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Unit 2: English In A Minute
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Session 33

What's the best way to say 'no' without offending people? Find out with Phil in this English In A Minute.

Activity 1

How to say no politely (like a Brit)

People in the UK don't like saying ‘no’! Learn how to say 'no' politely with Phil in this English In A Minute

Watch the video and complete the activity

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Phil 

Hi, I'm Phil and I'm going to tell you a little secret about British people. And it's that we're not great at saying no.
So if you want to say no like a Brit, remember not to be too direct.


We don't actually like saying no, so start by saying how bad it is, or apologise.

Unfortunately….
I'm afraid….
Sorry, but….

Ok, so now they know that you don't want to do it, tell them why you have to do this terrible thing.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to come tonight.
I'm afraid that's not possible.
Sorry, but I don't think that's a good idea.

OK, now the bad stuff is out of the way, suggest an alternative.

Unfortunately, I'm not able to come tonight. Let's try next week!
I'm afraid that's not possible, but I've got another idea.

So – just remember, not too direct, apologise, say why and suggest an alternative.

How to say no politely (like a Brit)

When saying 'no' politely, don't be too direct. Then, follow these steps to structure your apology:

1) Start by saying 'how bad it is', or 'apologise'.

  • Unfortunately….
  • I'm afraid….
  • Sorry, but….

2) Now they know that you don't want to do it, tell them why you have to say 'no'.

  • Unfortunately, I can't make it to you party tonight.
  • I'm afraid I can't do that.
  • Sorry, but I think that's a bad idea.

3) Suggest an alternative.

  • Unfortunately, I can't make it to you party tonight. Can we meet up next week?
  • I'm afraid I can't do that. Why don't you ask your mother if she has some money?
  • Sorry, but I think that's a bad idea. Why don't we look at alternatives?

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