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How to Say No Politely in English

We all have to say no sometimes. We cannot say yes to everyone and everything. However, we still want to be polite when we say no, reject an offer, or refuse an invitation. We do not want to make people feel bad or make people think that we are rude.

Let's look at some simple ways that we can say no politely.
  • I am sorry, but I can't.
  • No thank you.
  • I am sorry, but + (reason)
  • I would love to, but + (reason)
  • I wish I could, but + (reason)
  • I am sorry, but I can't because + (reason)
  • Thank you, but + (reason)
  • That sounds good, but + (reason)
  • No thank you. (Reason)
It is polite to give a reason why. If we just say, "No", then the other person will probably feel bad or offended. Look at the difference.

A) Would you like to see a movie with me tonight?
B) No.

A) Would you like to see a movie with me?
B) I wish I could, but I have to go to a family dinner.

The second example sounds much better, right?

But what if we do not want to tell the reason? What if the reason is personal or a secret?

If that is the case, then we can use these vague expressions. Also, many people use these when they do not have a reason. They just do not want to do something (yes, it is lying.)
  • I am sorry, but I have something to do.
  • I wish I could, but I have to meet someone.
  • I am sorry, but I can't because something came up.
  • I want to, but I have to go somewhere now.
If we are worried that the other person feels bad when we say no, then we can promise to accept their offer next time. Many people do this when saying no politely. Look at a few examples.

A) Would you like to play soccer with us today?
B) I wish I could, but I have to go to the dentist. I will play next time.

A) Let's get a drink tonight.
B) I'm sorry, but I can't. Next time.

A) Come camping with me this weekend.
B) That sounds fun, but I am busy. Let me know next time you go.

Here are a few more examples.

A) Do you want some more coffee?
B) No thank you. I am good.

A) Try some chicken.
B) No thank you. I do not eat meat.

A) Would you like a beer?
B) I wish I could, but I have to drive.

A) Would you like to go fishing next weekend?
B) That sounds really fun, but I already have plans.

A) Do you want to go to dinner after work?
B) I would like to, but I have to work late.

A) Could you help me with this project?
B) I am sorry, but I don't have time. Why don't you ask Bill?

Use this free English lesson to help you take your English skills to the next level. There are certain situations when the language that you learned in this English lesson can be very useful. Try to use one of these phrases or expressions the next time you speak English.

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