‘Agree’ vs ‘agree on’

Posted on 31 July 2015 by Emily Stella

 

Using ‘agree’ in a sentence

I was proofreading an email recently and the last sentence read:

My quote includes meetings with you to agree on report content.

I would naturally leave out the on after agree, so the sentence would read:

My quote includes meetings with you to agree report content.

This got me thinking about when you can write agree on its own. There are various ways you include agree in a sentence. You agree on, to or about something. And when I considered all these instances, it seems that the only time you might leave out the prepositional complement (ie on, about, to, upon, with) is when you agree on something.

So for example, instead of writing:

Agree on your objectives at the start of a project.

You write:

Agree your objectives at the start of a project.

For all other instances of using agree in a sentence (about, to, upon, with), the sentence doesn’t make sense without the prepositional complement.

You write:

I agree with Tom on his hire choice.

Not:

I agree Tom on his hire choice.

 

What the experts say

After a little research on the topic, this is what I found.

The Economist style guide says:

Agree: things are agreed on, to or about, not just agreed.

So, according to The Economist, we should never write agree on its own in a sentence.

The Oxford Dictionaries online agree with The Economist. Every definition of agree is accompanied by with, to, on or about.

And finally I turned to trusted Fowler’s who says the commonest uses of the word are with a prepositional complement (ie to agree on, about, to, upon, with).
 

The verdict

Regardless of what the authorities say, it’s clear to me that when we agree on something we often use agree on its own. And as this is widely understood and accepted, I don’t see any reason why this shouldn’t be OK in business writing.

Perhaps you can join in the discussion and share your views.