my opinion, I agree and I disagree? Do you happen to have any of the following expressions on your list?
The expressions under + for agreeing are fairly straight forward. The expressions in the middle are a bit different. If you use them, you disagree in a very diplomatic and polite way. You first acknowledge the opinion of the other person, and then you give the reason why you disagree. When looking at the expressions under – for disagreeing, you might notice that one expression starts with I’m sorry. We very often apologize before we disagree. This is a cultural thing. And for that reason, we very often use the expressions in the middle to express our disagreement. We hardly ever disagree directly and say no. But if you do disagree in a direct way, the intonation is very important as it can sound very rude and aggressive. But also, the context is very important. It’s one thing to be with your friend in the pub, having a beer, arguing over who’s the most interesting character in Star Wars, for example. In that context you could say, no way, you’re wrong. Whereas it’s an absolutely different situation if you are in a meeting at work and say to your boss, no way. If you start the video at 7.55min, you can hear Claire talking about the no way expression. Do you notice the change in intonation?
So, those are some very basic and simple ways that you can use to give your opinion, to agree and to disagree. I’m sure you all agree that it’s not difficult to use them as they’re not complicated.
How to improve basic expressions
I have you some more expressions, including the three we don’t want to use. But by simply adding a word or two, we can make those dull expressions much more interesting. In the first column, you have the boring basic expression. In column 2 and 3, I’ve added one or two words to make the same expression way more interesting.
If we look at the expression for agreeing and disagreeing, I’d like you to pay attention to I really don’t agree and I don’t really agree. By changing the position of the adverb we actually change the meaning. If I say I really don’t agree, it means I strongly disagree. But if I say I don’t really agree, it means that I sort of disagree. So, you need to be careful with the placement of really as it changes the meaning of the expression. If we look at the last example, I simply added two other ways to politely disagree.
How to build the perfect answer
If you are planning to do an English exam, this kind of language is really important for two reasons. For one, it will help you in the listening part as you are very often asked to identify people’s attitude and feelings towards things. And the kind of language we’ve just looked at is very often used as the justification for the answer. Being familiar with these expressions is important for that. But knowing that kind of language will also help you in the speaking exam, especially in the final part of the test. This is part 3 in IELTS and in Cambridge part 4. And those parts are actually the most important part of your speaking exam. It’s the part where the examiner is asking you to produce the most authentic language. You’re asked to express how you feel about things. It’s your opportunity to show off your English at your very best. And also, as it’s the last part, it’s what the examiner will have in their minds when marking your speaking.
That means it’s really important that we can give good, well rounded opinions in our answers. To do that, I would like to show you my 3-prong approach. There are 3 things we need to include in our answer:
- Give your opinion
- Explain your opinion
- Expand your opinion. By that I mean illustrate it, with an example, a scenario or a fact.
Here’s an example on how I would build a perfect answer below.
Look at that answer, isn’t that a lovely and well-constructed answer that shows so much language?
I’ve included lots of functional language for agreeing and disagreeing in that answer. Remember that using functional language and organizing your answer well will get you a higher mark. Using that amazing language will also increase your vocab mark.
Now it’s your turn!
Let’s see how much you remember. Take a minute and write down all the new expressions you remember. Don’t worry if you didn’t remember all of them. You don’t have to. But the ones you do remember are probably the ones that come easiest and most natural to you. Stick to them and use them in your day to day conversations.
Now, to finish off today’s lesson I want you to answer a question. When answering the question, follow my 3-prong approach (Opinion, Explain & Expand) and use some of the functional language you could remember.
Here’s the question: Online shopping is much better than buying things in a physical shop. Do you agree?
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