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Lesson Transcript


Hi everybody! Yinru here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common Chinese questions.
The Question
The question for this lesson is…
How do I say “no” to an invitation politely?
Chinese people are known to be very friendly and hospitable. Especially when they know you’re from another country and learning Chinese. You’re probably going to be invited to their house for dinners or parties that you may not want to go to. How do you turn down these invitations without being rude?
It would be ideal if a simple 不用了,谢谢 bú yòngle, xièxie (“No thank you”) would do. But the reality is Chinese people always try to avoid using the word “no." To turn down an invitation, you usually will first apologize for not being able to make it. Then give the reasons why you can’t go, just like in the following conversation:
A: 明天有空吗?来我家吃晚饭吧! (Míngtiān yǒukòng ma? Lái wǒ jiā chī wǎnfàn ba! “Are you free tomorrow? Come have dinner at my place!”)
B: 真不好意思,明天晚上我要上课。改天吧!(Zhēn bùhǎoyìsi , míngtiān wǎnshang Wǒ yào shàngkè . Gǎitiān ba! “I’m so sorry, I have to go to a class tomorrow night. Let’s do it another time!”)
In this conversation, Person B didn’t say “no.” Instead, she explained why she couldn’t go and suggested doing it another time. This is the Chinese way: you don’t want to say the word “can’t” 不行 bù xíng, or “won’t do” 不好 bù hǎo. And you’ll want to explain why.
Many times, you don’t even have to give the “real” reason. You can use a very vague term like:
我有别的事情 (Wǒ yǒu biéde shìqing. “I have other things to tend to.”)
我有别的安排 (Wǒ yǒu biéde ānpái. “I have other plans.”) So if you don’t want to go to a party and don’t feel like giving the real reason, you might say:
不好意思,我有别的事情去不了。你们玩得开心!(Bùhǎoyìsi, Wǒ yǒubiéde shìqing qù bù liǎo. Nǐmen wán de kāixīn! “Sorry, I have other things to attend to, so I can’t make it. Hope you guys have fun!”)
Saying no or turning down an invitation is not always easy. I believe it’s not only difficult in the Chinese culture, but in many other cultures too. It’s human nature that you don’t want to say the word “no.” I hope after today’s lesson, you’ll find a way of saying “no” properly and politely in Chinese.


How was it? Pretty interesting, right?
Do you have any more questions? Leave them in the comments below, and I’ll try to answer them!
That’s all for today. 今天就到这里。Jīntiān jiù dào zhèlǐ. And I’ll See you next episode. 我们下期再见吧。Wǒmen xià qī zàijiàn.