How to turn down an invitation

Learn how to say 'no' to a formal invitation.

Do the preparation task first. Then watch the video and do the task. You can read the transcript at any time.


Man: Oh no!

Woman: What is it?

Man: 'Josh and Henrietta would like to have the pleasure of your company at a drinks party next Saturday evening ...'

Woman: Oh no, Josh and Henrietta ... they're not that couple who ...?

Man: Yeah, exactly! And it gets worse!

Woman: How?

Man: 'Formal dress'.

Woman: Argh ... It means you've got to wear a suit.

Man: At the bottom it says 'RSVP'. What does it mean?

Woman: You've got to reply.

Man: But I don't want to go, so what can I say?

Woman: Tell them you've got a dentist's appointment.

Man: Josh is my dentist!

Woman: Tell them it's your grandmother's 100th birthday party.

Man: But they know my granny died ages ago.

Woman: Tell them your dog's sick and you've got to take him to see the vet.

Man: It's no use. I'm just going to have to tell them the truth.

Woman: The truth? 'I'm not coming to your birthday party because I think you're boring and stupid?'

Man: Maybe not, then.

Woman: Tell them this: 'I'm unable to attend because I have a prior engagement.'

Man: 'Prior engagement'?! And … they won't be offended?

Woman: Absolutely not.

Man: Perfect!

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Worksheet69.82 KB

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Submitted by parisaach on Sun, 25/08/2019 - 05:09

If I want to turn down an invitation, I always trying to find an acceptable lie to say no, because if I honstly say I don't want to come people will be upset. I might say I am sick, or say I have prior engagment , I may say I have a guest or I already invited to another party.

Submitted by elnaz on Fri, 08/03/2019 - 16:05

Dear learningEnglish team, I have grammatical question, what is the meaning of “ you’ve got to wear ...” or “ you’ve got to take him ... “. I have no idea about the “got” in the sentences. Many thanks

Submitted by Rinchik on Fri, 08/12/2017 - 15:47

Hello! I have got a question. I’m a little bit confused with the grammatical aspect of this phrase “I’m just going to have to tell them the truth...”. What’s the difference between “I’m going to have to tell..” and “I have to tell..” I would be very grateful if someone could help me. Many thanks in advance.

Submitted by Peter M. on Sat, 09/12/2017 - 08:11

In reply to by Rinchik


Hello Rinchik,

The phrase 'I'm just going to...' tells us that the speaker can avoid something at the moment but will have no choice at some point in the future or if they wish to achieve some other goal:

I'm going to have to tell them the truth (when they ask/when I get there)

I'm going to have to tell them the truth (if I want them to help me)


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by commonman on Sat, 19/08/2017 - 06:24

Yes, it's very useful information. I sometimes cannot reject their invitation so what should I say it politely. I don't want to make them dissapointed.

Submitted by momoa089 on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 10:10

Hi, First of all accept my greetings, Secondly, i would like to thank you for this useful lesson. My question is what does it mean (Josh and Henrietta would like to have the pleasure of your company at a drinks party, next Saturday evening)? I guess this invitation is birthday invitation, am I right?. Best regards, Mohamed

Submitted by Kirk on Mon, 07/08/2017 - 20:48

In reply to by momoa089


Hello Mohamed,

Yes, this is an invitation, but to a drinks party. The drinks party could be a birthday party as well, but that isn't clear from just this sentence. 

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Victor Rivera on Wed, 02/08/2017 - 06:53

Very useful, indeed. It is sometimes difficult to say no, specially in cultures like mine.

Submitted by clobo on Wed, 31/05/2017 - 07:14

Can I mark this lesson as a completed ?

Hello clobo,

We don't keep a record of who has completed which parts of the site. Sometimes it's good to go back and do some tasks again to see if you remember how to do them, or if you have improved. If you want to keep a record of what you have done then you'll need to do that yourself.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Osfore on Thu, 18/05/2017 - 11:47

Hi. That was very useful because they speak Authentique English, which is what we need exactly in learning languages. If you could please add subtitles to the video so that we can read as we listen, and thank you very much.

Hi Osfore,

Thank you for the suggestion. At the moment the videos do not have subtitles, as you know, but we do provide a transcript which you can read while you listen or watch.

It is possible that we will add subtitles to future videos but this is a question for our technical team when we next upgrade the site.


Best wishes,


The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by Ahmad Ali on Sun, 19/03/2017 - 10:08

Hi, At the second (0.50), the man Said: "Maybe not then". is it the same like saying (Maybe not that)? About the man's response at this situation (His body language with the light smile) what do we call it in English?

Submitted by Kirk on Sun, 19/03/2017 - 17:45

In reply to by Ahmad Ali


Hello Ahmad Ali,

'then' has several meanings and uses; in this case, it's referring back to the idea that he will tell these people the truth (which he decides he doesn't want to do) -- you can see this explained in this entry for 'then'. 

As far as I know, there's no special name for the smile that he uses -- I think that here he's simply imagining the disaster that would result if he told the truth and smiling at that.

All the best,
The LearnEnglish Team

Submitted by CHN on Mon, 13/03/2017 - 02:11

In our country, you don't have to say anything beforehand if you turn down an invitation. But you need to call and tell them sorry later.

Submitted by youssef yasaki on Sat, 18/02/2017 - 20:28

good start for me I enjoyed it

Submitted by Md.Mahmudul Hasan. on Wed, 18/01/2017 - 07:03

hi i am, Md.mahmudul Hasan.and want skill english so we can helpe me.