Saying “No” in Japanese

Refusing someone in English is already difficult enough. But refusing a friend or a colleague politely in Japanese? Today we will be exploring some of the different variations that you can use to reject someone and not come across as too harsh. 

Posted by on January 10, 2019 – Japanese Study
saying no in japanese

There are abundant ways to say no in Japanese. Today, I will be sharing 10 ways which you can use to reject an offer or say no politely.

1. いいえーiie

This is one of the most common ways to say no in Japanese. It is not too casual and does not come across as too harsh.

For example,

A: 朝ご飯を食べましたか?(Asa gohan o tabemashita ka) – Have you had your breakfast?

B: いいえ、まだ食べていません。(Iie, mada tabeteimasen) – No, I have not eaten.

2. ちょっと。。。ー Chotto…

This is a polite way to reject an offer from someone whom you are not particularly close with. For example, someone whom you have just met or a colleague at work.

For example,

A: 今日、晩ご飯を一緒に食べませんか?(Kyou, ban gohan o isshoni tabemasenka) – Shall we eat dinner together today?

B: 用事があるので、ちょっと。。。(Youji ga aru node, chotto…) – I have some things to do so…

3. そうでもないーSou demo nai

This phrase when translated is “not really”. This is commonly used as a connector to state your point of view when you are trying to express an opposing opinion.

For Example:

A: このシャツは私には似合いますか?(Kono shatsu wa watashi ni wa niaimasu ka) – Does this shirt look good on me?

B: そうでもない…(Sou demo nai) – Not really…

4. 違いますーChigai masu

Using 違います to say no shows that you are not entirely denying or flatly saying no to the other party but instead trying to imply that you have a different take on the situation or topic. There is another form for 違います and that is “違う” which used more commonly used among family and friends.

For Example,

A: この問題の答えは “A” でしょう?(Kono mondai no kotae wa “A” deshou) – The answer to this question is A right?

B: 違います!”B” です。(Chigai masu! “B” desu) – No, it’s B.

5. ううんーUun

This is a very casual way of saying no. It is commonly used only between friends and family, or people that you are familiar with. When speaking in a conversation with someone of a higher rank or seniority, definitely do not use this.

A: 鉛筆ある? (Enpitsu aru) – Do you have a pencil?

B: ううん。(Uun) – Nope.

6. そうは思わないーSou wa omowanai

This phrase is quite a strong expression and not exactly polite in expressing disagreement.

For Example:

A: 戦争に行きたい。(Senso ni ikitai) – I want to go to war.

B: そうは思わない。(Sou wa omowanai) – I don’t think so.

7. いいえ、結構ですーIie, Kekkou desu

This is the same as saying “No, thank you”. It is not often used by the Japanese when invited out by friends. This is more commonly used when expressing a no indefinitely but is not very friendly.

For Example,

A: ミルクと砂糖はいりますか?(Cōhī ni miruku to satō wa irimasuka?) – Would you like sugar and milk?

B: いいえ、結構です。(Iie, Kekkou desu) – No, thank you. I’ve had enough.

8. いいえ、大丈夫ですーIie, Daijyoubu desu

When you use this phrase to politely reject someone, it implies “No, It’s fine”. It is a polite phrase that can be used when turning down someone’s invitation or offer.

For Example,

A: 今夜はみんな飲みに出かけますよ。一緒に参加しませんか?(Kon ya wa minna nomi ni dekake masu yo. Isshoni sanka shimasen ka) – Everyone is going out for drinks tonight. Would you like to join?

B: いいえ、大丈夫です。(Iie, daijyoubu desu) – No, it’s fine.

9. いいえ、私は日本語を話すことができませんーIie, Watashi wa nihongo o hanasukoto ga dekimasen

This reply tells the other party that you either don’t understand or can’t speak Japanese fluently.

For Example,

A: 日本語がわかりますか?(Nihongo ga wakarimasu ka) – Do you understand Japanese?

B: いいえ、私は日本語を話すことができません。(Iie, watashi wa nihongo o hanasukoto ga dekimasen) – No, I can’t converse fluently in Japanese.

10. たぶんーTabun

This is used when you are uncertain and do not want to directly say no. As circumstances can change at an unforeseen time in the future, this expression is similar to saying “maybe”.

For Example:

A: この週末、トレーニングに行きますか?(Kono shumatsu, toreningu ni ikimasu ka) – Will you be going for training this weekend?

B: たぶん行かない。(Tabun ikanai) – Maybe not.

Some other ways that you can say no can be found here.

For “No” related phrases, find out more here.