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Useful Phrases to say ‘no’

Declining an invitation:
That sounds great, but…
I’m sorry, but I really can’t. I have to…
I really appreciate the invite, but…
In English, we don’t typically decline invitations without giving a reason (either real or made up). Simply saying “no” or “no thanks” would be too direct and might be perceived as rude.

Informing someone you can’t provide assistance:
I’d love to help, but right now I’m really busy with…
I wish I could, but right now I need to focus on…
Normally I’d be able to, but right now I have to…
Just like with invitations, it’s important to provide a reason here. Besides the expressions above, we often mention the name of someone else who might be able to help. Example: I’d love to help but I’m really busy with these reports. Have you asked Brian? He might be able to help you.

Saying no to a suggestion/idea:
I’m not sure that would work.
That might not be the best solution.
I don’t know if that would work.
That might be a little ambitious.
Telling someone that his/her idea isn’t going to work is a delicate situation. In this situation, we tend to use tentative language such as “I’m not sure,” “I don’t know,” and “might.” Simply saying “that won’t work” or “that’s not going to work” might be too direct.

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