I wish I could but I don’t want to

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Functional language - phrases for saying 'no'

saying no in English

VIDEO #1 (Introduction)

VIDEO #2 (Ex. 6 & 7)


In this lesson students watch a video about strategies for saying ‘no’ in English and discover some useful phrases to say ‘no’ politely. They also put them into practice through a role-play.

B2 / Upper Intermediate60 minStandard LessonPremium Plan


You could start this lesson by showing your students a scene from the famous TV show Friends. One of the characters says: I wish I could but I don’t want to, which you might use to introduce this lesson on saying ‘no’ in English. The next step is a mind map with six expressions for saying that you’re busy. Students have to read them and choose one of the words in italics to complete each expression. Then, they put the new phrases into practice and rewrite six given situations using the words given in brackets. They engage in a discussion on different aspects of saying ‘no’ to people and then move on to another vocabulary task. The aim of this task is to pre-teach students some words they’ll hear in a video in the second part of the lesson. Students read three statements and have to identify six words in them which match six given definitions (e.g. flattered, badger, downtime). They say whether they agree or disagree with them.


The second part of the lesson starts with the video about strategies for saying ‘no’. Students watch it for the first time and complete the names of the four strategies mentioned by the speaker. Then, they listen again and write down more details about each strategy. They comment on the ways to say ‘no’ from the video and share their own strategies. The listening part is followed by 14 polite phrases typically used for saying ‘no’ in English, which students have to match with the corresponding strategies from the video. Next, they’re given four situations and have to choose which strategy they would use and which of the phrases to say ‘no’ would be suitable in each context. They should also use the expressions to say that they’re busy. The lesson finishes with a role-play. Students act out the two situations described on a card, still practising the new language from the lesson.



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Leave a Reply

  1. DaveMar

    Great! So useful for those who want workplace English.

    1. Olia

      Thank you! We hope it’s useful for your students:)

      1. DaveMar

        Also… sorry Olia, there appears to be a typo on Slide 5. I think it should read ‘Sorry but my *schedule* is busy this week.’ (to go with the previous slide)

        1. Olia

          Thanks for noticing! We’ll look into it.

        2. Justa

          Actually, it’s not a typo, it’s on purpose there. Students need to rewrite the sentence and use ‘schedule’ instead of ‘calendar’ (see the slide with answers).

  2. Agnieszka

    This is such a practical and personally useful lesson! thank you 🙂 Stay safe!

    1. Olia

      Thank you!

  3. Lizzie Hug

    Hi Olia,
    Thanks so much for this. I loved teaching and my students were buzzing to go and say no to all of their bosses the next day! Haha! 🙂 Great lessons as always!

    1. Olia

      Hi Lizzie,
      It’s great to hear that your students enjoyed the lesson. Thanks for your comment!

  4. Sue Wiid

    This was a great business lesson. Thanks!

    1. Olia

      We’re happy you liked it. Thank you!

  5. Jennifer Olivares

    I was unable to pull up the slides. I was clicking on the sign in option and it would not pull up the login and password screen. I tried logging in for about 40 mins today and was never able to. Did anyone have a similar issue today?

    1. Stan

      Hey Jennifer! Did you manage to log in? This is the first time we hear about such an issue. I have a theory what might have happened. If you experience this issue again, email us via the contact form or use the chat.

  6. Sam O Neill

    You have nailed it yet again!! Such a useful lesson! Thanks a million you beautiful lifesavers 🙂

    1. Olia

      Thanks for your feedback. We really appreciate it 🙂

  7. Shosh

    Great, thank you! So very useful.

    1. Olia

      I’m happy to hear that 🙂

  8. Ana Martínez Martín

    Great lesson 😀

    1. Olia

      Thanks 🙂

  9. Claire

    Pretty good, thanks! But would be useful to have the Friends clip embedded in the slide show.

    1. Olia

      Thanks for your feedback! We thought it was a good suggestion so we added the slide with the video 🙂


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