How to Politely Say That You Are Not Available

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Have you ever asked someone in English if they are available to talk to you or do something for you? Or have you ever been asked the same? If your answer was negative, did you find it difficult to say NO without offending the person who asked about your availability?

In this post, let’s try to find all the answers, especially how to say that you are not available politely.

To politely inform someone that you are not available, you can say, “I’m sorry, I’ll not be available at that time as I’ll be busy with…” You can also say, “I wish I could be available then,” or “It would be my pleasure to match the schedule, but I am afraid. I’ll be busy then.” Whenever you say “NO” to anybody, be sure that you show reasons and remain polite.

50+ Ways to Say That You Are Not Available

Looking for polite ways to say you are not available? Here are over 50 simple phrases to help you communicate your unavailability in various situations. Whether it’s due to work, personal commitments, or other engagements, these responses will ensure you remain respectful and clear.

In our busy lives, there are times when we need to inform others that we can’t make it to an event or fulfill a request. It’s important to do this politely and clearly to maintain good relationships. The following phrases are designed to be straightforward and easy to understand, making it simple to express your unavailability in a respectful manner.

  1. I’m sorry, I can’t be available then. I will be in class.
  2. I’m afraid I’ll not be available at that time. I’ll be at work.
  3. Sorry, I can’t attend the party due to office work.
  4. I wish I could be at your birthday party, but I have a flight to catch today.
  5. I’d love to be there this afternoon, but I have a meeting.
  6. I’m in the middle of something. Sorry, I can’t help you now.
  7. I’d like to stay, but I need to attend to my guests at home.
  8. Sorry, I’m busy all week with a new project.
  9. That date doesn’t fit my schedule. Can we reschedule?
  10. I have a lot of customers today. I can’t make it this evening.
  11. I’m busy clearing pending accounts. Sorry, I can’t help now.
  12. I need to check scripts after class, so I can’t go for coffee.
  13. It’s not a good time for cricket. I have pending files to work on.
  14. If I didn’t have office today, I could go with you to the airport.
  15. I’m fixing hardware problems. Sorry, I can’t help with software issues.
  16. The conference day doesn’t fit my schedule. Can we change it?
  17. Can we reschedule the client meeting? I’m too busy today.
  18. I’m not available at the venue. I can’t make it due to business.
  19. Please excuse my absence for the next few days.
  20. I’m sorry, I can’t spare time for you today.
  21. Sorry, I have to go to my hometown tonight. I’ll be back next Sunday.
  22. Can you come the day after tomorrow? I’m not in the office tomorrow.
  23. Sorry, I can’t be available in your scheduled slot.
  24. Can we meet tomorrow? I’m busy all day today.
  25. I have engagements today. I’ll try to visit your store tomorrow.
  26. Sadly, I have other engagements. Please forgive me.
  27. Sorry, I have another commitment. I can’t perform on Thursday night.
  28. I’m honored by your offer, but I can’t make it tonight.
  29. Thanks for thinking of me as the chief guest, but I’m booked.
  30. If I had no other plans, I would join you.
  31. I appreciate your plan, but I can’t go on an international tour this year.
  32. I can’t make it this time. Sorry for the inconvenience.
  33. I’d be delighted to perform, but I’m already booked.
  34. Sorry, I can’t be at the Alumni program this year. I’ll join next year.
  35. It’s not a good time for me to go abroad. My mother is ill.
  36. I have a doctor’s appointment at that time.
  37. I’m attending a seminar, so I can’t join.
  38. My schedule is packed with meetings.
  39. I have a family event that day.
  40. I’m preparing for an exam, so I can’t participate.
  41. I have a prior engagement that I can’t miss.
  42. I need to finish a project by the deadline.
  43. I’ll be out of town on that day.
  44. My calendar is full for the entire week.
  45. I have a training session to attend.
  46. I’m scheduled for a conference call.
  47. I have to take care of some personal matters.
  48. My boss has called for an urgent meeting.
  49. I’m involved in a community service event.
  50. I need to rest due to health reasons.
  51. I have an appointment with my lawyer.
  52. I’m working on an urgent assignment.
  53. I have to attend my child’s school event.
  54. I’m committed to another volunteer work.
  55. I’ll be busy with house chores.

