When invited to an event or asked to do something in Chinese, you may sometimes need to tactfully say “not this time.” Declining requests requires finesse in any language, but especially in Chinese culture. In this article, we’ll explore nuanced ways to say “next time” while maintaining social harmony.
The most direct translation of “not this time” is “bú shì xiàn zài” (不是现在). But this blunt phrase alone can seem impolite. Here are some softer alternatives using common Chinese expressions:
“Xià cì zài yuē” (下次再约)
This means “let’s make plans next time.” It’s a polite go-to for postponing an invitation to a future date. You can also say “Xià cì ba” (下次吧), “next time,” to gently ask for a rain check.
“Méiyǒu kòng” (没有空)
“I’m not free” or “I don’t have time.” This is a handy excuse if you’re genuinely busy. You can also say “Méiyǒu shíjiān” (没有时间, no time). For extra courtesy, explain what’s occupying your schedule.
“Xià cì yīdìng” (下次一定)
“Definitely next time” conveys you’d truly like to, just not now. This adds reassurance that you’re only declining for the moment.
这次不行 Not this time
This phrase is a polite way to decline an invitation or plan. For example, if someone invites a foreigner to go see a movie, the foreigner could say: “Thank you, but not this time, I have to take care of some things at home.”
这次没空I’ll sit this one out
This phrase expresses that the foreigner does not plan to participate in a certain activity or gathering. For example, if someone invites a foreigner to a birthday party, the foreigner could say: “Thank you for the invite, but I’ll sit this one out, I have some other plans.”
这次算了 I’ll pass this time
This phrase expresses that the foreigner has a certain desire or plan, but not at the moment. For example, if a foreigner wants to buy something but doesn’t want to buy it right now, they could say: “I’d like to get this, but I’ll pass this time, maybe next time.
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