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Difference Between Argument and Persuasion

Argument vs Persuasion

Argument and persuasion are two different concepts in English. Below you can read the definitions and see examples of how to use each word in sentences and essays.

“Argument,” pronounced /ˈɑːrɡjumənt/, has two main definitions, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary:

[countable or uncountable noun] “A conversation or discussion in which two or more people disagree, often angrily.”
[countable noun] “A reason or set of reasons that somebody uses to show that something is true or correct” (http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/argument).

The first instance of argument, a discussion between people who disagree, can be used in the sense of “to have an argument [with somebody],” “to have an argument [about something],” and “to win/lose an argument.” For example, say you and a friend disagree about the best city in the world; you can say, “Tom and I had an argument about the best city in the world.” You had different opinions about which city is the best, so it led to a strong debate. You could say the same thing this way: “I had an argument with Tom about the best city in the world.”

The second definition of argument, a reason that a person uses to show he/she is correct, can be used in these collocations: “argument for/against something” and “argument [is/was] that.” For example, “Tom’s argument was that Paris is the best city because…” Or, “Tom’s argument for Paris was that it has great food.”

In comparing it to argument, “persuasion,” pronounced /pərˈsweɪʒn/, is defined by the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary as:

[uncountable noun] “The act of persuading somebody to do something or to believe something” (http://oald8.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/dictionary/persuasion).

Persuasion can be used with “[to be] open to persuasion,” “[to have] [great] powers of persuasion,” and “[to take] much persuasion.” For example, “I am not open to persuasion by Tom that Paris is the best city.” Or, if you are convinced by Tom, you could say “Tom has great powers of persuasion; now I also think that Paris is the best city.” Another way you could phrase the second sentence is: “It did not take much persuasion to get me to believe that Paris is the best.”

Now that we understand what argument and persuasion mean, how are they different? An argument explains what someone believes, while persuasion attempts to change someone else’s opinion. Many magazine articles are arguments because they choose one point of view and back it up with examples. In contrast, debates and advertisements are forms of persuasion because they want to change the views of the person they are directed at (http://www.noodletools.com/debbie/literacies/basic/argument1.html). Arguments usually look at both sides of an issue and then form a final opinion based on the evidence. Persuasion is more one-sided because you want others to believe that your idea is the best.

In learning English, you may have oral arguments or persuasive debates in the classroom. You may also have to write an argument essay or a persuasive essay. Here are some key differences between argumentative essays and persuasive essays:
Argumentative essays use factual evidence to make claims, while persuasive essays base claims on personal opinion.
Argument writing can discuss opposing views in addition to the main argument; persuasive writing does not necessarily do this.
Argumentative writing uses logic, reason, and comparison to prove a point; persuasion appeals to the reader’s emotions rather than reason.

As you can see, argument and persuasion are not quite the same thing. An argument happens when two or more people disagree and need to prove their individual points. Use persuasion to get someone else to believe what you believe. With a little practice in speaking and writing, you will understand the differences between argument and persuasion with no problems.

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  1. The link posted from http://www.berkeley.k12.sc.us/webpages/alishaanderson/index.cfm?subpage=98668)
    has moved so it is not clear what is being referenced. Please update the link, if possible. Thank you.

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