Conceding and Refuting in English

Conceding and Refuting. Used under Creative Commons license by

Conceding and refuting are important language functions in English. Here are a few short definitions:

Concede: Admit that another person is right about something

Refute: Prove that someone else is wrong about something.

It's common to first concede a point, and then refute a larger issue. Here's a simple example:

It's true that working can be tedious. However, without a job, you won't be able to pay the bills.

Conceding and refuting are very common in all types of debates. These might be political in nature, or at business when deciding on strategies. 

Introducing the Overall Belief

Begin by introducing a general belief that you would like to refute. You can use general statements, or speak about specific people that you would like to refute.

Some people / Tom / The faculty / etc. +  feel / think / believe / insist / that + (opinion)

Some people feel that there is not enough charity in the world.
Peter insists that we haven’t invested enough in research and development.
The board of directors believe that students should take more standardized tests.

Making the Concession:

Everyone will be right about at least one part of a general argument. Use the concession to show that you have understood the gist of your opponent’s argument. Using this form, you will show that while a specific point is true, the overall understanding is incorrect.

While it’s true / sensible / evident / likely that + specific benefit of argument,

While it’s true that there will always be need,
While it’s evident that our competition has outspent us on,
While it’s sensible to measure students’ aptitudes,

Refuting the Point

Now it’s time to make your point. Use your best argument to refute the larger issue.

it’s also true / sensible / evident that + refutation
it’s more important / essential / vital that + refutation
the bigger issue / point is that + refutation
we must remember / take into consideration / conclude that + refutation

… it’s also evident that financial resources will always be limited.
… the bigger point is that we do not have the resources to spend.
… we must remember that standardized testing such as the TOEFL leads to standardized minds. 

Making Your Point

Once you’ve refuted a point, continue to provide evidence further backing up your claim. 

It is clear / essential / of utmost importance that + (opinion)
I feel / believe / think that + (opinion)

I believe that charity can lead to dependence.
I think that we need to focus more on our successful products rather than develop new, untested merchandise.
It is clear that students are not expanding their minds through rote learning for tests. 

Complete Refutations

Let’s take a look a few concessions and refutations in their completed form:

Students feel that homework is an unnecessary strain on their very limited time. While it's true that some teachers assign too much homework, we must remember the wisdom in the saying "practice makes perfect".

It is essential that information we learn is repeated to fully become useful knowledge. Homework serves the purpose of making sure learned information becomes acquired information.

Some people insist that profit is the only viable motivation for a corporation. While it's true that a company must profit to stay in business, the larger issue is that employee satisfaction leads to the longevity of a company. It is clear that employees who feel they are compensated fairly will consistently give their best. Employees who feel they are not valued, on the other hand, may not feel the same sort of dedication. This will eventually lead to the demise of the corporation.

More English Functions

Conceding and refuting are known as language functions. In other words, language which is used to achieve a specific purpose.

You can learn more about a wide variety of language functions and how to use them in everyday English.