9 ways to say “No” politely

Do you have a hard time saying no? Or do you find it difficult when people say “no” to you?

There’s a cultural difference in how we accept or refuse invitations. There are also different ways of how people take “no.” Whatever the case may be, getting it right is essential to make sure you don’t upset someone when they do offer you something, and you need to refuse. For many Asians, it is sometimes difficult to say no directly or to accept someone’s refusal. But there are just situations where saying NO would save you a lot of trouble and prevent potential problems down the road.

Here are different ways of saying “no” without offending others.

Our first scenario is your officemate invites you to take a cab from the restaurant to go back to your office building.

  • I’m perfectly happy with…

“That’s fantastic, but I’m perfectly happy with walking back to the office. In fact, I still have to pick up something on the way. Thanks anyway.”

“That’s fantastic, but I’m perfectly happy to walk back there. Thanks anyway”

(Here, you are using the infinitive “to” + verb.)

  •  I’ll have to think about that. Thank you so much for asking.

(In this case, you actually aren’t going to think about it. You already know that you are saying ‘no’ to the offer. Besides, saying ‘so much’ shows that you care, but you need to refuse this time.)

Let’s have another scenario. For instance, Steve invites you to go to a bar tonight after work. How do you politely decline?

  • I’m not particularly keen on …

“Oh, thank you so much. That is such a kind invitation, but I’m not particularly keen on going to a bar tonight.”

(So, what it really says is ‘I hate going to bars.’ The word keen here means enthusiastic. You can try this if you don’t know the person very well. This is a bit formal and a very gentle refusal.)

  • It’s not really my idea of…

“That’s such a wonderful invitation, but it’s not really my idea of how I’d like to spend a night after work.”

(You can use this if you know the person very well and you’ve been friends for a long time because this leans towards a stronger statement of ‘no.’ Saying ‘not my idea of’ is a direct statement.

  • It’s just not my cup of tea. Or It’s just not my thing.

“Oh, I’m so sorry, but it’s just not my cup of tea.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, but it’s just not my thing.”

(What this really says is, “I don’t like these kinds of activities.” ‘My cup of tea’ is a slang that also means ‘my thing,’my interest,’ or something that you really enjoys doing and one that you regularly do. ‘So sorry’ here gives the impression that you really care.)

  • I’d actually much rather…

“Thank you for your invitation, but I’d actually much rather stay home after work.”

(‘Actually’ here is only a filler word, and doesn’t mean anything in the sentence. This word though makes you seem polite, and makes the refusal a bit more gentle.)

  • I’m afraid I’m not really interested in…

“I’m afraid I’m not really interested in going to a bar after work.”

Other variations of this are:

I’m afraid I’m not available then.

I’m afraid I just can’t do that after work.

Now this time, your friends are inviting you for a short out-of-town trip this weekend.

  • I think I’ll leave it. Thank you.

(These two full stops, the period at the end of each sentence, are powerful statements. This makes it final. It’s saying, “No thank you, I’m going off and do something else.”)

  • I’ll have to check with ‘the management.’

(This is when you are considering the idea very slightly, and you’d like a little time to think about it. If you’re a guy, ‘the management’ is your wife, girlfriend, or your partner. It’s one way of saying ‘I don’t want to make a decision, I’ll have to talk to her.’)



A: Come on, guys! Let’s all attend our high school reunion!

B: I’ll have to check _______________.



A: Come with me to this rock concert.

B: I’m afraid I’m _____________________ in seeing a rock concert.



A: Do you want some sushi?

B: I think I’ll _________ it. Thank you.



A: Would you like to come hiking with me this Saturday?

B: That’s fantastic! But, I’m not particularly ____________ hiking.



A: Let’s have our hair permed for the prom!

B: I’m sorry, that’s not really my _______________.



A: Hey, there’s this new boutique where we can rent wedding dresses. Shall we check it out?

B: I’ll have to ______________. Thanks so much for asking.



A: Would you like to go watch a movie with me after work?

B: I’d actually ____________  go home and catch up on reading.


So, how did it go? Did you get it right? You may ask for the help of your LingualBox teacher to check and review your answers.

I have a passion for the English language because it is such a powerful tool for creativity and personal development. I've been writing articles since I was in High School. I represented my school in English writing competitions in the city, regional, and national levels. When I was in college, I wrote a short story which was published in the University Literary Portfolio. In 2006, I worked as a call center agent in Cebu City. In 2007 up to 2008, I worked as an English accent trainer in a startup call center company. I have also been offering ESL lessons as a freelance tutor since February 2016.