If somebody says something in an email you don't agree with, what do you do? Although it may be easy to say nothing, it is probably not the best thing to do. Not saying anything may cause bigger problems in the future, especially if it's a business email.

So how do you disagree with somebody by email or letter?

Well, there are two different styles of emails or letters that you can write when you want to disagree with people, direct or polite.

The direct way to disagree is when you tell somebody that what they said is wrong and explain why. With the polite way to disagree, you first seem to agree with the other person's points/opinions, but then explain to them why their points/opinions are wrong.

The purpose of writing a business email/letter of disagreement is to convince/persuade the other person that their opinion/view is wrong. You do this by answering their concerns and giving good reasons to support your own opinion. You should never be rude/impolite or aggressive in the email/letter.

There are three rules to follow when disagreeing in a direct way in an email/letter:

  • First, start by writing what thing/point they wrote that you disagree with.
  • Second, give a good reason/explanation why you disagree with them and try to convince them you are right. Provide them with evidence/information if you have it to show them you are right.
  • Lastly, give/offer them the opportunity to contact you (by phone is better) if they still don't agree.

In this online exercise (with an example and a quiz at the end) on writing emails in English, we will look at phrases which are used in English when you want to disagree with people in formal business emails or letters in a direct way/manner.

Click here to see more of our free online exercises on writing emails/letters


Example & Exercise: Disagreeing in a business email

Read the following business email, where one work colleague is disagreeing in a direct way with something that another work colleague has written to him in a previous email.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Good Afternoon Peter,

Further to your last email regarding the proposed changes to the design of the company's website. I can confirm that no decision has yet been taken and will not be until next month.

With regards to your concerns about the cost of the new design of the website being excessive, I'm afraid that I cannot agree with your opinion. I appreciate why you believe that spending $600,000 is excessive. I can reassure you that we have done everything possible to reduce the overall cost of the project. In fact, the original offers we received for the project were around $750,000.

Taking into consideration both the size of the website and the work involved in redesigning and updating the website, in my opinion, $600,000 is a very good price.

You yourself agreed that the current design of our company's website looks old and the website is difficult to use. If we do not carry out design changes in the near future, we will not only lose more potential customers, but it will also damage our brand image in the market.

I would be happy to forward to you a copy of the project plan and the estimated costs. May I suggest that you look at these first and if you have any suggestions of how the cost can be reduced further, I would be pleased to hear them.

I hope this addresses your concerns.

If you want to discuss this matter further, don't hesitate to contact me on my mobile, 676 005 451.

Best regards,




William Smith
IT Web Manager


Now do the QUIZ below to make sure you know how to write this type of email.

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Quiz: How to disagree in an email

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, an Additional Information Icon "" will appear next to the answer. Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation.

1. A polite phrase that is used to ask somebody to do something, is    
     

May I suggest that:
(phrase) This polite phrase is used when you want somebody to do something. It is a politer way of saying 'you should' or 'I think you should'. When you are explaining your reasons why you disagree with the person, you may want to ask the person to do or try something (e.g. speak to somebody, read something etc...) that will show that you are right. To do this, you can use 'may I suggest that' followed by what you want them to do/try. For example, 'may I suggest that you try to add the information using the following instructions'. You can use 'may I recommend that' with the same meaning as 'may I suggest that'. In Spanish: "me permite sugerirle que".

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2. A different way to say 'I understand', which is used to show empathy/understanding of the other person's opinion/point, is    
     

I appreciate:
(verb) The infinitive is 'to appreciate'. This verb is a more formal way to say 'I can understand'. It is used when disagreeing with somebody for two purposes. The first is to show empathy/understanding with the point/opinion the other person is making. The second (and more important) is to then tell/explain to the person why their point/opinion is wrong. When you use 'I appreciate', it is normally followed by 'why you think' and the opinion/point you don't agree with (e.g. 'I appreciate why you think we misinformed you'). This sentence is then followed by your explanation why they are wrong, e.g. 'but we made the situation clear about the charges for delayed payments both verbally and in writing when you signed the contract'. In Spanish: "comprendo".

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3. A phrase/sentence where you offer somebody the opportunity to talk to you about the subject/issue, is    
     

If you want to discuss this matter further, don't hesitate to contact me on:
(phrase) When you disagree with somebody by email or letter, it is good sense to try to not continue the disagreement by email/letter. It is better to talk about the subject/issue either by phone or face to face than by email/letter. The phrase 'if you want to discuss this matter further, don't hesitate to contact me on' gives the person receiving your email/letter the option to contact you by phone if they don't agree with what you said. It is also polite to do it. This phrase/sentence is followed by 'my mobile/cell phone' and a phone number. It is used at the end of the email/letter. In Spanish: "si quiere hablar en profundidad este asunto, no dude en ponerse en contacto conmigo en".

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4. A way to put emphasis on something that the person you are writing to has done or said, is    
     

You yourself:
(subject) 'you yourself' is a different way of saying 'you'. It is used in English just for emphasis (to focus somebody's attention on a part of the text). When writing an email/letter of disagreement, if the person you are writing to has said or done anything which supports/backs your opinion/view, you should write it in the part where you give reasons why you are right (it will help to persuade them that they are wrong). You then can use 'you yourself' to emphasis the sentence. For example, 'you yourself said that our current procedures were not working'. In Spanish: "usted mismo/a".

