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The Warsaw Voice » Business » November 25, 2011
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Agreement vs. Contract: Troublesome Synonyms
November 25, 2011   
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Monika Sznajder is a philologist and long-time editor of English at Get It, a Warsaw translation agency.

Contract and agreement may be similar in meaning, but their interchangeable use, in translation or otherwise, raises controversy and doubts, and rightly so—the two nouns are not always synonymous. The two things they mean are actually different, sometimes dramatically.

An agreement, written or oral, refers to a situation when two parties share a point of view and a decision, for example to do business together. It may or may not be legally binding; a gentlemen’s agreement is a good example of something that would not be enforceable in law.

A contract, on the other hand, is a document meeting specific conditions—an offer made and accepted, an intention to establish a legal relationship (if in business) and consideration, i.e. money involved—legally binding on both parties if all the requirements are satisfied. It obviously cannot be made without an agreement, i.e. the parties’ decision, although an agreement does not always lead to a contract being drawn up and signed.

In summary: not every agreement involves a contract, although every contract involves an agreement.
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