Agree to Disagree

Meaning of “Agree to Disagree”

The phrase “agree to disagree” is self-explanatory, and the meaning lies in the phrase. However, they are very tricky. A person must carefully listen and understand the conversation and understand the dialogue of a person, or a debate between two people. Most people have different views when they engage in debating a point. They might agree that they have no agreement and do not find any middle ground. Therefore, they leave it amicably with the promise that they would discuss it in the future. The phrase also means the opposite team or person has not agreed with the others’ point of view.

Origin of “Agree to Disagree”

The phrase first appeared in a memorial sermon written by John Wesley in 1770 at the death of George Whitefield. It was written in the background of their differences over doctrines. It goes thus; “There are many doctrines of a less essential nature … In these we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials.”

It is also stated that the phrase might have originated in the United States much later when Josiah Wedgewood wrote it in his letters in 1785. It has appeared in print in his Selected Letters, “The principal difficulty is to agree to differ, to agree in the impartial investigation and candid argument.” Although the usage of the phrase appears different, meanings are almost the same. However, the phrase has appeared after five decades from that of John Wesley. Hence, it is confirmed that Wesley and not Wedgwood primarily created the phrase.

Examples in Literature

Example #1

Agree to Disagree by Alyssa Marquardt

I wish we could all
Agree to disagree.
Accept the things that our hearts can’t see.

One thing that you are blind to,
Makes up someone else’s whole sight.
One thing that excites you
Is someone else’s fright.
One thing that kills you,
Lets someone survive.

Day and night.
Black and white.
Up and down.
Lost and found.
Opposites can’t work without both sides.

And if this world could swallow it’s pride.
We would see.
That everything would work,
If we’d just agree to disagree.
And accept the things that we can’t see.

The poet has used the phrase ‘Agree to Disagree’ beautifully in the very first lines to explain its significance in everyday life. She is saying it is an insight and a different point of view we normally do not understand. Therefore, everybody should accept things which he or she cannot understand or see. The use of this phrase in the second last line clarifies its meanings further.

Example #2

My Side of the Story – A Novel by Will Davis

“When I catch up with Al we have hysterics all through lunch hour and agree to disagree about her parents because, according to Al, that’s mature thing to do. We make plans to go to Starlight at the weekend (though as you know for her it doesn’t happen) and then I tell her about Fabian.”

This paragraph has been taken from Will Davis’ novel, My Side of the Story. It shows that whenever the narrator meets his friend, Al, they become almost hysterical with happiness and discuss things though they do not agree on several points. However, as their parents have taught them that they should not fight, they just “agree to disagree.” In other words, it explains how they deal with controversial issues on which they do not find the common ground.

Example #3

From the Copper Scroll by Joel C. Rosenberg

“To your face, I suggested we just agree to disagree. Inside, I was laughing at you all the way back to my hotel. But I have to admit, I was intrigued by what you’d said – not about the religious part, mind you. What intrigued me was the idea of buried treasure – billions of dollars of buried treasure – scattered throughout the West Bank.”

This paragraph is taken from Joel C. Rosenberg’s novel, The Copper Scroll. This paragraph shows the ironic use of this phrase as the narrator states that he has suggested his friend clearly that they just agree to disagree, but at heart, he is intrigued by what he has said about billions of treasures in the West Bank. This means that the speaker is lying using this phrase.

Examples in Sentences as Literary Devices

Example #1: “He has agreed to disagree, and I am not going to convince him further. I know I am right.” The phrase is as explained in the meaning above. Here the speaker is perhaps not willing to argue with his/her opponent.

Example #2: “Even if you agree to disagree, we must have a debate on this issue. It will be fun, plus I like your point about using plastic!” In this sentence, there is a healthy argument between individuals, which usually happens when two friends or groups try to have a healthy debate.

Example #3: “Whether he agrees to disagree, or disagrees to agree, I am going to talk to him.” This sentence shows the use of chiasmus as the words in the phrase have been reversed for effects.

Example #4: “He is always in a mood to agree to disagree.” This sentence shows metaphorical use of this phrase.

Example #5: Famous artists are like a cute couple, they love each other’s art, but they also agree to disagree.” This sentence shows the use of this phrase as a simile.