Five Common Ways to Say ‘NO’ in Japanese

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There are many ways to express denial and rejection in every language. Saying ‘No’ usually comes out too harsh, so depending on the situation, some people want to make their rejection sound milder to others. Or she wants to make it clear that she has no interest whatsoever for the guy who asked her out for a date. Here’s five common and convenient ways to say ‘No’ in Japanese which definitely saves you out of the deadlock with yes.


嫌, iya, means “I don’t like it”.

Straight. It might sound childish but it’s important to let others know that you don’t like it!


無理, muri, means “I can’t”.

Very straight. Like no means no. Culturally, Japanese people are not used to rejections in a directly manner. So, if you are a little worried that this word might hurt them, pick a milder way to deliver your intension.

Yotei Aru

予定ある, yotei aru, means “I have plans”.

Mild. This phrase is widely used among Japanese speakers who do not want to accept the invite to hanging out with their friends regardless of whether they have plans or not.

Enryo Shitoki Masu

遠慮しときます, enryo shitoki masu, means “I humbly turn it down”.

Polite and straight. Japanese business persons cannot live without this phrase. They usually say this when their superiors ask them to go out for a drink after work.

Iketara Iku

行けたら行く, iketara iku, means “I will come if I can”.

Very mild but disapointing. Unlike the literal meaning, it doesn’t really bring up hopes for the person who invited you. They usually assume that you are not coming and you don’t want to. It is because many Japanese people use this phrase and end up not coming as a result of ‘trying to be nice’. So, I don’t recommend this phrase if you are really not sure about your availability because they might mark you as absent.

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