4 Different Ways to Say No in English

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“No” is a powerful word. It’s so powerful that most people know what it means even if they don’t speak English!

When you say it, it gives you control of the conversation, or at least makes you feel in control of the conversation. Because of its power, replying with just “no” is not always the best option. The situation really determines the best response. 

 

  • Is it a casual or formal situation? 
  • How well do you know the person? 
  • Are you completely uninterested, or might you be interested in the future? 
  • Is your opinion or preference being considered?

 

All of these factors help determine the best way to say “no.” Here are some alternatives to just a simple “no” and what they really mean.

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Nope

“Nope” is very informal in English – a single word answer. It is usually used in a situation where preference is not considered. You can use it when you mean “No” very confidently.

 

Examples of when to use it – 

Person 1: “Did the package arrive?” 

Person 2: “Nope.”

Person 1: “Is that your mess?”

Person 2: “Nope”

 

Example of when not to use it – 

Person 1: “Do you want to go see a movie tonight?”

Person 2: “Nope, I already have plans.”  

People will be able to understand you, but this doesn’t sound natural because you’re stating your preference, and it is more than a one-word response. 

 

I’m good

“I’m good” is also informal. It is used in a situation where preference is considered. 

Examples of when to use it – 

Person 1: “Can I offer you another glass of wine?”

Person 2: “I’m good.”

Person 1: “Do you want to go on a walk with us?”

Person 2: “I’m good.”  

 

Example of when not to use it – 

Person 1: “Did the package arrive?”

Person 2: “I’m good.”

This doesn’t make sense because the question does not ask for your preference. 

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No way

“No way” is very informal and is usually used in a conditional situation (would, could).

Examples of when to use it – 

Person 1: “Would you ever go to Antarctica?”

Person 2: “No way.”

Person 1: “Could you lift up that car?”

Person 2: “No way.”

 

Example of when not to use it – 

Person 1: “Do you want to go to dinner tonight?”

Person 2: “No way.”

Although this does make sense, it would sound rude in this situation. “No way” should only be used to answer a questions like this if you do not want to interact with the person anymore.

 

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I wish, but…

“I wish, but…” is used when you want to be polite and explain your reason for saying no.

Examples of when to use it – 

Person 1: “Do you want to go to the beach this weekend?”  

Person 2: “I wish, but I have to work on Saturday.” 

Person 1: “Is that your dog?”

Person 2: “I wish, but I am allergic to dogs, so I cannot have one as a pet.”

Example of when not to use it – 

Person 1: “Did you get food poisoning from the restaurant?”

Person 2: “I wish, but… “

This does not make sense because there really is no reason why you would have wanted to get sick!

Of course there are many more ways to say “no.” These are just a few examples to show that different situations require different answers. A simple “no” won’t always be the best choice. Our students often ask us about the best words to use in various situations, so that they can be confident when speaking at work, or when they are in a social situation. Bring some questions to your next Lingoloop class! Your tutor will be happy to answer!

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