This answer appears wrong, because two reputable English contract law textbooks and many English judges write "agree + direct object". Anson's Law of Contract 2020 31 edn. p 65. The authors are Sir Jack Beatson, Lord Justice of Appeal from Jan 2013 to Feb 2018, previously Rouse Ball Professor of English Law at the University of Cambridge • John Cartwright, Emeritus Professor of the Law of Contract at Oxford University • Andrew Burrows QC, UK Supreme Court Justice, Professor of the Law of England at Oxford.

But I'm not British. Every time I see "agree + direct object", I wince. How can I make my mind accept "agree + direct object" and make "agree + direct object" feel natural?

By section 8 of the Sale of Goods Act 1979:204

(1) The price in a contract of sale may be fixed by the contract, or may be left to be fixed in a manner agreed by the contract, or may be determined by the course of dealing between the parties.

(2) Where the price is not determined as mentioned in subsection (1) above the buyer must pay a reasonable price. In such cases, the Court will allow an action to recover a reasonable sum for what the goods or services are worth.205
      It has been held that section 8(2) provides for silence as to the price, and will not apply where an agreement states that the parties will subsequently agree the price to be paid.206

p. 66

A contract will not fail for uncertainty even though a material term is to be agreed in future if the contract itself provides machinery for ascertaining it. So, for example, if the contract provides that the parties are to agree a price or quantities for delivery, but also contains an arbitration clause which covers a failure to agree the price or the quantities, the Courts will imply that, in default of agreement, a reasonable price is to be paid, such price to be determined by arbitration.213


Nevertheless, it is accepted that equity identified broadly two forms of unacceptable conduct, which Lord Nicholls described as follows:93

The first comprises overt acts of improper pressure or coercion such as unlawful threats . . . The second form arises out of a relationship between two persons where one has acquired over another a measure of influence, or ascendancy, of which the ascendant person then takes unfair advantage . . . In cases of this latter nature the influence one person has over another provides scope for misuse without any specific overt acts of persuasion. The relationship between two individuals may be such that, without more, one of them is disposed to agree a course of action proposed by the other. Typically, this occurs when one person places trust in another to look after his affairs and interests, and the latter betrays this trust by preferring his own interests. He abuses the influence he has acquired.

Contract Law 2020 9 edn. p 121. Ewan McKendrick is Professor of English Private Law at the University of Oxford.

The vendors, on the other hand, relied on the fact that the parties had acted on the basis of this agreement for three years and the fact that the agreement contained an arbitration clause which covered a failure to agree the price at which the petrol was to be sold.

p 123, quoting Lord Buckmaster in May and Butcher Ltd v. The King [1934] 2 KB 17n, House of Lords.

      What resulted was this: it was impossible to agree the prices, and unless the appellants are in a position to establish either that this failure to agree resulted out of a definite agreement to buy at a reasonable price, or that the price had become subject to arbitration, it is plain on the first two points which have been mentioned that this appeal must fail.

p 370, quoting Lord Hodge in Wood v. Capita Insurance Services Ltd [2017] UKSC 24.

  1. Lord Clarke elegantly summarised the approach to construction in Rainy Sky at para 21f. In Arnold all of the judgments confirmed the approach in Rainy Sky (Lord Neuberger paras 13–14; Lord Hodge para 76; and Lord Carnwath para 108). Interpretation is, as Lord Clarke stated in Rainy Sky (para 21), a unitary exercise; where there are rival meanings, the court can give weight to the implications of rival constructions by reaching a view as to which construction is more consistent with business common sense. But, in striking a balance between the indications given by the language and the implications of the competing constructions the court must consider the quality of drafting of the clause (Rainy Sky para 26, citing Mance LJ in Gan Insurance Co Ltd v. Tai Ping Insurance Co Ltd (No 2) [2001] 2 All ER (Comm) 299 paras 13 and 16); and it must also be alive to the possibility that one side may have agreed to something which with hindsight did not serve his interest: Arnold (paras 20 and 77). Similarly, the court must not lose sight of the possibility that a provision may be a negotiated compromise or that the negotiators were not able to agree more precise terms.

p 605, quoting Leggatt LJ in First Tower Trustees Ltd v. CDS (Superstores International) Ltd [2018] EWCA Civ 1396.

  1. Counsel for the landlord] submitted that, in determining whether clause 5.8 of the lease falls within section 3, it is relevant that the clause was contained in a contract made between sophisticated commercial parties who should be taken to have understood the effect of what they were agreeing and allowed to agree what they choose. . . .
  • 1
    Seems answered by english.stackexchange.com/a/43574/90548 I've no idea why this formal style makes you "wince". It's just words. You seem to know that the grammatical construction exists, you understand it and know the dialect and register. There's not much left to explain. We can only tell you what you already know. We can't make you like it!
    – James K
    Feb 22, 2021 at 7:28
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    It is not idiomatic American usage. “Agree to” or “agree on” would be used in American contracts (and I have read hundreds of them). But British and American English are different dialects, and legal jargon is its own thing. Jun 3, 2021 at 3:17
  • Merriam-Webster 2. chiefly British : to settle on by common consent : ARRANGE … I agreed rental terms with him
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jun 3, 2021 at 5:35
  • 'How can I make my mind accept "agree + direct object" and make "agree + direct object" feel natural?' — some exposure therapy: become a solicitor of contract law in the UK? :) Jun 4, 2021 at 7:12

1 Answer 1


Q. How can I make my mind accept "agree + direct object" and make "agree + direct object" feel natural?

A direct object receives the action of the verb. In other words, it is directly affected by it.

The verb is agree so we must have the same opinion, or accept a suggestion or idea relating to the direct object.

agree the price reach a position where all parties have the same opinion, or have accepted a suggestion or idea relating to the price.

It think possibly your problem is that you think "agree + direct object" means that you must agree, however it does not mean this.

This can be see in an exert from P66

but also contains an arbitration clause which covers a failure to agree the price or the quantities,

This is an instrument that allows for disagreement.

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