These difference are "formal" or "informal"?

Actually, by E-mail, I often use "discuss" in case of private and work. I've never used "debate" and "argue".

  • 2
    Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/47064/… It would be a complete dupe if it also discussed discuss. But perhaps a dictionary will help with discuss and the link will help with the other two.
    – Jim
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 5:39

4 Answers 4



to talk about (something) with a person or people


a formal discussion on a particular matter


an argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved

For example,

There has been a heated national debate on abortion.


give reasons or cite evidence in support of an idea, action, or theory, typically with the aim of persuading others to share one's view


exchange or express diverging or opposite views, typically in a heated or angry way

A debate is usually more formal, intellectual and all-rounded, a discussion is more informal, and an argument tends to be more emotionally driven and personal. All three are different in terms of meaning and the context in which they are used.

  • Hi Ronald-san, Thanks for kind explanation! I wonder if "Argue" is a word involving emotional nuance.
    – D.Naota
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 7:44

A debate or argument would imply that the opinions expressed are polarised; whereas a discussion could take place where all parties have elected to adopt the same or similar point of view.


A discussion does not imply that people have taken "sides" in the discussion - more that it is one or more people talking about and investigating a topic. A discussion can be casual, fun, brief, light-hearted...

A debate implies that there are sides taken, but that either there are no strong personal feelings involved or at least a sense of decorum is observed where the points of the topic are debated, but there is not strong emotion and personal attacks. It's less casual, longer, and serious.

An argument implies that there are strongly held sides and that there is strong emotional content to the discourse as well as personal rancor. It's usually protracted, vehement, and not fun for anyone involved.


Out of 3, discuss is the most popular word as it means just to talk about. You discuss family issues, friend issues, school issues with anyone you'd like. It doesn't necessarily involve a situation where someone you are discussing something with has a different opinion.

Debate and Argue are different in a way that people you are debating or arguing (about) some issues with have different opinions.

Debate is widely used in a political scene where candidates have debates or participate in debates before an election is held.

Argue is much stronger than debate, as it involves situations where people in an argument can be emotionally upset because of opinions of others. When you fight with someone using angry words, you use "argue".

It is quite rare to have an opportunity to use words like "debate" and "argue" unless you are a politician or involved in verbal fights with someone else.

I guess I used "argue" more often than "debate", for example: I heard them arguing about something.

Hope it helps.

  • Hi Rathony-san, Thanks for detailed explanation! Especially, I could understand why "discuss" was used widely.
    – D.Naota
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 7:37
  • @Naota Of course, That's why it is much stronger than the other 2 verbs.
    – user140086
    Commented Sep 27, 2015 at 7:58

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.