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5 Tips for Politely Saying “no” in English

Have you ever been invited to something you really didn’t want to do? Have you ever been busy but not sure how to tell your friend? Saying no can be more difficult than saying yes – nobody wants to upset their friends.

By following these tips below you can be sure to turn people down in the nicest possible way. Good luck!

 

  1. Avoid saying “no” directly

Brian and Dave are friends that work together.

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: No.

As you can see here, Dave isn’t the politest person in the world, and Brian might be a bit upset about being rejected so bluntly. He probably won’t invite Dave out again after a response like that!

  1. Use phrases which say “no” indirectlybe nice picture

Let’s think about how Dave could be a bit nicer to his friend Brian.

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: I can’t make it tonight.

This is definitely better than a straightforward “no”. These kind of phrases are a much more polite way of rejecting someone.

Here are some other useful phrases:

Hmm, I’m not sure I can do tonight…

Tonight is a little difficult for me…

Tonight isn’t good for me…

  1. Apologise or say thank you to be more polite

The example in “2” is definitely an improvement, but Dave could be even politer if he wanted.

It’s a good idea to apologise that you can’t make it, or thank your friend to show that you appreciate being invited.

Let’s go back to Dave and Brian.

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: Sorry Brian, I can’t make it tonight.

You can also say thank you to make your friend feel better about inviting you.

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: Thanks for the invitation Brian, but I can’t make it tonight.

  1. Give a reason or an excuse

If you say no to your friend, even in a polite way, your friend might still be upset if they think you don’t want to hang out with them.

Try to tell your friend why you can’t make it (even if you make an excuse up!)

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: Sorry Brian, tonight is a bit difficult for me. My grandma is visiting and we have tickets to go to a football match together.

If you don’t want to give a specific reason (or don’t have one), you can use the following phrase:

Sorry, I already have plans tonight.

  1. Suggest another time to hang out

If you really want to see your friend another time, it can be polite to suggest an alternative time to meet up. Of course, this depends on how much you want to hang out with them!

Brian: Hi Dave, we’re going out for some beers after work tonight. Do you want to join us?

Dave: Sorry Brian, tonight is a bit difficult for me. My grandma is visiting and we have tickets to go to a football match together. I’m free next weekend – do you want to grab some beers then?

As you can see, this is a huge improvement on the “no” in the first example and Brian and Dave are more likely to stay friends!

Here are some other ways of suggesting another time.

How about next week instead?

I could do tomorrow, if that works for you…

If you don’t want to suggest a specific day, you can still be polite by using these phrases:

Let’s do it another time.

Let me know next time.

Maybe next time.

 

Conclusion

What did you think about Dave’s excuse? Can you think of any other good ones? Comment below with some funny excuses that you could use with your friends!

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