Conceding and Refuting in English

concede.jpg
Conceding and Refuting. Used under Creative Commons license by Mendeley.com

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.

Often, speakers of English will concede a point, only to refute a larger issue: 

It's true that working can be tedious. However, without a job, you won't be able to pay the bills.
While you might say that the weather has been really bad this winter, it's important to remember that we needed lots of snow in the mountains.
I agree with you that we need to improve our sales figures. On the other hand, I don't feel we should change our overall strategy at this time. 

It's common to concede and refute at work when discussing strategy or brainstorming. Conceding and refuting are also very common in all types of debates including political and social issues.

When trying to make your point, it's a good idea to first frame the argument. Next, concede a point if applicable. Finally, refute a larger issue. 

Framing the Issue

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. Here are some formulas to help you frame the issue:

Person or institution to be refuted + feel / think / believe / insist / that + opinion to be refuted

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:

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. You can begin with an independent clause using subordinators that show opposition:

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

While it’s evident that our competition has outspent us on, ...
While it’s sensible to measure students’ aptitudes, ...

Although / Even though / Though  it's true that + opinion, 

Although it's true that our strategy hasn't worked to date, ...
Even though it’s true that the country is currently struggling economically, ...

An alternate form is to first concede by stating that you agree or can see the advantage of something in a single sentence. Use concession verbs such as:

I concede that / I agree that / I admit that 

Refuting the Point

Now it’s time to make your point. If you've used a subordinator (while, although, etc.), use your best argument to finish the sentence:

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 rote learning. 

If you've made a concession in a single sentence, use a linking word or phrase such as however, nevertheless, on the contrary, or above all to state your refutation:

However, we currently do not have that capability.
Nevertheless, we've succeeded in attracting more customers to our stores.
Above all, the people's will needs to be respected.

Making Your Point

Once you’ve refuted a point, continue to provide evidence to further back up your point of view. 

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 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. 

Some people insist that profit is the only viable motivation for a corporation. I concede that a company must profit to stay in business. However, the larger issue is that employee satisfaction leads improved interactions with clients. It is clear that employees who feel they are compensated fairly will consistently give their best. 

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.