91 Ways to Say 'No'

By Carly Forsaith, updated on May 12, 2023

There can be many reasons you might want to know ways to say no. You could be responding to an invitation or a request, you could be telling someone you don’t want something, or you could be answering a general question.

  • And the fact is, the way you say ‘no’ will vary depending on the circumstances.

As well as that, there are different ways to respond to the negative. If you want to spare someone’s feelings, you will say it differently than if your main priority is to be very firm with your boundaries.

With that said, let’s dive in.

How to Respond in the Negative to a General Question

If someone has simply asked you a general question or made an inquiry, and you want ways to say ‘no,’ then the suggestions below will probably be helpful to you. Or, if you want to respond in the negative to a request politely, these will work, too.

Each answer is paired with an example of the kind of question it could answer.

1. Not yet
Q: Have you started your dissertation?
A: Not yet.

2. Not to my knowledge
Q: Has the new season of Stranger Things been released yet?
A: Not to my knowledge.

3. Not as far as I know
Q: Is the art gallery open this weekend?
A: Not as far as I know.

4. I don’t think so
Q: Is David coming to the party?
A: I don’t think so.

5. I doubt it
Q: Did they choose to live in that neighborhood?
A: I doubt it.

6. Not really
Q: Do you like the color red?
A: Not really.

7. Unfortunately not
Q: Have you been trained to use the software yet?
A: Unfortunately not

8. Probably not
Q: Do you think he's ready to start college and live indepdently?
A: Probably not, but he has no choice.

9. I'm gonna go out on a whim and say 'no'
Q: Have they finished the building work yet?
A: I'm gonna go out on a whim and say 'no'

10. Negative
Q: Have you seen a black labrador wandering around?
A: Negative.

11. I highly doubt it
Q: Do you think he'll be interested in helping? 
A: I highly doubt it.

12. Not likely
Q: Will we finish on time today?
A: Not likely.

13. I think not
Q: Will you guys make up from your fight?
A: I hope so, but in all honesty, I think not.

14. Regrettably
Q: Is Dr. Marks here?
A: Regrettably he no longer works here.

15. Doesn't seem likely
Q: Do you think he'll forgive me one day?
A: Honestly, doesn't seem likely.

How to Politely Say ‘No’ to an Invitation

What about if you’ve been invited to an event and you want to decline because you either don’t want to go, don’t have time, or have already made other commitments? Or, if someone has made a request that you simply can't fulfill and you want to decline politely, then one of the options below should suit you.

16. I’d love to but…
Q: Would you like to go to the theatre tonight?
A: I’d love to accept your invitation, but I’ve already got plans.

17. No thanks
Q: Would you like a sandwich?
A: No thanks.

18. I’m afraid I can’t / I’m afraid not
Q: We’re going to grab a drink after work, wanna come?
A: I’m afraid I can’t, I have to stay here.

19. I wish I could but
Q: Do you want to go and get coffee?
A: I wish I could but I signed up to do some overtime hours.

20. It’s not really my thing
Q: I want to go see this band at the weekend, would you be interested?
A: Rock isn’t really my thing.

21. That sounds fun, but
Q: I’m taking Spanish classes now, you should join me sometime!
A: That sounds fun but I’m already learning French.

22. Sadly, I can’t
Q: Why don’t you and Chris come over for dinner Friday?
A: Sadly I can’t do Friday; how about next week?

23. If only I could
Q: Come with us on our camping trip next month.
A: If only I could! Will you go again next year?

24. I already have plans
Q: Come with us to watch the game
A: Ah, I can't, I already have plans

25. I'm good, thanks
Q: Would you like a slice of cake?
A: I'm good, thanks. 

26. Thanks for offering/asking, but...
Q: Do you want a slice of pizza?
A: Thanks so much for offering but I'm on a diet.

27. I can't make it
Q: Are you going to the baby shower?
A: No, sadly I can't make it that day.

28. Sorry, I can't do that
Q: We need you to cover Daniel's class.
A: Sorry, I can't do that; I have a job to get to.

19. I'm out
Q: Who wants to get shots?
A: Nah dude, I'm out.

30. Can't agree to that
Q: We wanted to offer you extra hours in the Christmas holidays.
A: I can't agree to that because I'm heading back to Canada to visit family.

