How to decline an invitation in English politely

Accepting an invitation in English is easy. All you need to do is to let the host of the event know that you are able to attend. Sometimes, though, you might need to decline an invitation. Whether it’s because you already have another commitment or simply that you don’t want to go, you need to let the host know in a way that won’t upset him or her. It sounds tricky but it’s actually quite simple as long as you follow these guidelines.

Thank the host

Start by thanking the host for the invitation using a phrase like “Thank you so much for the invitation, I really appreciate it and it means a great deal.” It’s important to let the host know that you appreciate the invitation, even if you are going to decline it later.

Apologise for declining

You can say something like “Sorry I can’t attend” or “I’m afraid I’m not able to come.” These expressions work equally well in spoken or written English so you could use them on the phone or in an email.

Explain why you can’t attend

There are lots of reasons why you might not be able to attend an event. If have already accepted another invitation to an event at the same time, you can say “I’ve already got something on” or if you are too busy to attend, you can say “I’ve got too much on at the moment.” If you are in another city or country at the time of the event, you could say “I’m not in town on that day.”

Offer another time to meet

For informal invitations that you are unable to accept, you could offer an alternative time to meet. For example, if your friend asks you out for drink and you are unable to attend, you could say “I’m afraid I can’t make it on Friday. I’m available next week, though.” Don’t use this for formal events, though, as it would sound rude.

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Send a gift or card

If you need to decline an invitation to a formal event such as a wedding, it’s polite to send a card or gift anyway. A gift with a note explaining how sorry you are that you can’t be present lets the host know that you still care about his or her special event.

Remember, the main thing when declining an invitation is to be polite and tactful. Even if the event isn’t important to you, the fact that you have been invited to it shows that the host would like to share the event with you. Show your respect to the host and use these simple guidelines to make sure everything goes smoothly next time you need to decline an invitation.

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