Resources: Notes on Life and Language in the United States

3 Ways to Politely Decline an Invitation in English

Posted by Lindsay McMahon on Fri, Jan 31, 2014 @ 08:03 PM

describe the imageIf you are living in the US, you might run into a situation where an English speaker invites you to do something like joining an exercise class or participating in a language exchange.

If you don't want to join the person, how do you say that without sounding ruding or impolite?

I will show you a few ways to do it in today's article.





#1) "I wish I could, but I am swamped right now with (work, a new project, taxes, etc.) "

timeTo be "swamped" is a casual way of saying that you are really busy with something.

This is a very friendly and polite way to say that you have a lot going on.

You can also say:

  • "Thanks, but I am pressed for time these days"
  • " Sorry, but my schedule is completely booked up."





#2) "I have a lot going on with (my kids' activities, my volunteer activities, etc.)

soccer kidsThis is another great way to emphasize how busy you are and it's probably true!

Other ways to say this:

  • "I am involved in a lot of different things."
  • "I already have a lot of commitments with (name the specific activity)"






#3) "Oh wow, thanks so much for inviting me, but I don't think I'll be able to do it."

 No thank youYou don't always have to give a reason that you are declining the invitation.

You could emphasize the fact that you really appreciate the invitation.

Other ways to say this:


  • "Oh my gosh, it was so nice of you to ask, but I can't make it."
  • "I won't be able to participate, but thank you for asking. It was very thoughtful of you to invite me."



There you go! Now you have 3 great ways to decline an invitation and still maintain a relationship or good rapport with someone.

If you want to practice these phrases with a native English speaker, you can try our Speakative conversation program.


Schedule your free trial session now!





Photo credit: Dell Official Flickr Page, Humphreys, I_believe

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