10 Polite English Ways To Turn Down An Invitation

It’s 4:58pm.

You’re about to finish work for the day.

You’ve been thinking about going home, putting your feet up and relaxing all day.

You can’t wait to get home, take your shoes off and relax.

But then something terrible happens…

… Your co-worker/friend asks you a question. They say:

“Do you want to go out for a drink after work?”

Deep inside your heart you don’t want to… you’d planned to relax, maybe watch some TV or go to bed early.

You really don’t want to go out for a drink.

So, what can you do?

You could just say:

“No, I don’t want to go. Thanks.”

But then your friend might think that you’re a bit rude. So… what should you say?

Good question.

And in this quick article & video, you’re going to learn 10 common and polite English expressions that you can use to turn down an invitation without hurting anyone’s feelings (because, as we know, it’s important to be polite.).

I’ve categorised these expressions into three different situations:

  • Previous plans
  • Feeling Unwell
  • Miscellaneous

At the end of this article, you’ll find a video where you can learn how to say each of these expressions (including the tone of voice, intonation and pronunciation)

Previous Plans

Use this set of polite English expressions if you already have plans (or if you just want to pretend that you do).

I would go, but I already have plans tonight.

If you use this one, your friend might want to know what your plans are. You can be honest (I’m going home to be lazy) or say something else (I need to visit my uncle).

Sorry. I would go, but I’ve already got plans.

Best way to use this one is if you’re in a rush and running out of the door to catch the bus.

It sounds good, but unfortunately I’ve got to look after my dog tonight.

You can change ‘look after my dog’ to something else, such as ‘finish my report’ or ‘do my shopping’. When you know how to use the pattern, you’re good.

Mondays aren’t good for me. I have an art class on Mondays.

This is a good expression to use if you always want to keep that day of the week free. Again, learn how to use this pattern and shape it to your situation.

Feeling Unwell

These expressions are good if you’re feeling a bit unwell. You might be feeling tired from work, or you might really want to just relax and have an early night.

I would, but *cough* I don’t feel very well.

Source: http://diseasespictures.com

Coughing here can add some dramatic effect. You don’t need to cough though. Saying “I don’t feel well” is usually enough.

I can’t really go tonight. I feel a bit dodgy.

In England, if you say you feel ‘dodgy’, it usually means that you have stomach ache and you might need to run to the toilet. Save this one for an emergency.

I’ve been feeling a bit ill lately, so I was just going to go to bed early tonight.

This expression is simple and honest. If you’ve been dreaming about a relaxing evening all day, this one is as honest as you can get.


The polite English expressions in this section don’t really fit into a category, so pay close attention to the situations that they’re used in.

Thanks for the invite, but I’ve been before and I didn’t really like it.

Imagine you’ve been invited out for dinner to a restaurant, but you’ve been there before and you didn’t like the food. This expression would be a perfect way to politely refuse that invitation without hurting anyone’s feelings.

That’s not really my ‘thing’, but have a great time.

Imagine if someone invites you to go drinking and partying, but you don’t like drinking and partying. You can use this expression to turn down the offer.

If you want to sound REALLY British, try this instead:

That’s not really my cup of tea, but have a great time.

‘Cup of tea’ sounds like ‘cuppa tea

I’d love to go, but I’ve got so much to do for tomorrow.

Finally, if you have a lot of jobs to do when you get home, use this expression to end the conversation politely and easily.

How Should You Say These Polite English Expressions?

Good question…

When you say these expressions, you want to do it automatically. You don’t want to have to think about what to say because that will make you more nervous.

So, I made this video to help you.

Practise your pronunciation and your speaking speed with this video:


Final Words

Now you should have chosen one or two expressions that you can use to refuse an invitation. When choosing the expressions you like, think about the situations in which you’ll use them.

Which of these expressions will you use?


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