How to Politely Refuse an Offer: English Phrases & Tips

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Did you ever fail to refuse someone’s offer without hurting or offending them? Or Have you ever felt lost just because you didn’t know the appropriate English phrase to deny someone’s offer? No worries! In this post, I’ll share some exclusive tips and English phrases that you can use to refuse someone’s offer politely.

As a general rule, you can refuse an offer by saying a polite “Sorry” and a “Thank you” as a token of appreciation. However, if possible, you should show valid reasons and maintain a polite tone and gesture so that the person who offered you something doesn’t feel offended. 

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You can refuse someone when they offer you something in so many ways. I’ll share practical tips and expressions to help you reject someone’s offer. With the expressions I am about to share, you can deny when someone offers you help, food, a job, company friendship, etc. Let’s start with a few tips first.

7 Essential Tips on How to Refuse an Offer

As rejecting someone is challenging since there s a possibility that they may feel offended, you must be extra careful. Your every word and gesture count when you refuse someone’s offer.

7 Essential Tips on How to Refuse an Offer

So, to overcome the challenge of denying someone’s offer, I have come up with seven essential tips.  

#1 Apologize for Turning the Offer Down

While rejecting someone’s offer, you must start with an apology word. You can express your feelings for turning their offer down in many ways. Though the most common term to apologize is “sorry,” you may use some other words to ask for an apology so that you sound more thoughtful and sincere.

However, how you apologize may vary depending on the situation: formal & informal. In an informal setting, a simple sorry may work, but formally you may say something more communicative & engaging. 

#2 Appreciate and Express Gratitude for the Offer

Whatever someone offers, it’s better to appreciate them no matter whether you accept the offer or not. So while refusing someone’s offer, you must express that you feel grateful that they offered you something.

When you appreciate someone for something, it gives them a sense of importance and makes them happy. Even when you thank someone, you feel happier, and it helps you develop a positive attitude in you.

#3 Express Clearly That You Have to Refuse

When you refuse someone’s offer, clearly express that you deny it. You must not respond to any offer in a way that the other person will be in confusion. So, why is this so important to express yourself clearly?

For example, when someone offers you to attend a dinner party, they may have some preparation of special arrangements. However, if you don’t clearly say that you cannot participate in the dinner, their preparation will fail. So, you must make sure that you clearly share that you cannot accept the offer.

#4 Show Reasons If Possible

When you need to reject someone’s offer, explain why you had to turn their request or offer down. However, sharing the reasons may not always be possible, but you must do it if possible. Showing reasons will help you convince them quickly, and you can be sure they will not feel offended.

Suppose one of your colleagues offers you a ride from the office to home. If you refuse them with a “sorry” or “Thanks,” they may feel bad. However, if you say, “Thanks, but my friend is on the way to pick me up,” your colleague will certainly not feel offended. 

#5 Try to Keep the Offer Open for the Future

Suppose there is an offer that you really wanted to avail of but could not due to some valid reasons. In that case, you should respond in a way that it seems you are open to accepting it in the future.

For example, if you decline a dinner offer, you can reply, “Sorry, I can’t attend this time, but I’ll surely attend next time.” Such an expression will let the person know about your interest. Moreover, it will keep the offer open for the future too.

#6 Respond as Early as You Can

There are so many adverse effects of procrastination. For example, delaying responding to someone’s offer may cause problems in interpersonal relationships. So, accept or reject it as soon as possible whenever someone offers you something. Your quick response: positive or negative, may help the other person make a different decision or plan.

So, ensure you respond to someone’s offer as early as possible. However, if you really need some time to think, ask for some time from them and respond accordingly.

#7 Be Polite in Words, Tone & Body Language

Politeness is the key feature of a healthy conversation. Whether you offer someone something or you accept someone’s offer or reject it, in both cases, you must be very polite in your word choice, voice tone, and body language.

Many of my ESL students are less concerned about non-verbal communication than verbal ones. However, remember that your facial expressions, gestures, posture, and tone of voice are powerful communication tools. So, it would be best if you used these tools appropriately whenever possible.

English Phrases to Refuse an Offer: Formal & Informal

There are so many English phrases that you can use while refusing someone’s offer. First, however, you must consider the situation: formal or informal. For example, if your friend offers you help, you may directly say that you don’t need help. But if your boss offers any support, you should use formal ways of refusing the offer.

English Phrases to Refuse an Offer: Formal & Informal

So, in the following table, in the left column, I have shared some English phrases that you may use to refuse formally. In contrast, the phrases in the right column will help you to refuse an offer informally.

