1. Refusing an invitation
Sometimes, it’s difficult to guess whether an invitation is real or merely a polite offer. In this case, a simple polite refusal can be used to judge the persons’ true intentions.
(gǎi tiān ba)
Maybe another day，
(xià cì ba)
Maybe next time，
(yǐhòu /huítóu zài shuō)
Let’s talk about it later.
A：去我家坐坐吧！(Qù wǒjiā zuòzuò ba!)
Go to my house and have a seat!
Maybe another day.
A：你没吃饭吗？我请你吃。(Nǐ méi chīfàn ma? Wǒ qǐng nǐ chī.)
Did you not eat? Let me treat you to dinner.
B：谢谢了，下次吧。(Xièxie le, xià cì ba.)
Thank you, next time.
Of course, if they respond and confirm that their invitation was serious, accepting is the most appropriate way to respond.
2. Refusing an offer
Chinese people tend to decline gifts or favors multiple times before finally accepting them. This is a polite way to show modesty because it shows that you don’t want to trouble others.
It’s not necessary.
(tài máfán nǐ le)
It’s too much of a bother.
Please don’t bother.
A：你用我的车吧。(Nǐ yòng wǒ de chē ba.)
You can use my car.
B：不用了，太麻烦你了。(Bùyòngle, tài máfan nǐ le.)
No, it’s too much trouble for you.
A：我借钱给你吧。(Wǒ jiè qián gěi nǐ ba.)
Let me lend you money.
No, thank you.
This initial refusal before final acceptance also happens often when people offer food or drink, especially when it is offered by someone they don’t know well. That’s why when Chinese people offer you something to eat or drink, and encourage you to “eat more,” if you really want to say no, you can use the phrases:
(Wǒ xiànzài bù xiǎng chī.)
I don’t feel like eating right now.
(Xièxie, dāi huìr ba.)
Thank you, maybe later.
3. Refusing unsolicited suggestions
When a salesperson approaches you with an offer you’re not interested in, you can refuse them directly by saying
When talking to someone you know, on the other hand, it’s more common, and polite, to make an excuse or say you’ll get back to them later. For example:
(Wǒ kǎolǜ kǎolǜ.)
I’ll think it over.
(Wǒ xiǎngxiǎng ba.)
I’ll think about it.
4. Refusing a request
If someone is asking you for information or advice and you don’t feel comfortable doing so, you can try to redirect the conversation by switching the topic, putting it off, or dodging the question. You might say:
(Wǒ bú tài qīngchǔ.)
I am not really sure.
(zhèyàng bùhǎo ba)
This might not work.
(kěnéng bútài fāngbiàn)
It might be too inconvenient.
(Nǐ gàosù wǒ lǎobǎn de xiǎngfǎ, hǎo ma?) Can you tell me what the boss thinks?
B：可能不太方便。(kěnéng bútài fāngbiàn) It might be too inconvenient.
When someone gives you an unreasonable request or suggestion, and you want to decline directly, you can say:
Never, not a chance!
Theses refusals are very straightforward and blunt, be careful about who you say them to.
想得美 is a little sarcastic, and 休想 is very firm and resolute, and it might sound like you’re quite annoyed.