31. No can do
Q: Please loan me $20.
A: No can do son, you didn't pay me back for the last loan.

32. Count me out
Q: We need five members to start a new club, are you game?
A: Nah, count me out man.

33. Not really my thing
Q: We want to organize a march in the city centre.
A: I respect what you guys are trying to do but it's just not really my thing. 

34. I'm bowing out
Q: We're meeting weekends from now on.
A: In that case I'll have to bow out; I'm busy on weekends.

35. I'm fully booked
Q: Do you have any extra availability over the Easter holidays?
A: Unfortunately not; I'm fully booked.

36. Thanks for thinking of me but
Q: We need a new lead singer for the group and we thought of you.
A: Thanks for thinking of me but I honestly don't know where I'd find the time.

37. I'm spread really thin
Q: We need more volunteers at the community center, if you're able to help.
A: I wish I could but I'm spread really thin right now. 

38. I'm maxed out
Q: We need you to talk to this client about some issues they've been having.
A:  I'm really maxed out right now Jack, can you ask someone else?

39. That's not feasible
Q: I need that report on my desk by the end of Friday.
A: That's not feasible, boss, sorry.

40. I don't have any openings
Q: There's a potential new client who wants to book a meeting with you.
A: I don't have any openings in my calendar at the moment, Sal.

41. I wish there were two of me
Q: Want to come fishing with us this weekend?
A: I wish there were two of me but sadly, there aren't, so I won't be able to.

42. I would if I could
Q: Would you like to have more kids?
A: Truthfully, we would if we could, but it just doesn't seem likely right now.

43. I would have loved to
Q: Will you join us for dinner tonight?
A: Oh I would have loved to, but I already have plans.

How to Give a Categorical ‘No’

These are pretty dry, so I recommend only using them in a context where you’re not afraid of offending. They'll be very handy if you want to be quite firm with your 'no.'

44. Absolutely not!
Q: Can I stroke your dog?
A: Absolutely not!

45. No way
Q: Have you spoken to Ellie since then?
A: No way! I’m not speaking to her ever again.

46. I’d rather not
Q: Do you mind if I sit next to you?
A: I’d rather not

47. I'm not comfortable doing that
Q: Can you give me your phone number?
A: I’m not comfortable doing that.

48. I’ll pass
Q: Do you want to come with us?
A: I’ll pass

49. Thanks, but no thanks
Q: Want a glass of wine?
A: Thanks but no thanks.

50. By no means
Q: Do you like him in that movie?

A: I think he did a good job but by no means do I think he deserved the Oscar more than her.

51. No way, Jose
Q: Do you think they'll end up together?
A: No way, Jose.

52. Not gonna happen
Q: Will you ever have kids?
A: Not gonna happen.

53. Nope
Q: Why don't you go over and talk to him?
A: Nope.

54. I'm not doing that.
Q: Maybe you should ask for your job back.
A: Nope, not doing that.

55. Nah
Q: I think it's time for you to get out of bed.
A: Nah, I'm good thanks.

56. I’m not your gal on this one
Q: We're looking for a new supervisor; are you interested?
A: Oh, unfortunately I'm not your gal on this one.

57. I'm honored, but I must decline
Q: Would you like to be in charge of the city's green profect?
A: I'm honored, but I must decline. I have a full plate already.

58. Not a chance
Q: Do you think you could ever forgive her?

A: Not a chance.

59. Not happening
Q: Jeanette's singing a solo for us tonight!
A: I told you, that's not happening!

60. Ain't gonna happen
Q: Please can you guys get back together?
A: I'm sorry but it ain't gonna happen.

61. Not interested
Q: Can I get your number?
A: Look, I'm flattered but I'm not interested.

62. Over my dead body
Q: My sister's moving in with us for a while.
A: Over my dead body.

63. Certainly not
Q: Can I get a cell phone yet? 
A: Certainly not. You're not old enough.

How to Say ‘No’ For Now

If you want to say no to something because you can’t do it right now, but you would be open to the idea of doing it later, then you can easily express that in your answer.

