Different Ways to say NO in English

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  • Post last modified:27/06/2023
  • Post category:Real English
  • Reading time:14 mins read

Learn different ways to say NO in English. Expand your vocabulary and improve your speaking skills with common English phrases that native speakers use in daily conversations.

We’ll not only teach you how to say “no” politely but also help you gain confidence in expressing yourself effectively while speaking English.

Listen to the podcast Speak Better English with Harry or watch it on YouTube at Learn English with Harry. englishclass101

ways to say no

Different Ways to say NO in English

While “no” itself may come across as blunt and possibly impolite depending on how it’s expressed, we understand that you may not intend it that way.

In this lesson, we’ll provide you with alternative ways to say no, categorised into formal, polite, firm, and informal approaches.

By expanding your range of responses, you can avoid sounding repetitive or rude while effectively conveying your negative response.

Let’s start with the formal ways to say “no.”

I’m afraid not

Meaning: a gentle way to convey negative information or decline a request


👦 Will you be joining us for lunch today?

👩🏽‍💻 I’m afraid not. I have another arrangement.

👨🏻‍🎨 Can you lend me some money? 

👩🏼‍🌾 I’m afraid not. I’m currently short on funds myself.

I’m sorry, but the answer is no

Meaning: a polite way to decline a request or offer; it sends a clear message and shows regret for not being able to help


I’m sorry, but the answer is no. I won’t be able to attend the conference due to prior commitments.

I’m sorry, but that request cannot be fulfilled

Meaning: (very formal) use it when you need to politely inform someone that their request cannot be accommodated


I’m sorry, but that request cannot be fulfilled. The room you are inquiring about is currently unavailable.

I’m sorry, but that request cannot be fulfilled. The table you are referring to has already been booked.

not to my knowledge

Meaning: use it when you are unaware of something or don’t have the information being asked for


👩🏽‍🎓Have you seen my missing keys?

👩🏻‍🔧 Not to my knowledge. I haven’t come across any keys.

🕵🏻 Have you seen David? Is he in?

👷🏾‍♂️Well, not to my knowledge, but I’ve only just arrived myself.

Sadly, I’m unable to do that

Meaning: use it to express regret or disappointment while declining a request


Sadly, I’m unable to do that as my schedule is fully booked with prior commitments.

Sadly, I’m unable to do that. I have a back injury and cannot lift heavy objects.

I’d love to do it, but

Meaning: (formal and informal) you want to express a desire to do sth, but there’s a specific reason why you can’t do it


I’d love to do it, but I don’t think I’m the person that can best represent you.

I’d love to do it, but I really don’t have the time.

Different Ways to say NO in English

Now, let’s move on to the polite ways of saying ‘no’ when you want to avoid using the word ‘no’ directly.

not really

Meaning: use it to express a lack of interest or agreement in a more relaxed manner


🧑🏻‍🦰 Are you going to join that gym? 

👨🏾‍🦲 Not really. Me and gyms, we don’t get along so well.

🧔🏻‍♂️ Are you going to join us for a game of bowling?

👨🏽‍🦰 Not really. It’s the weekend, I like to spend time with the family.

possibly/probably not

Meaning: say it in a less definitive or certain way, there’s a small chance it could be different


👩 Are you going to apply for that promotion?

🧑🏻‍🦰 Probably not. I don’t want to commit myself to it.

🧔🏽‍♀️ Are you going to attend that lecture next week?

👱🏽‍♀️ Possibly not. I think I’d be busy.

not exactly/not quite

Meaning: in a gentle manner, allow for some flexibility or nuance in the response


👩🏼‍🦰 Have you finished the report that we need?

👨🏼 Not quite.

👵🏼 Do you understand everything that the customer has asked?

🧑🏽‍🦰 Not exactly.

I think not

Meaning: based on your thoughts or considerations, the answer is negative or not possible


👧🏻 Would you like to join us for lunch?

👨🏾‍🦲I think not. I’ll stay at my desk and finish this bit of work. I really want to get home early.

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Now let’s explore firm ways to say ‘no.’

Firm means being strong and clear to ensure the message is understood without any confusion or ambiguity. When you say ‘no’ firmly, it leaves no room for misunderstanding, and people understand that ‘no’ definitely means ‘no’.

certainly/absolutely not

Meaning: these phrases leave no room for doubt or possibility of agreement


👧🏼 Can I stay up late and watch a horror movie?

👩🏻 Absolutely not. You have to get up early in the morning for school.

sorry, it’s not possible

Meaning: communicates a strong and definitive refusal


🧒🏻 Can you pick me up from the disco?

👱🏼‍♂️ Sorry, not possible. Can’t do that. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.

not now

Meaning: it’s not the right moment or suitable for the situation


👧🏻 Can you take me to Mary’s house?

👩🏻‍🦳 Not now. I’m busy.

👨🏻‍🦰 Can I disturb you? I wanted to get your opinion for 10 minutes.

👨🏼‍🦳 Not now. Come back later. I’m in the middle of something.

Different Ways to say NO in English

Other ways to say no in English. Learn English grammar rules. Phrases for criticising in English. English speaking skills. Improve English speaking skills. Upgrade your vocabulary. English grammar rules. Improve English speaking. Advanced English lessons on Zoom and Skype. Improve English speaking and writing skills. #learnenglish

And in the final part, we’re going to explore informal ways of saying no in English.


Meaning: use it in relaxed conversations or among friends


👩🏻 Have you seen the car keys?

🧓 Nope.

Nah, not interested. Maybe at the weekend, but not during the midweek.

🧒🏻 Would you fancy a pizza tonight?

👨🏻Nah, something else.

not interested

Meaning: use it to express a lack of interest or enthusiasm towards something


🧑🏻‍🦰 Would you like to join the hiking trip this weekend?

👨🏻 Not interested. I prefer to relax at home instead.

I think I’ll pass

Meaning: you have decided not to do or accept something after considering it


👱🏽 Would you like to play a game of cards?

👨🏻‍🦱 I think I’ll pass. I’m tired. I’m going to go to bed early.

not a chance

Meaning: there is absolutely no possibility or likelihood of sth happening


👨🏻‍🦱 Do you think they’re going to win the football match tomorrow night?

👨🏽‍🦰 Not a chance.

not happening

Meaning: something is not going to occur or be accepted under any circumstances


👩🏻 Do you think we’ll get a salary increase? Or indeed, we might get a bonus. 

👩🏼‍🦰 Not happening. Things are difficult.

you must be joking/ are you kidding?

Meaning: (humourous) you’re expressing disbelief or indicating that the suggestion or request is unreasonable or unlikely to be accepted


You must be joking! There is no way I’m going. You have to be kidding.

Are you kidding? There is no way you’re going to get me out on a day like this.

no way!

Meaning: a very informal way to firmly and emphatically reject something


No way! You’re not driving my car. Full stop.

You can also use it if you get a bit of a surprise about something.

👩🏻 Did you hear that Mary got engaged?

👩🏼‍🦰 No way! Mary? Wow, I must drop her line. I must write and tell her congratulations.

So, practice these alternatives to avoid constantly saying “no” and make your conversations more interesting. Choose a few formal or informal options and practice them with your friends. Write them down in sentences and feel free to reach out to me at www.englishlessonviaskype.com if you encounter any problems or need additional advice or examples.

This is Harry signing off. Thank you for listening and watching, and remember to join me for the next lesson.

speak better English with Harry podcast- episode 437

more information

For more information on English grammar rules, English collocations and English idioms, check out the links below:

Verbs and phrases to describe a new start

Difference between Each and Every

You can always study English advanced level at Learning English with the BBC and British Council Learn English.

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