5 Tips to Talk About Your Unavailability

When someone asks for your time, they often hope for a “YES.” However, if you need to say “NO,” it’s important to do so without causing offense. Here are five tips to help you convey your unavailability politely and effectively:

1. Choose the Right Words

Choosing the right words to express unavailability is key to maintaining good relationships and showing respect. Use gentle and considerate language instead of being too direct or blunt. This helps soften the refusal and keeps the conversation positive.

When saying you are not available, avoid using a harsh “NO.” Instead, try phrases like “I’m sorry, I’m not available at that time.” This approach is more polite and shows that you respect the other person’s request.

Another good phrase is “I wish I could, but I have another commitment.” This not only expresses unavailability but also conveys regret for not being able to help. It shows that you care about their request, even if you can’t fulfill it.

Using gentle language makes the refusal easier for the other person to accept. It reduces the chances of them feeling hurt or disappointed. Being considerate with your words helps maintain a friendly and respectful relationship.

In conversations, the way you say something is just as important as what you say. Choosing your words carefully ensures that your message is clear and kind. This skill is essential for effective communication in both personal and professional settings.

2. Maintain Proper Tone and Body Language

Maintaining proper tone and body language is crucial when saying you are not available. A calm and sincere tone helps convey your message clearly and respectfully. This ensures the other person understands your unavailability without feeling offended.

When you say “NO,” use a friendly and understanding tone. Avoid sounding harsh or indifferent. This makes your refusal more acceptable and shows that you care about their request. Your tone should always reflect empathy and respect.

Body language is just as important. Maintain eye contact to show that you are sincere and engaged in the conversation. Friendly gestures, like a slight smile or a nod, can also help convey your empathy and understanding.

An optimistic and respectful demeanor can make a big difference. Even if you cannot fulfill their request, showing positivity and respect helps maintain a good relationship. It demonstrates that you value their time and effort, even if you are not available.

In any conversation, how you say something is as important as what you say. By maintaining a calm tone and positive body language, you ensure that your message is received well and that the other person feels respected and understood.

3. Provide a Reason

Providing a reason for your unavailability can help others understand your situation better. A brief explanation shows that you value their request but have genuine constraints. This makes your refusal more acceptable and considerate.

When you give a reason, it helps the other person see that you are not simply dismissing them. For example, saying “I’m currently swamped with work deadlines” explains that your unavailability is due to important commitments. This shows that you are busy, not uninterested.

Another example is, “I have a prior family engagement.” This indicates that you have personal obligations that you must attend to. Giving a reason like this helps the other person empathize with your situation and understand why you cannot fulfill their request.

Providing a reason also makes your response feel more genuine. It shows that you have thought about their request and regret that you cannot help. This approach helps maintain a positive relationship and shows respect for their time and effort.

In any situation, explaining your reason for unavailability helps create understanding and goodwill. It ensures that the other person knows you are not ignoring their request but have valid reasons for not being available.

4. Suggest an Alternative

Suggesting an alternative time or date after stating your unavailability shows your willingness to accommodate the request. This approach demonstrates that you are considerate and still want to help, even if you cannot do so at the requested time.

When you offer an alternative, it helps the other person see that you are making an effort to be flexible. For instance, saying “Can we reschedule for tomorrow afternoon?” shows that you are open to meeting, just at a different time. This makes it easier for them to accept your unavailability.

Another good example is, “I’d be happy to help you next week.” This indicates that while you are busy now, you are willing to find a time that works. Providing an alternative helps keep the conversation positive and productive.

Offering an alternative also shows that you respect their request and are committed to finding a solution. It demonstrates that you are not simply rejecting their request but are actively looking for a way to assist them. This can help maintain good relationships and ensure that both parties feel valued.

In any conversation, suggesting an alternative time or date helps convey your unavailability politely and constructively. It ensures that the other person feels respected and that their request is taken seriously, even if you cannot meet their original schedule.

5. Be Polite and Respectful

Politeness is key in any conversation, especially when declining a request. Always be courteous and respectful, regardless of the context. This helps maintain positive relationships and shows that you value the other person’s time and effort.

Expressing gratitude for their understanding can leave a positive impression. Simple phrases like “Thank you for understanding” or “I appreciate your flexibility” show that you acknowledge their patience and consideration. These small gestures can make a big difference.

