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I, as a non-native speaker, used the sentence "I'm not sure if I agree." thinking it means that I have a level of uncertainty about where I stand, and apart from that I can lean anywhere, I can even be very close to agreeing. I was told that this expression actually means "I disagree". So which one is it? Is the meaning literal or is it more on the idiom side? What would you think I'm leaning towards when I say that sentence?

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    Depends on the nationality, indeed regional background, of the speaker, and their tone of voice. A polite Englishman almost certainly means that they disagree, a chap from Bradford would simply leave you in no doubt ;-) – djna Sep 8 '18 at 15:07
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    A truly polite Englishman probably wouldn't use such a negative term as disagree. We just say Your idea is very interesting when we mean Obviously I don't accept your insane idea! Actually popularised by Americans, as Very interesting! But stupid! – FumbleFingers Sep 8 '18 at 16:06
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    "I'm not sure I agree" in AmE or BrE is polite but can also mean that you are simply not sure of your own opinion. And please, let's not go overboard with the British politeness thing. – Lambie Sep 8 '18 at 16:12
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    @Lambie "let's not go overboard with the British politeness thing" - I'm not sure if I agree. – Michael Harvey Sep 8 '18 at 18:54
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    Would you mind awfully if I went overboard? --Not at all. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 8 '18 at 19:52
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In the U.S., it could mean you are trying to gently say "I disagree." You might say it this way when being argumentative can get you in trouble or sour a relationship.

But it could also mean you want to explore additional facts and/or reasoning before agreeing.

Suppose you said "I'm not sure if I agree. Have we checked all of the regional sales reports?" Then it would be clear you are seeking additional information before agreeing.

If you said "I'm not sure I agree." without anything after it, it could mean either of the two cases. The context of the conversation would help determine which case it is.

  • So la politesse existe dans les USA? – Michael Harvey Sep 8 '18 at 23:34

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