Fact and Opinion

Learning Objective:

  • Recognize the difference between stated facts and opinions in a reading.

In this lesson, you will learn to distinguish between factA piece of information that can be proven. Something that is true and indisputable. and opinionPoint of view that shows a personal belief or bias and cannot be proven to be completely true. in order to help form personal opinions about a reading.

In order to learn how to separate the facts in the reading from the authorA person who wrote a text.'s opinion, you must first understand what makes a statement a fact and what makes it an opinion.

A fact is something that can be proven. For example, consider this statement: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the president of the United States from 1933-1945." This is an historical fact and can be proven to be true. However, the statement, "Franklin Delano Roosevelt was the most successful president of the United States," is an opinion.

Remember that an opinion is not the opposite of a fact. A fact is either true and can be proven true, or it is false and can be disproven. Just because you do not know whether a statement is true or false does not make it an opinion.

An opinion shows biasIn writing, bias indicates a writer's personal prejudice for or against an idea, person, activity, or object. Being objective, or displaying no tendency toward a preference, is the opposite of showing bias. and cannot be proven to be true. If a writer wrote the second statement about Roosevelt, readers would know that he or she has a bias in favor of him as the president. Other people may disagree and think that other presidents have been much more successful. As a result, this is an opinion and not a fact.

You can usually identify fact and opinion by looking at the language a writer uses. Subjective languageWording that shows a writer's feelings or opinions. For example, words such as feel, believe, and think are obvious signs that a writer is being subjective. is wording that shows someone's feelings. For example, words such as feel, believe, and think are obvious signs that a writer is being subjective. However, other forms of subjective language can be a little harder to see, such as the example about Roosevelt being the "most successful president." Take a look at the following examples:

Construction of the White House began in 1792 and took eight long years to be ready for President Adams to move in.

This sentence begins with a fact: construction of the White House began in 1792. It continues with a fact that it did take eight years—until 1800—for it to be ready for its first occupants. However, the sentence then moves into opinion when the writer states, "…took eight long years…" The choice of the word long is subjective. It shows the writer's opinion that this span of time was long, but this is an opinion, and cannot be proven. Only the number of years can be proven because those are recorded facts.

This history of the White House is fascinating.  

This entire sentence is subjective. Note the use of the word fascinating. This word shows the writer's opinion, which is something that cannot be proven. If the writer were to have included information about who visited the White House and when, then those would be facts. Readers could then draw their own conclusions about whether those facts constitute a fascinating history.