I'm looking for a way to say something along the lines of "I understand where you're coming from", but without any implication of agreement. "I understand", "I get it" or similar things seem to imply a low level kind of agreement for me - or am I getting that wrong?

I have thought of something like "I have comprehended what you said" but that sounds odd to me.

  • It's gonna depend on context, tone, nonverbal communication to know the exact meaning when someone says I understand, hear, get, etc. I recognize what you're saying is pretty noncommital. I acknowledge what you say usally means I admit the truth of what you are saying, but it can also mean I acknowledge the truth that you said what you just said.
    – user6951
    Jan 8 '15 at 1:06

"I understand where you're coming from" may or may not imply that you agree. It's perfectly common to say something like, "While I understand where you're coming from, it's still not going to work because..."

If you want make it more clear that you don't agree, you could say "I hear what you're saying [but...]" Similarly, the British set phrase "I hear what you say," is used to express explicit disagreement. (American speakers do not have a similarly explicit phrase, which can cause cross-cultural misunderstandings.)

The use of "hear" instead of "understand" expresses only, "I have received the idea you're trying to communicate." Consider this entry from Macmillan dictionary:

  • I hear you
    1. I hear you or I hear what you're saying: used for telling someone that you understand their opinion, especially when you disagree with it
    2. used for agreeing with what someone says

This entry lists "I hear you" as potentially ambiguous (depending on context), but "I hear what you're saying" as mostly disagreeing.

It's a bit confusing, since these kinds of phrases are used to avoid discussing whether you agree or disagree. As an American speaker, I find the verb "understand" to be more sympathetic (and therefore more like to express agreement) than the more mechanical verb "hear."

  • 4
    I'm a native AmE speaker, and I wouldn't understand "I hear what you say" as explicit disagreement unless I could deduce it from the tone of voice or context.
    – ColleenV
    Jan 7 '15 at 21:36
  • @ColleenV That's fair; I've edited that sentence and linked to a list of oft-misunderstood British euphemisms.
    – apsillers
    Jan 7 '15 at 21:41

"I can understand [or appreciate] how you might feel that way." The ability to see the world from another's point of view or otherwise apprehend how another, given his or her situation and experience, might take a particular position does not imply endorsement or agreement. It indicates only that your implicit disagreement does not impugn the other's rationality, intelligence, or motives.

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