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Confusing words: accept vs agree

The confusion probably arises more for French speakers, as the translation of ‘agree’ is accepter, while ‘accept’ is also accepter. ( linguee.com )

The explanations below are from the Oxford Learners Dictionary

Agree (opposite: disagree)

  •  [intransitive, transitive] to have the same opinion as somebody; to say that you have the same opinion
  • When he said that, I had to agree.
  • agree with somebody  I totally agree with you!
  • ‘It’s terrible.’ ‘I couldn’t agree more!’ (= I completely agree)

Accept an offer/invitation (opposite: refuse)

 [intransitive, transitive] to take willingly something that is offered; to say ‘yes’ to an offer, invitation, etc.

  1. He asked me to marry him and I accepted.
  2. I am unfortunately unable to accept your kind invitation.

Agree (opposite: reject)

 [transitive] to agree to or approve of something

  1.  accept something They accepted the court’s decision.
  2. The judge refused to accept his evidence.

Test yourself

Sometimes both are possible but the meaning changes.

  1. Please agree with / accept our sincere apologies.
  2. It was pouring with rain so I agreed to / accepted his offer of a lift.
  3. We agreed (that) / accepted the proposal was a good one.
  4. I agree with / accept that analysis of the situation.
  5. Historians have not always agreed about / accepted the exact date.
  6. She’s decided not to agree to / accept the job.
  7. We don’t always agree about / accept everything.
  8. He agreed to / accepted all the changes we proposed.
  9. I don’t agree / accept, for reasons I will explain later.
  10. Are you willing to agree to / accept the challenge?

Answer key

  1. Please accept our sincere apologies.
  2. It was pouring with rain so I accepted his offer of a lift.
  3. We agreed (that) the proposal was a good one.
  4. I agree with that analysis of the situation. (‘I accept that analysis’ indicates you don’t necessarily agree but perhaps have no choice).
  5. Historians have not always agreed about the exact date.
  6. She’s decided not to accept the job.
  7. We don’t always agree about everything.
  8. He agreed to / accepted all the changes we proposed. (both are possible)
  9. I don’t agree, for reasons I will explain later.
  10. Are you willing to accept the challenge? (agree to is also possible)

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Carol Waites (PhD)
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