Formal Refusal of an OfferInformal Refusal of an Offer
1.    I appreciate your offer, but I’m sorry that I can’t accept it.
2.    I’m really sorry that I can’t accept your offer.
3.    Thank you so much for your generous offer, but I’m sorry that I have to say “no.”
4.    I am feeling really sorry to refuse your offer.
5.    It’s so nice of you, but I am unable to accept your offer.
6.    Your offer is very tempting, but I have no way to accept it.
7.    I must say that it’s a great offer, but I think I shouldn’t accept it.
8.    Would you mind if I turned your offer down?
9.    Is this alright if I don’t accept your offer this time?
10.  I think I have to pass on this offer. Please don’t mind.
11.  I’d love to avail myself of this offer, but I can’t accept it now for unavoidable reasons.
12.  I am sorry to reject you but thank you for the offer.
13.  I apologize for not accepting your offer.
14.  I beg your pardon. I can’t accept what you offer.
1.    No, thanks.
2.    Not really, thanks.
3.    I am sorry, but I can’t.
4.    Not today, thanks.
5.    No, I guess.
6.    Not this time, thanks.
7.    I can’t accept it this time.
8.    Thanks, but I can’t go for it now.
9.    Thanks, but I don’t need it.
I don’t think so.
English Phrases to Refuse an Offer: Formal & Informal

The above expressions can be used generally, regardless of any situation. However, in the next part of the post, I’ll share some expressions that you can use in specific situations.  

How to Refuse When Someone Offers Help

In our everyday life: personal, professional, or social life, we help each other. Sometimes we offer people help, and they also offer us back. However, on many occasions, you may need to refuse someone’s help.

The way you refuse help at work should vary from at home. A home is a casual place, whereas your office is a formal place. Therefore when you need to reject someone’s help, you must consider the situation. Your words should be different depending on the situation.

How to Refuse When Someone Offers Help

In the following table, I have shared some popular and proper ways of refusing someone’s offer to help in both formal and informal situations.

Offering HelpRefusal (Informal)Refusal (Formal)
May I help you?No, thanks.Thanks for asking, But it’s fine to do it by myself.
Do you want me to give you a hand?Not really, thanks.Thanks for being that generous. But I think I don’t need any help right now.
I would love to help you do this.Not today, thanks.I appreciate your offer, but I am okay with doing it alone.
What can I do for you right now?Thanks, but I don’t need any help now.Thank you so much for offering that help. But I am sorry that I don’t need any help now.
Do you want me to help you check the document?Not this time, thanks.I appreciate your offer. But I think I can do it.

How to Refuse When Someone Offers Food

Suppose you are at a family get-together, and one of your relatives offers you a food item you don’t like. What do you say? Imagine that you are in a professional setting, a business lunch, for example. How do you refuse when a client offers you a coffee though you don’t feel like having it?

How to Refuse When Someone Offers Food

Worry not! The following table will show how you should refuse a food offer in formal and informal situations.

Offering FoodRefusal (Informal)Refusal (Formal)
Can I get you a drink?  No, thanks.Thanks for asking, but I don’t feel like having a drink.
Would you care for desserts?Not now, thanks.Thanks, but actually, I am not into desserts too much.
Will you have a burger?  Nope! Thanks.Oh, thanks! But I already had one.
How about a spicy chicken?I don’t find it ok.I am not sure! I’ll not have any now, I guess.
Who wants the juice?Not again, thanks.I am afraid I cannot have any more juice.

How to Refuse When Someone Offers a Job

When it comes to a job context, the situation is always formal. Therefore, someone will offer you a job formally, and you should also refuse it in the same way when applicable.

How to Refuse When Someone Offers a Job

Let’s see the following phrases so that you can refuse a job offer politely without offending the person who offered you the job.

Offering a JobRefusal (Formal)
I can offer you a part-time position here.Thanks for your offer, but I am looking for a full-time job.
We are pleased to offer you an internship.  Good to hear that, but I am sorry that I have changed my decision to do an internship.
I have an employment offer for you.  I appreciate your offer, but I have already joined somewhere else.
We want to take pride in offering you the position of GM.  It’s my pleasure to have an offer from you, but I already work in a better position here.
Would you like to work with us as a financial advisor for the company?  I find the offer tempting, but I have decided to retire this month as I am about to start my new business.

In Conclusion

As refusing someone is challenging without offending them, you must be careful about your words and attitude. You should always be polite no matter whether you are in a formal or informal situation or whether you talk to someone younger or older than you.

Learn the phrases I have shared above and consider the tips I have given with utmost importance. I believe this post will help you to refuse someone’s offer without sounding rude.

Happy learning!  

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 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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