In this section, we’ll learn how to distinguish between facts and opinions to help us form a personal opinion about a piece of text.
Facts can be proven and usually do not change. Opinions are thoughts, beliefs, and ideas.
If we want to understand how to separate facts in the text from the opinion of the author, we need to understand first what is making statements facts and what is making statements opinions.
Facts are things that we can prove. Consider, for example, the following statement: “Franklin Roosevelt was President of the U.S. from 1933 to 1945.” Now, this is actually a historical fact, so we can prove it to be true.
The statement “Franklin Roosevelt was the most successful American President.” is merely an opinion.
Keep in mind that opinions are not the opposites of facts. Facts are true, or we can prove they’re true, or they are false, and we can disprove them. The simple fact that you don’t know if a statement is false or true doesn’t make the statement an opinion.
Opinions show bias, and we cannot prove them to be true. When a writer would write the 2nd statement about President Roosevelt, the readers would understand that the author is biased in favor of Roosevelt as the president. Other authors or readers may well disagree and feel that some other president had been far more successful. Therefore, this second statement is actually an opinion, not a fact.
Usually, you can identify facts and opinions if you look at the language the author is using. A writer’s feelings may be shown by using subjective language. If, for example, authors use words like think, feel, or believe, they are expressing obvious signs that they are subjective.
Other forms of using subjective language, however, may be harder to discover. For example, the statement about President Roosevelt being the “most successful American president.” Let’s take a closer look at some examples:
The White House construction started in 1792 and completion took eight long years before President Adams could move in.
This sentence starts with a fact: the White House construction started in 1792. It then continues that it took 8 (until 1800) before it was ready for the first occupants. But then the sentence moves into opinion where the author states “took 8 long years”. You see that the word long makes it subjective.
This shows that the author has the opinion that this time span was long, and this is actually an opinion as it cannot be proven. We can only prove the number of years it took for completion as these are recorded historical facts.
The White House’s History is fascinating.
Well, in this example, the entire sentence is a subjective one. Do you notice the word fascinating? This word is showing the author’s opinion. This is something that we cannot prove. In case the author would have given information about who and when lived in the White House, those would have been facts.
Then the readers might have come to their conclusion whether these facts are constituting a fascinating history or not.
Next lesson: Making Inferences and Drawing Conclusions
Last Updated on November 24, 2020.