Refusals (Eng)

Refusing in English

 "I’m Sorry. Can I Think About It?: The Negotiation of Refusals in Academic and Nonacademic Contexts" (Félix-Brasdefer & Bardovi-Harlig 2010). 

The objective of the activities introduced in this chapter is to develop learners’ pragmatic ability by raising their awareness of the structure of refusals and their use in specific situations. Because refusals are usually negotiated, this chapter promotes the learning of refusals at the discourse level by looking at how strategies are used to express pragmatic intent across turns. We explore two main contexts: refusing offers from advisors in an academic context and refusing invitations from friends in a social context.

Refusals differ from many of the acts discussed in previous chapters in that they are responding acts—acts uttered in response to initiating acts such as invitations, suggestions, requests, and offers. This has consequences that are particularly challenging for learners. Because practically any reply is interpreted in terms of the act preceding it, it is often difficult to opt out of a refusal. In addition, refusals are often negotiated across many turns in a conversation, and they may require “face-saving maneuvers to accommodate the noncompliant nature of the act” (Gass & Houck, 1999, p. 2). Moreover, what is considered appropriate refusal behavior may vary across cultures.

The activities included here are divided into four phases (you can access article below)

1. Raising awareness

2. Recognizing refusal strategies

3. Identifying softeners

4. Practicing refusals

Félix-Brasdefer, J. C., & Bardovi-Harlig, K. (2010). “I’m sorry - Can I think about it?” The negotiation of refusals in academic and non-academic contexts. In D. Tatsuki & N. Houck (eds.), Pragmatics: Teaching Speech Acts (pp. 163-180). Alexandria, VA: TESOL.

Below you can practice the following situations, refusing a professor's advice (Situation 1) and refusing a friend's invitation to a brithday party. (Situation 2)


Situation 1: Refusing a Professor's Advice (Advisor - Student)

It is class registration timeand and you go to your advisor's office to finalize your schedule for next year. After exchanging greetings, your professor begins advising sessions.

 You will have 10 seconds to respond. Press 'play' when you are ready to start.


Advisor:    Professor begins advising sessions. [Tone]

YOU:         Respond. Briefly agree with your professor's suggestion and provide a reason for not taking the class. [Tone]

Advisor:    Professor responds. [Tone]

YOU:         Respond. Provide a partial agreement response, then an alternative or a suggestion. [Tone]

Advisor:    Professor ends advising session.

Situation 2: Refusing a Friend's Invitation to a Birthday Party (Friends)

You are walking on campus and you run into a friend who invites you to his birthday party, When your friend's sees you, he begins the conversation.

       You (student) will have 10 seconds to respond. Press 'play' when you are ready to start.


Friend:    Your friend says 'hi' to you. [Tone]

YOU:       Respond and greet your friend. [Tone]

Friend:    Your friend responds and talks about his birthday party. [Tone]

YOU:       Respond, ask for date again. [Tone]

Friend:    Your friend responds. [Tone]

YOU:       Explain why you can't attend the party. [Tone]

Friend:    Your friend responds. [Tone]

YOU:       Respond. Begin your response with an expression of agreement or positive opinion.                                                                     Decline your friend's invitation again. Be firm and polite in your response.                                                                                   Then, respond with a suggestiuon of getting together at another time for drinks, lunch or dinner. [Tone]

Friend:     Your friend responds. [Tone]

YOU:        Respond, ask your friend it it's okay. [Tone]

Friend:     Your friend responds. [Tone]

YOU:        Respond, end the conversation with a bried good response.