19

I was talking to a friend and he said something I agreed with so much I said the common phrase:

I couldn't agree more

except, I said "concur" instead of agree because we were using Skype, and back when Cortana was a thing, the suggested phrase was always "I concur" instead of "I agree". My question is, do

I couldn't agree more

and

I couldn't concur more

mean the same thing, or is concur badly used here?

  • 11
    I don't think there's such a thing as "exact synonyms" in English, and probably not in any natural language. Words might have a lot of semantic overlap, but there is always some individual nuance in established uses for each word, and these nuances change for different subcultures, over time, etc. – aschepler Jun 9 at 3:19
  • @aschepler I never heard about exact synonyms not existing. Aren't "an" and "a" for example not "exact synonyms"? They mean exactly the same. Although one is used before nouns that begin with a vowel sound and the other for the rest, but that doesn't matter, being synonyms is about their semantic, their meaning, not about when or where to use them. – Ivo Beckers Jun 9 at 11:21
  • 1
  • 1
    @CaiusJard Wow I can't believe there's a duplicate and no one has noticed until now. Thank you for pointing this out, and although they seem to be duplicated, my question is specific to the phrases "I couldn't X more" – Marvin Jun 10 at 1:33
52

Concur and agree are synonyms, but "I couldn't agree more" is a set phrase. While they technically mean the same thing, replacing agree with concur in that phrase sounds a little peculiar.

Concur is highly formal, commonly found in legislative or judicial settings. Agree is a more frequent and common word. "I couldn't agree more" is somewhat colloquial, so rephrasing with concur sticks out as a weird word choice.

| improve this answer | |
  • 12
    I couldn't agree more. "I couldn't concur more" sounds silly. – Jack O'Flaherty Jun 8 at 6:37
  • 24
    I was taught that two words are never exact synonyms. In this case (I may be wrong) "I concur" feels like a more passive response than "I agree". "I agree" has the feeling of being in the same mind as the person making the suggestion, and expresses some enthusiasm. "I concur" suggests a certain element of reluctance, but that its speaker either doesn't have a better suggestion, or holds a minority view which is not going to be pandered to, etc., and so "I concur" has the feeling of "Bah. Oh, very well." – Prime Mover Jun 8 at 7:53
  • 16
    @PrimeMover Personally (native BrE speaker) I wouldn't say that "concur" is inherently more passive. However, it is definitely less colloquial, so if someone chooses to use it over 'agree' you can perhaps read something into that. I can imagine someone using it instead of 'agree', as "my heart's not in it, but I hereby give you the authorization you require to continue". For the minority view situation you mention, I'd use 'acquiesce' (or maybe 'defer' if the other person really does have some kind of authority) – Andrzej Doyle Jun 8 at 11:01
  • 5
    Also, you can't use "concur" in the sense of "I agree with John". "Concur" seems to only apply to whoever has spoken most recently, while "agree" can be used to specify exactly who you agree with. E.g. Bob: "I think blah blah", Alice: "I disagree, I think blah blah". George: "I agree with Bob". Jane: "I concur". George could not have said "I concur" because he disagrees with the most recent speaker, Alice, and agrees with Bob. Jane agrees with George (and thus Bob), so she can say "I concur" (or "I agree", interchangeably in that case) – Darrel Hoffman Jun 8 at 15:20
  • 5
    @DarrelHoffman Not true at all - in about half the instances of "I concur", it's followed by "with". It's not even close to "almost always" being used as a standalone. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Nuclear Wang Jun 9 at 13:45
36

Agree and concur are synonyms, but the English usage of them corresponds to their etymology.

"Concur" derives from Latin concurrere, which literally means "to run (currere) together with (con) something or someone", and was also used for people gathering together in a crowd.

"Agree" derives from Latin "ad gratus" meaning "to be pleasing to (someone)".

"Concur" is a binary situation - either you concur with something or you don't. "Agree" can express different levels of agreement. You can "partly agree with" something, but you can't "partly concur with" it.

"Since "I couldn't agree more" expresses an amount of agreement, you can't replace "agree" with "concur" in that phrase.

| improve this answer | |
  • 1
    I've worked in a formal setting were the spoken language was English ('m not native), and in debates where decisions needed to be made and unanimity was required, people often said "I concur", but they explicitly didn't agree, nor disagree, with a given standpoint. They found their opinion not strong enough to block the legislation. I always thought it meant "Yes, we should move this forward, but I have no strong opinion either way". If I asked them, why not say "I agree", they said "I don't have an informed enough opinion to agree or disagree, but I concur". – Abel Jun 9 at 0:46
  • 2
    I mostly agree with your first paragraph, but I concur with all your subsequent statements. Concurrence is binary; agreement follows a sliding scale. Thank you for the etymo-logical way to distinguish the two words. – ElderDelp Jun 9 at 0:47
  • Not a native English speaker either, but I connotate “concur” sometimes (not always) with “I used to disagree, but now stand completely behind your point and agree fully with it”; is this correct? – mirabilos Jun 10 at 19:01
6

According to the dictionary, the primary meaning of "concur" is to "express agreement" or to "approve."

Thus, if you want be super fussy, "concur" may not be a perfect synonym for "agree" because one can "agree tacitly." Of course, if you express agreement as you did, you are concurring by definition. So, yes, the two alternatives would have had identical meanings in the situation described. BUT,

and now I am moving into opinion, my experience with usage is that "concur" seems to have connotations of formal and public agreement on an important matter.

I'm tired. Pizza for dinner?

