Improve your Speaking 4: Countering

Countering directly (through antithesis)

But fox-hunting is part of country life. It’s one of our traditions.

But public transport is expensive and inconvenient.

But English has borrowed from the Romans, the Vikings, the Saxons and the French

But freight trains can’t deliver goods from door to door

But who can say that we will develop into civilized beings? Surely, God has the right to cut his losses!

But why play the gold medalists’ national anthems and why wear stars and stripes on your swimming costumes?

But if you worked on a farm and your chickens were killed by foxes, you’d think differently.

But if you detect more crimes, you’ll still need prisons.

But if you followed that line to its logical conclusion, you’d pardon all criminals.

But surely, you can see what you’re getting in the holiday brochure.

But surely, if you raise benefits too high, people wouldn’t bother to work.

But surely, the canal system is much too slow for industry today

Countering politely (through agreement followed by antithesis)

Well yes, but if you visit it in June, it’s extremely beautiful.

Yes, but a serious astrologer would want to know a person’s exact date of birth, not just their star sign.

Yes, but remember that prisons are often schools for criminals.

Yes, but we measure our superiority in different ways. Ours is cultural and historical. We believe we’re more civilized.

Yes, but it isn’t that women don’t want to work. For a start, they suffer more discrimination in the work-place.

Yes, but other things happen in the world which aren’t violent.

Countering politely (through partial agreement followed by antithesis)

That may be so, but traditional costumes were made to be worn more than once.

That may be true, but then you’re inviting political conflict. Who is going to decide whether North American culture is superior to Chinese culture?

That may be so, but for most people the whole point of marriage is to live together and raise a family.

That might have been the case once, but you forget that mega-stars like Pelé and Ali were the products. They could pull crowds and make vast sums of money.

Well, maybe they do, but they’ve got to learn to live together. I’m against all forms of segregation.

You may be right about sport and politics, but it can work both ways.

Countering using "well" both to cast doubt and for antithesis

A. Think of all the money that’s spent in the souvenir shops of these galleries and museums.
B. Well you might as well argue that the government should subsidize all shops.

A. But under the patients’ charter, hospitals are meant to treat you within a certain time.
B. Well, you know how they get round that one. They make you wait for months before they put you on the waiting list.

A. Nobody has to suffer. Everybody is free to choose between right and wrong.
B. Well, that depends on whether we really have free will.

Countering using "after all" "at least" "even so" both for concession and antithesis

Why shouldn’t they? If they’re any good, then surely they’ll survive. After all, these songs have been handed down for generations.

What if the employers decide to introduce new working practices? After all, things can’t remain the same for ever.

The films we see on TV don’t go that far. At least there’s some censorship.

But at least it’s culture free. With Esperanto as the world language, no country would be accused of exporting both its language and its culture.

Well, even so, why should the exact positions of the Sun, Moon and other planets on your date of birth have any connection whatsoever with your personality and the future course of your life?

Even so, not all Third World countries are food producers. The hamburger farms of those that are, make very wasteful use of the land and the profits go mainly to foreign investors

Countering using the Negative Yes/No Question

A. Then some people will be out of a job - they could be either women or men.
B. Aren’t they more often women?

A. The elderly are often confused by modern telephones and automatic switchboards.
B. I wonder whether that’s the case. Isn’t it rather that they enjoy getting out and about instead of sitting next to a telephone? Don’t you think they’re right to be suspicious of technology which is turning us all into screen-gazers and zombies?

A. Well, it may not be owned, but it is controlled by a Board of Governors appointed by the Prime Minister.
B. Don’t you think there’s a danger of self-censorship?

A. Drivers who want more than their rations would have to pay a much higher rate for the extra. The profit could be used to develop environmentally clean vehicles and fast efficient railway networks.
B. Don’t you think you’re being unfair to the private motorist and what about the car industry?

A. Clearly, a coeducational environment promotes understanding between boys and girls. It’s far more natural.
B. Don’t you think they distract one another when they become teenagers?

A. The Liberal Democrats want more or less the same as New Labour, though they are more eager to change the voting system.
B. Don’t you think the vision of the three major parties is more or less the same?

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