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How to express disagreement

In a previous lesson, we learned some useful phrases through which we can express agreement. In this lesson, we'll change focus and instead learn how to express disagreement. Expressing disagreement can be an important skill to master, especially when someone is asking about your opinion directly or indirectly. There are several ways of expressing disagreement in Swedish. Let's look closer how disagreement is expressed in this lesson's dialogue.

Examples from this dialogue:

  1. Nej, det tycker jag inte. "No, I don't think so."
  2. Nej, jag håller inte med."No, I disagree with that."

The verbs used in these sentences are the present tense of the verbs att tycka and att hålla, which are tycker and håller. Both of these verbs can sometimes be difficult to use correctly for non-native speakers. Att tycka is often translated into English as "to think," but the way we can use it in Swedish is more limited than in English. In Swedish, we use att tycka ("to think") when we're expressing an opinion about something, but we don't use it when talking about thinking as the activity of using our brain or when we're making guesses, such as, "I think she went home." The verb håller can also be challenging because it has various meanings and uses in Swedish. In this lesson, we're using the verb att hålla together with the preposition med, in which case, it corresponds with the English "to agree."

Another important thing that needs to be examined a bit further in the two presented sentences is the word inte. Inte is an adverb that corresponds to the English "not." Inte is used in Swedish to change affirmative statements into negative statements, simply by placing inte after the first verb of the sentence. Let's illustrate this by looking at two affirmative sentences and how they change when we turn them into negative statements with the help of the adverb inte.

For example:

  1. Det regnar. "It's raining."
  2. Det regnar inte. "It's not raining."
  3. Det är roligt."It's fun."
  4. Det är inte roligt."It's not fun."

Now that we've gained a better understanding of the grammar of the sentences, Nej, det tycker jag inte ("No, I don't think so.") and, Nej, jag håller inte med ("No, I disagree."), we'll move on to learn when and how we can use these. There are, of course, several situations in which you might want to express disagreement, but we'll start with situations in which you want to express your disagreement in a clear manner. Being very straightforward that you don't share someone's opinion might be suitable in situations in which someone has directly asked you about your opinion and there's no room for misinterpretation. In this lesson's dialogue, for example, Hans was asking Kerstin's opinion directly by saying things like, Fint va? ("Nice, right?") or, Eller hur? ("Right?"). These are all questions that require you to give an affirmative or negative answer, and we'll, therefore, start by saying nej ("no") followed by either, det tycker jag inte ("I don't think so.") or, jag håller inte med ("I disagree.").

For example:

  1. Nej, det tycker jag inte."No, I don't think so."
  2. Nej, jag håller inte med. "No, I disagree."

You might also find yourself in a situation where someone has asked you about your opinion and you're finding it a bit challenging to express that you disagree. This could, for example, be a situation in which you're worried about hurting someone's feelings or you're afraid that you'll come across as harsh. In these cases, we should, instead of using nej ("no"), use the more vague nja ("well"), and we also insert the word riktigt ("really") into the sentence.

For example:

  1. Nja, det tycker jag inte riktigt. "Well, I don't really think so."
  2. Nja, jag håller inte riktigt med. "Well, I don't really agree." 

Take some time to dive into these other pages after completing this lesson: Future Tense, Learn Swedish Sentense Structure. Subject, Verb and object., Conditional Mood & Personal pronouns.

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