From Wikipedia:

Argumentative is an evidentiary objection raised in response to a question which prompts a witness to draw inferences from facts of the case.


For example, if a lawyer on direct examination were to ask his witness, "So he was driving negligently?," opposing counsel could raise an argumentative objection. This is because negligence is a legal term of art, and the witness cannot reasonably answer the question. Since the lawyer is "arguing" his case through the witness, the objection would be sustained, and then stricken from the record.

So what is the adjective for questions that do not ask to draw inferences or, I guess additionally, to state opinions? I think not 'objective' otherwise we might say 'subjective' instead of 'argumentative'. Same for 'direct': 'indirect'


The word argumentative can mean a number of things. However, when defined as in the passage quoted from Wikipedia, it is not the opposite of 'conciliatory.' It has nothing to do with whether the witness is cooperating with the lawyer examining them. In this context, an argumentative witness is one who gives evidence about a legal conclusion (that is, the answer to a legal 'argument'). This is not allowed, because witnesses must give evidence of fact and not opinion. Sometimes, the distinction is murky.

The example given is 'was the driver negligent?' The answer could well be seen as 'conciliatory' if it is consistent with the case being advanced by the advocate. It is still an impermissible argumentative question, because it is a question of law for the court to decide, not a question of fact.

Suppose the lawyer wants to prove that a driver was negligent. An eyewitness could give evidence about what he or she saw and heard. A qualified professional could give expert evidence about what can be inferred from the physical evidence or agreed facts (eg. whether anybody was speeding). In the unlikely event that the driver admitted fault but a trial was still necessary, the driver could give evidence that they were drunk or not paying attention.

None of these witnesses can express an opinion as to whether or not the driver was negligent, because that is the argument that the court has to decide by drawing inferences from the witnesses' factual evidence. In this context, the opposite of argumentative could be admissible, factual, direct or non-opinion.

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You list one of a number of possible objections that can be raised to a question posed to a witness during a trial. The opposite of a question that can be disallowed under the rules of trial is presumably a question that is allowed.

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  • Oh sorry last part is wrong. Editing. – BCLC Jul 27 '15 at 5:15
  • Edited. Is the only word for that really 'non-argumentative' ? – BCLC Jul 27 '15 at 5:16
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    As a legal term of art "argumentative" may not have a better antonym. But your broader question is more likely to find a good answer at english.stackexchange.com – feetwet Jul 27 '15 at 11:43
  • 'Factual questions? – Dan Bron' – BCLC Jul 29 '15 at 4:07
  • How about a 'forensic' in a non-scientific sense? – BCLC Jul 29 '15 at 5:47

This is a question of semantics. There is no single correct answer as the question implies.

You can come up with many answers that you could defend depending upon the context of why you asked the question in the first place. ie., Is it for a screen play? Or a script? Just for your own personal knowledge? Are you planning to respond to an objection? Etc.

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    Words like factual and forensic seem to fit, if forensic could be used in a non-scientific sense – BCLC Jul 29 '15 at 9:53

I suggest the opposite of argumentative (focusing on differences) is conciliatory (finding common ground)

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  • I encountered that word before but just realised now that conciliatory in this case is synonymous to factual in the sense that factual questions seek to establish common ground. Thanks Stephen ^-^ – BCLC Feb 19 '16 at 9:14
  • Factual questions do not necessarily seek to establish common ground. For example, prosecution witnesses and the accused might give totally contradictory evidence about facts like 'were you there?' or 'did you intend do that?' This kind of controversy is not an 'argument' in the sense that 'argumentative' is used here. – sjy Apr 5 '16 at 16:21

I personally consider that conciliation is based upon differences (i.e. no differences then no conciliation) and thus at the very core of any conciliation there is an argument and therefore as such argumentative.

To be non-argumentative is to do nothing as such and therefore is the balance between argumentative and it's opposite.

Perhaps legally there is no real action that is the opposite.

My first thought was submissive.

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The word I would use is "responsive."

At least for an answer to a question. But a question might be "on topic" if it is not "argumentative."

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