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15 Best Ways to Refuse a Request in English

Updated: Oct 4, 2022

Do people ask you to do things with them or for them a lot? Is there a list of favors that keeps popping up in your inbox? If yes, then it’s time we learn to say no.

There’s no denying that refusing a request from someone can be a challenge, especially when you know the person. It can come off as impolite and just plain rude. You don’t want to hurt others’ feelings. You don’t want them to think badly of you. But, here’s the thing: you can’t be successful if you don’t learn how to say no.

Of course, doing favors is great. However, if you start fulfilling all those requests, you will never have time for yourself. So, in today’s post, we’ll discuss the 15 best ways to refuse a request in English politely and rudely.

10 Best Ways to Refuse a Request in English Politely

Below are 10 polite English phrases to refuse someone’s request with different intentions. Please note that you can use these in most common situations, but there are always exceptions.

For When You’re Busy:

  • Unfortunately, I’m really slammed this week.

  • Things have been so hectic recently.

For When You’re Unavailable:

  • I don’t think I can.

  • I don’t think I can, at least not this week. I’ve got a lot going on.

For When You’re Unwilling/Unable:

  • Maybe it would be better to ask someone else to help you with this.

  • I’m not really sure if I’m the best person to do this.

  • I’m not sure if I’m the best person to help with this.

For When You Want to Apologize:

  • I’m really sorry. I would really like to help, but I just don’t have the time.

For When You’re Willing To Do it Next Time:

  • Believe me, I would if I could. Maybe another time?

For When You Want to Redirect:

  • Since I’m not really a/an ____ (for example; editor), I think you would be better off asking someone else.

5 Best Ways to Refuse a Request in English Rudely

Sometimes, you don’t care about others’ emotions. All you want to do is say no to something without having to explain. In this situation, it’s okay to refuse a request directly (most people call it rude!).

  • No, I can’t.

  • I can’t.

  • Sorry.

  • I’d rather not.

  • Sorry, I don’t really do this kind of thing.

Do you think it's always good to be polite? Which phrases would you use most often?

The phrases above are generic, so be sure to adjust them slightly as the situation requires. The great thing is that they are really common.

If a cloud of confusion still hovers over your head, watch my video on the topic:

In the video, I've explored when and why to use each phrase, in detail. We’ve also shared extra tips to make your refusal more polite. Hope you like it!

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