Learning to say “not this time” in Mandarin Chinese can be very useful for politely declining invitations, offers, or requests. Here’s a comprehensive guide to saying “not this time” in various contexts, complete with the most common Chinese phrases, sample sentences, audio clips, and cultural tips.
Why Learning This Phrase Is Helpful
Being able to gracefully decline something in Chinese is an important conversational skill. Directly saying “no” is often considered rude in Chinese culture. Using a phrase like “not this time” softens the refusal and leaves the door open for future acceptance.
This makes it a versatile phrase for situations like:
- Turning down invitations or offers from friends, colleagues, clients, etc.
- Politely rejecting unsolicited sales pitches or requests for donations.
- Asking to take a raincheck on an activity suggestion from your language exchange partner.
- Indicating you don’t need assistance from store clerks or servers at the moment.
The ability to say “not this time” helps you interact more naturally in Chinese while maintaining positive relationships.
Key Ways to Say “Not This Time” in Chinese
Here are the main Chinese phrases for saying “not this time” with pinyin pronunciations and character writing:
- 这一次不了 (zhè yí cì bù liǎo) – The most direct translation meaning “not this time.”
- 这次免了 (zhè cì miǎn le) – Literally “exempt this time.”
- 改天吧 (gǎi tiān ba) – Means “some other day.”
- 下次吧 (xià cì ba) – Translates to “next time.”
- 暂时不 (zàn shí bù) – Means “not for now.”
These phrases all clearly convey “not this time” in standard Mandarin Chinese. Let’s look at how to use them in full sentences.
Sample Sentences and Audio
Here are some examples of “not this time” responses to common situations in conversational Chinese, with pinyin romanizations:
- A: 我们一起去吃饭吧。(Wǒmen yìqǐ qù chīfàn ba.) – Let’s go eat together.
B: 这一次不了,我已经有其他安排了。(Zhè yí cì bù liǎo, wǒ yǐjīng yǒu qítā ānpái le.) – Not this time, I already have other plans.
- A: 你想试试这个新菜吗? (Nǐ xiǎng shì shì zhè ge xīn cài ma?) – Would you like to try this new dish?
B: 这次免了,我想点我常吃的。(Zhè cì miǎn le, wǒ xiǎng diǎn wǒ cháng chī de.) – I’ll pass this time, I want to order what I usually get.
- A: 我们明天再继续讨论这个项目,可以吗?(Wǒmen míngtiān zài jìxù tǎolùn zhè ge xiàngmù, kěyǐ ma?) – Let’s continue discussing this project tomorrow, okay?
B: 改天吧,我有点忙。(Gǎi tiān ba, wǒ yǒu diǎn máng.) – Some other day, I’m a bit busy.
- A: 你要买这个袋子吗?只要五十块。(Nǐ yào mǎi zhè ge dàizi ma? Zhǐyào wǔshí kuài.) – Do you want to buy this bag? Only 50 yuan.
B: 下次吧,我今天不买东西。(Xià cì ba, wǒ jīntiān bù mǎi dōngxi.) – Next time, I’m not shopping today.
- A: 要我帮你拿吗? (Yào wǒ bāng nǐ ná ma?) – Can I help you carry that?
B: 暂时不,谢谢。(Zànshí bù, xièxie.) – Not for now, thanks.
Here are audio clips of these exchanges:
[Audio clips of the Mandarin sentences]
As you can hear, the tones and context make the meaning clear. Try practicing these phrases aloud to improve your pronunciation.
Additional Useful Vocabulary
Here are some extra words and phrases that are handy for politely declining offers or invitations:
- 对不起 (Duìbùqǐ) – Sorry
- 下次吧 (Xiàcì ba) – Next time
- 暂时不方便 (Zànshí bù fāngbiàn) – Not convenient right now
- 我再考虑一下 (Wǒ zài kǎolǜ yíxià) – Let me think about it
- 不用了,谢谢 (Bú yòng le, xièxie) – No need, thanks
You can combine these with the “not this time” phrases to sound more polite and grateful when turning something down.
Cultural Tips for Using This Phrase
Here are some useful cultural tips to keep in mind when saying “not this time” in Mandarin:
- Accompany the phrase with a smile or look of regret to appear polite.
- Avoid bluntly saying “I don’t want to.” This can come across as rude.
- Don’t give excuses or detailed explanations if not necessary. Simple is better.
- You can use this phrase to deflect pushy sales tactics. But avoid outright saying “no.”
- After rejecting an offer, you can ask the person to extend it again another time. This shows appreciation.
- If declining an invitation from a superior, frame it hypothetically like “If I could, I would love to. But…”
Being aware of these nuances will help you turn down requests, offers, and invitations in a tactful way true to Chinese etiquette.
Putting It All Together
Let’s review the key phrases and sentence patterns for gracefully saying “not this time” in Mandarin:
- 这一次不了 (Zhè yí cì bù liǎo) – Direct not this time phrase
- 这次免了 (Zhè cì miǎn le) – I’ll pass this time
- 改天吧 (Gǎi tiān ba) – Some other day
- 下次吧 (Xià cì ba) – Next time
- 暂时不 (Zàn shí bù) – Not for now
- (Phrase above) + ,因为 (yīnwèi) + reason – Decline giving a brief explanation with “because.”
- (Phrase above) + ,但是 (dànshì) + appreciation – Soften refusal by following with “but” and appreciation
- (Phrase above) + ,谢谢 (xièxie) – Say thanks to be extra polite.
With these phrases and patterns, you’ll be prepared to gracefully decline offers and invitations in any social or professional situations you encounter in China.
The ability to say “not this time” is invaluable for interacting politely while setting your own boundaries. Master this skill, and you’ll build stronger relationships and avoid misunderstandings.