When you are polite and respectful, it helps soften the impact of your refusal. It ensures that the other person feels respected and valued, even if you cannot fulfill their request. This approach can help prevent any hard feelings and maintain goodwill.

In any situation, being courteous and showing appreciation can go a long way. It helps create a positive atmosphere and shows that you care about the other person’s needs and feelings. This is essential for effective communication and maintaining good relationships.

By following these tips, you can communicate your unavailability in a way that maintains good relationships and shows respect for others. This approach helps you manage your time effectively while being considerate of the needs and feelings of those around you.

Sample Conversation

Formal Situation: In the office, Mr. Khan is approached by his colleague, Mrs. Sharma, for a meeting.

Sharma: Good morning, Mr. Khan. Can we schedule a meeting to discuss the new project this afternoon?

Khan: Good morning, Mrs. Sharma. I’m sorry, but I’m fully booked with back-to-back meetings today.

Sharma: I see. When would be a good time for you?

Khan: How about tomorrow morning at 10 AM? I will be free then.

Sharma: That works for me. Thank you for accommodating.

Khan: No problem at all, Mrs. Sharma. Looking forward to our discussion.


Informal Situation: At a park, Sam runs into his friend, Alex, who invites him to a movie.

Alex: Hey Sam, we’re planning to catch a movie tonight. Want to join?

Sam: Hey Alex, that sounds fun, but I have a family dinner tonight.

Alex: No worries. Maybe next time?

Sam: Definitely! How about we plan something for the weekend?

Alex: That’s a great idea. Let’s do that. Enjoy your dinner tonight!

Sam: Thanks, Alex. Have fun at the movie!

Final Note

Learn how to politely say you are not available to maintain good relationships and show respect for others’ time. Using the right words, tone, and body language can make your unavailability clear and considerate. Providing reasons and offering alternatives can help ease any disappointment.

When someone requests your time, it’s important to respond thoughtfully. Always choose polite words to express your unavailability. This keeps the conversation positive.

Remember to maintain a calm and sincere tone. Your body language should also be friendly. This ensures your message is received well.

If possible, explain why you are not available. Offering a brief reason shows that you value their request but have genuine constraints.

Lastly, suggest another time or date if you can. This shows your willingness to help, even if you can’t do it immediately. Being polite and respectful will help maintain good relationships.

Thank you for reading! Remember, clear communication helps everyone manage their time better. Happy learning!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best way to say you are not available?

The best way to say you are not available is to use polite language and offer a brief reason. For example, “I’m sorry, but I have a prior commitment at that time.”

How can you decline an invitation politely?

Decline an invitation politely by expressing gratitude and giving a reason. For example, “Thank you for inviting me, but I have another engagement.”

Why is it important to provide a reason when saying you are not available?

Providing a reason when saying you are not available helps the other person understand your situation. It shows respect for their request and makes your response feel more genuine.

What should you do if someone is persistent after you say you are not available?

If someone is persistent after you say you are not available, remain firm but polite. Reiterate your unavailability and suggest an alternative if possible. For example, “I can’t make it today, but I’m free tomorrow afternoon.”

Can offering an alternative time help when you are not available?

Offering an alternative time can help when you are not available. It shows willingness to accommodate the other person’s request despite your busy schedule. For example, “I can’t meet today, but how about tomorrow?”

What role does body language play when saying you are not available?

Body language plays a crucial role when saying you are not available. Maintaining eye contact and using friendly gestures can make your response more sincere and respectful.

How can tone of voice affect the way you say you are not available?

Tone of voice affects the way you say you are not available by conveying sincerity and politeness. A calm and friendly tone makes your message more acceptable.

Is it necessary to apologize when saying you are not available?

Apologizing when saying you are not available is not necessary, but it shows politeness and respect. For example, “I’m sorry, but I can’t make it.”

What is a polite way to refuse a request without giving a detailed reason?

A polite way to refuse a request without giving a detailed reason is to express regret and state unavailability. For example, “I’m afraid I can’t make it at that time.”

How can technology help in conveying unavailability?

Technology helps in conveying unavailability through automated responses, status updates, or voicemail messages. These tools inform others about your unavailability without the need for direct communication.

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 8 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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