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5. A polite but direct phrase which tells the person receiving the email that they are wrong, is    
     

I'm afraid that I cannot agree with:
(phrase) This is basically a polite way of saying 'you are wrong' (never use the word 'wrong' when you are disagreeing, it will offend people). Some people would argue that it is not good to directly disagree with people in emails. In some types of emails/letters (with non-business customers), I would agree. But in other types of emails/letters, as long as you are polite, I feel it is better that you are clear and you write that you don't agree with something that the person you are writing to has said or done. This will avoid any misunderstanding. You would use this phrase after you have introduced/written the opinion/subject that you disagree with. This phrase is followed by 'your opinion' or 'you' (e.g. 'I'm afraid that I cannot agree with you'). After this, you should then explain why you don't agree and try to convince them that you are right. In Spanish: "me temo que no puedo estar de acuerdo con".

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6. A polite phrase used at the end of an email which means 'I hope I have convinced you that I am right', is    
     

I hope this addresses your concerns:
(phrase) This phrase is used to be polite. It basically means 'I hope that I have convinced/persuaded you that I am right and you were wrong'. This phrase should only be used when you are responding to emails/letters where somebody has complained about something or has said that they have doubts/concerns about something. It is used at the end of an email/letter. In Spanish: "espero que esto responda a sus preocupaciones".

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7. A phrase which is a more formal way of saying 'if you consider' or 'if you think about', is    
     

Taking into consideration:
(verb) This is a very good formal phrase to use when you disagree with somebody. It is used to present/give arguments/reasons that prove what you are saying is right. This phrase is always followed by a reason(s) and then what this reason(s) proves (that your opinion/view is correct). For example, 'taking into consideration the large amount of money our competitors are spending on marketing, it makes sense to increase our marketing budget to stop us losing more customers'. 'taking into account' as the same meaning as 'taking into consideration' and can be used instead of it. In Spanish: "teniendo en cuenta".

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8. A phrase used to introduce a reason which contradicts/proves wrong something which the person you are writing to believes, is    
     

In fact:
(phrase) It is used in English for emphasis when you want to contradict an opinion/reason that the person you disagree with has given. When writing an email/letter of disagreement, you not only need to give reasons why you think you are right, but also try to prove or show that the other person's opinions/reasons are wrong. You can do this by first writing an opinion that the other person has and then give your reason why it is wrong. We use 'in fact' to introduce this reason. For example, 'you said that the problem was caused by the machine breaking down. In fact, the machine was working fine when the problem happened'. Only use 'in fact' when you 100% sure that the reason you are giving is correct (is a fact and not an opinion). In Spanish: "de hecho".

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9. A phrase used where you offer to send a document to the person receiving the email/letter, is    
     

I would be happy to forward to you:
(phrase) If you have some information/evidence (a document or file) which supports/backs your position, you should use it when you are disagreeing by email/letter. You can do this in two way, the first way is offer to send it to the person that you disagree with. You can do this by using 'I would be happy to forward to you' followed by an explanation of what the document/file is, e.g. 'I would be happy to forward to you a copy of the minutes which shows what was discussed in the meeting'. The second way is to actually attach the document/file to the email/letter and tell the person that it is attached by using this phrase, 'please find attached' followed by a description of what it is. For example, 'please find attached a copy of the minutes which shows what was discussed in the meeting'. Which you choose is your choice. In Spanish: "estaria contento de enviarle".

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10. A phrase used when you want to give your 'belief' or 'view' about a subject, is    
     

In my opinion:
(phrase) This phrase is used to introduce something that you think or know is right or wrong (e.g. 'in my opinion, changing our suppliers will not improve anything'). When you want to say something which directly disagrees with the opinion of the person that you are writing to, it is politer and less aggressive to introduce the statement with 'in my/our opinion' than without it. If you don't use it (e.g. 'changing our suppliers will not improve anything'), you'll probably annoy the other person and have less chance of changing their opinion/view. In Spanish: "en mi opinión".

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11. A formal phrase that is used to give an answer to a concern/doubt/worry that the person you disagree has, is    
     

I can reassure you that:
(phrase) This is a formal and polite phrase. It basically is a formal way of 'you don't need to worry about'. It is common that when somebody complains about something or has a different opinion than your own, that a part of it is because they are worried or have doubts. Because the purpose of an email/letter of disagreement is to try to convince/persuade the person that they are wrong, you need to identify what these worries/doubts are and give them a good answer why their doubts or concerns are wrong. The phrase 'I can reassure you that' is used to introduce this answer, e.g. 'I can reassure you that everything possible was tried to solve the problem'. In Spanish: "puedo asegurarle que".

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12. A polite way to ask somebody for their suggestions, is    
     

I would be pleased to hear them:
(phrase) This is a formal and polite phrase. It should follow something similar to 'if you have any suggestions'. Remember, the purpose of an email/letter of disagreement is to convince/persuade the person you disagree with that you are right. To do this, one of the things you need to do, is to make the person feel that both he/she and his/her opinion is important. This is why you should in your email/letter give him/her the opportunity to make suggestions or comments directly with you. In Spanish: "estaré encantado de hablar consigo de ellas".

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13. A phrase which you use to first introduce the name of the subject/opinion that you disagree with, is    
     

With regards to your concerns about:
(phrase) This is a formal way of introducing the topic that you are then going to disagree with. It is a formal way of saying 'in your last email you said/stated/suggested'. It is always followed by the point/subject that you disagree with, e.g. 'with regards to your concerns about the current delays in the project'. You then tell them that you disagree and explain why. In this phrase, you use 'concerns' if the person has been critical in their email/letter about something. If the person has not been critical in their email/letter, but suggested something, you should replace 'concerns' in the phrase with 'suggestions' (e.g. 'in regards to your suggestions about'). You should remove the 's' from 'concerns' or 'suggestions' if it's only one concern or suggestion you disagree with. You can also replace 'with' with 'in' in the phrase with no change in meaning. In Spanish: "con respecto a sus preocupaciones sobre".

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