64. Not right now
Q: Would you like a cup of tea?
A: Not right not but I'm grateful for the invite.

65. Now isn't a good time for me.
Q: Can you help me with my project?
A: Now isn’t a good time but I have time this afternoon.

66. Maybe some other time.
Q: Do you want to come and get lunch with us?
A: Maybe some other time.

67. Unfortunately, I have too much to do today.
Q: Can you give the presentation today?
A: Unfortunately, I have too much to do today. How about tomorrow?

68. Now/that isn't a good time for me.
Q: Are you available for a quick chat?
A: Now isn’t a good time for me.

69. I want to, but I’m slammed
Q: You should come to pottery class with us some time.
A: I want to but I'm so slammed these days. Maybe after the Easter holidays?

70. Darn! Don’t think I can fit it in
Q: The gals are all going out for a drink tonight, wanna come?
A: Darn! I don't think I can fit in, I've got an aerobics class and then I'm meeting my brother. Maybe next time? 

71. I can't commit at the moment
Q: Would you like to join our book club? 
A: Sadly I can't commit at the moment.

72. Not this time
Q: Do you have time to volunteer this evening?
A: Not this time, but I can help next week if you need.

73. Not today
Q: Can you help me with this report?
A: Not today I'm afraid, but I'm free tomorrow morning if that helps.

74. Now's not a good time
Q: Can we talk?
A: Now's not a good time, Alan.

75. I'm swamped right now
Q: Can you take the dog for a walk.
A: I'm swamped right now, can you take him?

76. Can you circle back?
Q: We're looking for volunteers for the kids' bake sale.
A: Can you circle back to me in a couple of weeks? I don't have the time right now.

77. Let me think about it
Q: We'd love to have you in our team.
A: You know, I'm not sure I can fit it in, let me think about it.

78. I've got too much on my plate
A: You should join a gym, that'll help you relieve some stress.
Q: I would but I've got too much on my plate at the moment. Maybe in a few months.

79. Bandwith is low
Q: Wanna help organize the end-of-year party?
A: I'm pretty exhasted already, my bandwith is so low. I can't possibly take anything else on.

80. I'm not up to it
Q: Maybe you can try to go outside and get some fresh air.
A: I'm really not up to it, I still feel under the weather.

How to Respond to the Negative in Writing

Sometimes you might be required to send an email to someone declining their application or denying their request.

Here are a few examples of ways you can do that.

81. We regret to inform you that your application has been unsuccessful.

82. Unfortunately, your payment was never received.

83. I'm afraid we were unable to fulfill your request.

84. Your request has been declined.

85. I am sad to report that your request has been denied.

86. It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that I cannot approve your request.

87. I'm not taking on any more clients right now.

88. We shall not be progressing your application to the next stage.

89. We've decided it isn't going to be a good fit.

90. You're not the best person for the job.

91. In my opinion he doesn't fit the bill.

Should You Say Sorry With Your ‘No?’

It’s okay to say ‘sorry’ sometimes if you want to come across as polite, but be careful not to apologize too much because you haven’t actually done anything wrong by saying ‘no.’

By all means, you can definitely soften the blow so as not to hurt the other person's feelings, and that's the sort of situation where you'll spend more time giving your 'no,' rather than a short 'nope' or 'no way.' But if you're in a situation where you need to make your 'no' very clear, then you don't need to feel bad about being a little abrupt.

Concluding Thoughts on Ways to Say ‘No’

Now you have 91 new ways to say ‘no’ and zero excuses to always use the same word! You can definitely get creative with these.

Just remember:

  • It’s okay to say ‘no’! Only say ‘yes’ if you really want to.
  • Choose the appropriate way to say ‘no’ based on the context. Is it formal or casual? Is your main priority to be polite or to be firm?
  • You don’t have to explain your ‘no’, but you can if you want to.

And if you found this article helpful, you should definitely head to our blog to check out our others.

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Written By:
Carly Forsaith
Carly Forsaith is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Carly is a copywriter who has been writing about the English language for over 3 years. Before that, she was a teacher in Thailand, helping people learn English as a second language. She is a total grammar nerd and spends her time spotting language errors on signs and on the internet.

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