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What is the difference between the following?

  1. I don't agree with him totally.
  2. I don't totally agree with him.
  3. I totally don't agree with him.

I'm puzzled at the meaning of negative sentences which contain the word "totally" or other similar word. And I want to ask one more question. In addition to the expression of "not at all", is there any other way to express this meaning?

  • As an aside, it is "difference between". Always. There is no such thing as "difference among". That immediately marks you as a non-native speaker. – RegDwigнt Feb 25 '15 at 15:58
  • Adverbs can niche in a number of different places. – John Lawler Feb 25 '15 at 16:33
  • Isn't "between" used only if there are two aspects mentioned? – Wray Zheng Feb 25 '15 at 17:12
  • ... Certainly not. That's the 'simple rule' teachers trot out (and sadly perhaps believe to exist). Have a look here on ELU to see the actual usages of 'between' and 'among/st'. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 25 '15 at 19:00
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"I don't agree with him totally," and "I don't totally agree with him," mean the same thing: "my agreement with him is not total." The speaker agrees, but has doubts.

In this case, "I agree with him totally" is the sentiment negated by "don't".

"I totally don't agree with him" means "my disagreement with him is total." It is a declaration of complete disagreement. You might also say, "I don't agree with him at all."

In this case, "I don't agree with him" is the sentiment emphasised by "totally".

  • 1
    @Mike: This is very much an English Language Learners level question, so hopefully there shouldn't be any/many learners reading the above two comments. But it seems to me that repeating the erroneous use of does instead of is would probably leave OP less competent in English than before he asked the question! :) – FumbleFingers Feb 25 '15 at 16:12
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    @Allen: The third sentence is grammatically correct, but might be a little informal. It might be better to say, "I don't agree with him at all," or "I completely disagree with him." – mike32 Feb 25 '15 at 16:15

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