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How to say NO politely

Dire di no a una offerta è spesso un problema anche nella propria lingua madre, ma come poterlo fare correttamente in inglese? Noi un’idea ce l’abbiamo…

Saying no to a kind offer or invitation can be tricky. We often feel slightly embarrassed by it – the last thing we want is to upset or offend the person who is making the offer. Luckily, there are a number of ways to ‘soften’ the refusal – to make it more polite and acceptable.

Let’s imagine someone invites you out to dinner with a group of friends on Friday and you are unable to go. Of course, you could simply reply ‘No, thank you.’ or say ‘I can’t.’ but either of these responses might sound a little rude – or at least, not very friendly! The easiest way to ‘soften’ your reply is to start with an apology and a brief explanation of why you can’t come:

– I’m sorry, I’m busy on Friday. – Mi spiace, sono occupato venerdì.

– I’m afraid I can’t make this Friday. – Ho paura che non andrà bene questo venerdì

You might add that you would love to do whatever the person is offering, even though you can’t:

– I’d love to come out this Friday but I’m afraid I’m busy. – Mi piacerebbe uscire questo venerdì, ma temo di essere occupato.

You might, instead, say how nice or tempting the offer is:

– It would be really nice, but I’m afraid I can’t come. – Sarebbe molto bello, ma temo di non poter venire.

– That sounds great, but I’m afraid I can’t come. – Sembra bellissimo, ma temo di non poter venire

– That’s a really nice invitation, but I’m afraid I can’t come. – È davvero una buona proposta, ma temo di non poter venire.

A natural next step is to say a little more about why you can’t accept the offer. This explanation softens the refusal, letting the other person know that there is a good reason why you can’t come:

– I’m not in town this Friday. – Non sono in città questo venerdì.

– I’m busy this Friday. I’m going out with colleagues. – Questo venerdì sono occupato. – Andrò fuori con i colleghi.

– I’ve already arranged to see an old friend on Friday. – Ho già organizzato di vedere un vecchio amico questo venerdì.

You might then mention that you would be interested in a similar invitation in the future, (if this is true!):

– But if you ever arrange another night out, I’d love to come. – Ma se organizzerete per un’altra sera verrei molto volentieri.

– Another time, I’d love to come. – Un’altra volta verrei molto volentieri.

Something else that we sometimes have to refuse is the offer of food. Refusing food can feel very rude, especially if the person offering it has made the dish, but there are ways to make a refusal more polite. If someone offers you food and you don’t want any because you are not hungry, the best way to refuse the offer is to explain that you have already eaten:

– ‘No, thank you, I’ve just eaten.’ – No grazie, ho appena mangiato.

You might also add that the food looks good:

– ‘No, thank you, I’ve just eaten. It does look delicious, though! – No grazie, ho appena mangiato. Comunque sembra delizioso.

If someone offers you a second helping of food and you don’t want any more, start by saying how nice the food was and then refuse:

– That was absolutely delicious, but I couldn’t manage any more, thank you! – Era assolutamente delizioso, ma non riesco a mangiarne ancora, grazie!-

Now that we’ve learnt how to say no politely let’s hope your week is full of pleasant offers and that you are able to accept at least one or two!

offer offerta
slightly leggermente
to be embarrassed essere imbarazzato
to upset sconvolgere, turbare
to offend offendere
to soften ammorbidire
refusal rifiuto
rude scortese
apology scusa
brief breve, corto
explanation spiegazione
to add aggiungere
tempting allettante
reason ragione, motivo
to arrange organizzare
second helping seconda porzione

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