I agree.

To my ear, substitute "concur" for "agree" in that exchange, and it sounds off.

To support what is a personal impression, here is a link to Ngram

https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=agree%2Cconcur&year_start=1800&year_end=2008&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cagree%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cconcur%3B%2Cc0

Clearly, published writers find "agree" appropriate to almost 10 times the number of contexts than those where they find "concur" appropriate. I'd prefer the actual practice of writers who found publishers over the advice of any software app.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    But why would anyone answer or reply "I agree" to questions like "Should we order pizza for dinner?" or "Can we have pizza for dinner?". The most simple answer would be "Sure" or "sounds good" and not "I agree". Also, "I agree" seems like a more appropriate response to a statement and not a question (unless someone asks "Do you agree?"). What am I missing here? – AIQ Jun 8 at 3:36
  • I seem to be missing something in your question. "Pizza for dinner?" is asking for agreement or a counter-suggestion like "Maybe Chinese?" I am not persuaded by the premise of your question. "I agree. My day was a real killer too" sounds natural to me. And while a simple "OK" may indeed be more far more likely than "I agree," I was not answering a question about the relative frequency of "OK" and "I agree." Is your question implicitly suggesting that "I concur" is equally or more likely than "I agree"? – Jeff Morrow Jun 8 at 4:01
  • 1
    No, I am not talking about "concur". I am just pointing out that the response - "I agree." - to the question "Pizza for dinner?" (and not any counter suggestion as you don't talk about that in your answer) sounds a bit strange. I am simply asking for some clarification. I have written out that question fully in my first comment, and the answer is usually "sure/yes/not really" or something of that type. If I asked you "[Do you want] pizza for dinner?" would you say "I agree"? If I asked "[Can we order] pizza for dinner?" would you say "I agree"? – AIQ Jun 8 at 4:54
  • 2
    Using "I agree" as the answer to a yes/no question sounds wrong to me. "I agree" would be used as the response to a statement, not a question. If someone says "We should have pizza for dinner", then "I agree" is a correct response. However, it's still perhaps a bit stilted and/or pompous, but could be used for humorous effect, e.g. someone replaying one of those famous scenes from Life of Brian. – Prime Mover Jun 8 at 7:48
  • @AIQ This is really not worth arguing about. I think you are ignoring the emotional content of language. "I'm tired. Pizza for dinner?" is frequently not just a yes/no question, but may also be asking for an expression of emotional support. The emotional effect of "I agree" is different from "sure," which may seem dismissive or at least emotionally insensitive under certain circumstances. But I grant that "sure" and "ok" would be more frequent responses. My original answer, however, was focused on the difference in tone between "concur" and "agree." I apologize if my first response was snippy. – Jeff Morrow Jun 8 at 13:50
0

You can agree to do something, but you can't concur to do something, so they're not absolute synonyms, thesauruses notwithstanding.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    Context matters. There are words that are synonymous in some contexts and not in others because some words have multiple meanings. One meaning of agree is "to concur", i.e. They agreed/concurred that color was awful. Another meaning is to consent to a course of action. They agreed to meet after school. Concur doesn't work there, because "concur" doesn't have a similar meaning in that context. – ColleenV Jun 8 at 20:56
0

As the other answers say, they are mostly synonyms, but there is one important difference. "Agree" can be transitive ("the two people agreed the contract") but "concur" cannot be used in that way (i.e. you cannot say "the two people concurred the contract").

| improve this answer | |
0

A few people have pointed out cases where "concur" and "agree" aren't actually synonyms (at least in the opinion of the author). I'm going to add another case with which I believe others are likely to concur/agree. :-)

This would be related to something like a meal. You might indicate that some food made you feel slightly sick by saying something like: "my lunch didn't agree with me". I can't think of any way to use "concur" to mean the same thing as "agree" in this case.

| improve this answer | |
  • Multiple words are used in metaphors and have more than one meaning, multiple words are not meant to be taken literally; "agree" in your example is just one of them. – Mari-Lou A Jun 11 at 8:11
-1

"concur" and "agree" are not synonyms. Generally if two people concur, that means that there is a third person that they agree with, while if two people agree, it means that they agree with each other and there is nobody else.

"The team agreed a solution" is correct, but "the team concurred a solution" is wrong. Changing it to "concurred with" makes it correct, but meaning something different (but the same as "agreed with").

This is most easily seen in court judgements where the terms are formalised. When multiple judges are involved in a case, one judge (or more) provides the decision. If any judge agrees with the the decision but wants to add something (e.g. their reasoning is different) they provide a concurring judgement.

| improve this answer | |
  • 2
    I disagree that concurrence implies more than two people, I don't see any reason why two people can't concur with one another. I also disagree that "The team agreed a solution" is a grammatical sentence, it would have to be agreed upon or agreed to. – Nuclear Wang Jun 8 at 16:07
  • Agree and concur are absolutely synonyms, as any thesaurus would tell you. – eps Jun 8 at 17:42
  • @eps That needs qualifying. One of the definitions of agree is a synonym with concur. You can agree with or concur with an opinion. On the other hand, you can agree to repair my car, but you cannot concur to do something. – JBentley Jun 8 at 20:33
  • @NuclearWang Or " arrived at". – Russell McMahon Jun 9 at 10:51
  • 1
    @NuclearWang if you think "agreed a solution" is not grammatical, I suggest you try searching for the phrase on bbc.co.uk where you will find very many examples. – ch. Jun 9 at 15:36

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.