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?
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:
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)
Use this set of polite English expressions if you already have plans (or if you just want to pretend that you do).
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).
Best way to use this one is if you’re in a rush and running out of the door to catch the bus.
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.
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.
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.
Coughing here can add some dramatic effect. You don’t need to cough though. Saying “I don’t feel well” is usually enough.
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.
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.
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.
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:
‘Cup of tea’ sounds like ‘cuppa tea’
Finally, if you have a lot of jobs to do when you get home, use this expression to end the conversation politely and easily.
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:
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.
Sam is the founder and creator of English For Study. He's also a lecturer in EAP/Academic English. Apart from making Academic English easy, he likes learning languages, lifting weights and eating good food.