beg to differ/ beg to disagree

Discussion in 'English Only' started by word_up, Jan 28, 2009.

  1. word_up

    word_up Senior Member


    I was wondering what meaning of beg (say, from the meanings proposed in WR English definition dictionary) would be connected with this collocation:

    beg to differ

    If none, then what verb one could use instead of "beg" to have the closest possible meaning? (I am trying to grasp what would be the closest possible translation into my language), is it "I dare to differ"?
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2009
  2. Welshie

    Welshie Senior Member

    England, English
    "I beg to differ" is a fixed expression. It means, "I'm sorry, but I do not agree", and then you follow with your reasons why. I think the first meaning makes the most sense:

    A verb
    1 beg, implore, pray

    It could have arisen from a context where the person who says "I beg to differ" does not have the right to differ - he is perhaps speaking to someone of high rank with whom he is not allowed to disagree. So he implores the other person to allow him to disagree.
  3. spb Senior Member


    I believe it is meaning #1 in the WR dictionary. It means "Would you please allow me to hold a different opinion from you", though stated as a fact rather than a question.
  4. danielxu85 Senior Member

    Mandarin Chinese
    Hi everyone! I wonder if I could use "beg to differ" in the following context, as I am not sure if it can be used together with "with." If the phrase has to be a stand-alone sentence, what else would you suggest to replace it in this context? I wanted to use "disagree," but that sounds too abrasive when speaking with a person more senior than you.

    I beg to differ with your usage of "the public domain," as I believe only works that are not protected by intellectual property rights at all are considered "in the public domain."
  5. Matching Mole

    Matching Mole Senior Member

    England, English
    Not really. In this usage of differ it is the person holding the view who is being differed with. "I beg to differ" stands for I beg to differ with you. You might say something like "I beg to differ regarding your usage of 'the public domain'", however, "I beg to differ" is a fossilized phrase and usually stands on its own.
  6. JeffPSU

    JeffPSU Senior Member

    Pennsylvania, USA
    USA - English
    As an American, I'm not sure I'd agree with Matching Mole that there is a specific object implied. Just as one can say "I disagree with you" or "I disagree with your usage of...", one can beg to differ with an idea as well as a person.
  7. MilkyBarKid Senior Member

    British English
    In this context:

    beg: to ask formally for (permission to do something)

    So there has to be an implied object, namely, the other person whose permission is being sought.

    "I beg (leave of you) to differ (with your opinion)."
  8. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I'm American but would tend to agree with MatchingMole - you are differing with the person. The phrase can also be used on its own. "I think the earth revolves around the sun." "I beg to differ. I think the sun revolves around the earth."
  9. lux_ Senior Member

    "I beg to disagree" is as much as used as "I beg to differ"?

    Personally I think I've heard the former a number of times, but I don't remember any times I've the met the latter.

  10. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'd say "I beg to differ" is a lot more common than "I beg to disagree". I might use the former if I was feeling a bit pompous; I don't think I'd ever use the latter.
  11. hotpocket

    hotpocket Senior Member

    Douarnenez dans le Finistère
    American English / Boston
    I second Loob :)
  12. lux_ Senior Member

    Hmmm, then maybe I only think I've heard it more often just because I personally use it often when I want to be a little ironic through pomposity.

  13. Packard

    Packard Senior Member

    USA, English
    i personally never use (or I can't recall having used) "beg to differ". In its place I would normally say, "I can't say that I would agree..." or "I'm afraid I hold a different opinion on that point...".

    There is no specific reasoning behind this, but perhaps it is against my nature to beg.
  14. George French Senior Member

    English - UK
    I beg to differ. It may be an old fashioned way of speaking. Our old friend Google has more than 2 million hits fot "I beg to differ" .

    I still use it and I know many other English speaker who still use it.


    "I beg to disagree" has less than a quarter of a million hits.

    I and most of my contacts are not young. :D I can't remenber comong accross the disagree version. But then even if it was used I would flip it to differ anyway.
  15. kalamazoo Senior Member

    US, English
    I third Loob.
  16. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Is it possible to use it beyond its scope of a set phrase? Something like:

    I beg to differ between potato and tomato.
  17. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    I can't see the intended meaning behind your example, Ivan, I'm afraid. The sentence doesn't work for me.
  18. Ivan_I Senior Member

    I am sorry, sound shift. I am not sure what meaning you have inferred. Just to avoid misinterpretation I will elaborate it.
    I beg to differ between potato and tomato. (is supposed to mean, in my attempt) I beg to distinguish between potato and tomato.
    Did you have the same meaning in mind?
  19. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Ivan, I didn't infer any meaning. Unfortunately, I find "I beg to distinguish between potato and tomato" to be meaningless too.
  20. Ann O'Rack Senior Member

    UK English
    The phrase "I beg to differ" = "I disagree". So your example translates to "I disagree between potato and tomato." As you can see, that doesn't make any sense at all. So in answer to your question, no it is not possible to use it beyond its scope of a set phrase.
  21. Ivan_I Senior Member

    I beg to differ! :)

    On a serious note. I don't quite understand what hampers you to see a meaning in "I beg to distinguish between potato and tomato".

    I have thought it would be good to come up with a pertinent example

    Let us distinguish between acting intentionally and acting deliberately or on purpose, as far as this can be done by attending to what language can teach us. J.L. (John Langshaw) Austin (1911–1960), British philosopher. Philosophical Papers, "Three Ways of Spilling Ink," p. 273, Oxford University Press, second edition (1970).

    I beg to inform him that he was never more mistaken.

    By and large, it's not clear to me why you find it meaningless.
  22. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I'm sorry, Ivan: you can't always put things together like that and expect them to make sense to native speakers:D
    For example: "Colourless green ideas sleep furiously." is a well known sentence that is perfectly grammatical but makes no sense.

    You have provided an example of "I beg to ..." (meaning I ask permission to) and one of "Let us distinguish between ..." to try to justify the sentence "I beg to distinguish between ..." The only remotely possible way this makes "sense" is to interpret it as follows: Someone in authority has told you that potato and tomato are indistinguishable. You wish to point out their error and say "I beg ..." as a way of asking permission to be allowed to contradict the authority and say they are not the same and that we should distinguish between them. Is that really the meaning you had in mind?
  23. Enquiring Mind

    Enquiring Mind Senior Member

    UK/Česká republika
    English - the Queen's
    Hi Ivan, the verb you need is "differentiate (between [a] potato and [a] tomato". And even then "beg" would sound out of place in almost any context, since these days we don't have to ask anyone else for permission to make a distinction between two things. As the previous posters said, "I beg to differ" is a set phrase.

    Differ is intransitive: it means "to be different", not "to make a difference", and in the three examples given in the dictionary here, a reflexive verb is used in Russian.
  24. Ivan_I Senior Member

    Spot on! Thank you.

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