None for me, thanks.


Classification of Refusals
(Adapted from Takahashi, Beebe, & Uliss-Weltz, 1990)

There are two main classifications of refusals: direct and indirect. However, speakers can use other linguistic resources when they refuse, such including a reaction of solidarity before or after refusing. This is known as an adjunct. Below are several examples of different refusal strategies used in Spanish, along with selections of adjuncts.

I. Direct strategies

  1. Flat ‘No'
    • No.
  2. Negation of a Proposition
    • No puedo venir a la fiesta. (‘I can't come to the party.')

II. Indirect strategies

  1. Mitigated Refusal
    • Creo que no es posible (‘I don't think it's possible')
    • No podría asistir (‘I wouldn't be able to attend')
    • No se puede (‘It's not possible')
  2. Reasons/Explanations
    • Tengo planes / Tengo un compromiso
      (‘I have plans / I have a commitment')
  3. Indefinite Reply
    • No sé si tendré tiempo (‘I don't know if I'll have time')
    • Voy a tratar de estar ahí, pero no te prometo nada (‘I'll try to be there, but I can't promise you anything')
  4. Regret/Apology
    • Discúlpame (‘Forgive me')
    • Lo siento mucho (‘I'm really sorry')
  5. Alternative
    • ¿Por qué no salimos a comer la próxima semana?
      (‘Why don't we go out for dinner next week?')
  6. Postponement
    • Prefiero tomar esta clase el próximo semestre
      (‘I'd rather take this class next semester')
    • Voy a pensarlo (‘I'll think about it')
  7. Repetition
    • ¿El lunes a las 2:00 p.m .? (‘Monday at 2:00 p.m.?')
  8. Request for Information
    • ¿A qué hora es la fiesta? (‘What time is the party?')
  9. Set Condition for Future or Past
  10. Acceptance
    • Si tengo que tomar la clase después, pues la tomo
      (‘If I have to take the class later, I'll take it then')
    • Si me hubiera dicho antes, habría aceptado
      (‘If you had told me earlier, I would have accepted')
  11. Clarification Request
    • ¿Dijo composición en español?
      (‘Did you say Spanish composition?')
  12. Wish
    • Ojalá pudiera quedarme (‘I wish I could stay')

III. Adjuncts to refusals

  1. Positive Opinion
    • Felicidades por su ascenso. Me da mucho gusto!
      (‘Congratulations on your promotion. I'm very glad!')
  2. Willingness
    • Me encantaría, pero… (‘I'd love to, but…')
  3. Gratitude
    • Gracias por la invitación (‘Thanks for the invitation')
  4. Agreement
    • Sí, de acuerdo, pero … (Yes, I agree, but…')
  5. Empathy
    • Entiendo que está en un aprieto, pero…
      (‘I understand you are in a bind, but…)




Refusals across languages

Refusals have been studied in many different languages among both native and non-native speakers. While most research has centered on English, there are also studies on refusals in British English Japanese, Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, and Italian. Refusals have also been studied cross culturally, in which researchers compare refusals in different languages. Most of these projects involve contrasting refusals in United States English with other languages such as Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, German, Japanese, Korean, and Spanish.

Investigators can learn about how people perform refusals by




 Practice: Refusing in English
 Practice: Refusing in Spanish