5 ways a Brit says ‘No’ without you realising it

Brits hate saying ‘No’, so they’ve come up with various clever ways of merely not saying ‘Yes’. But watch out: someone’s ‘Not yes’ will definitely sound like a ‘Yes’ to the untrained (foreign) ear


In Britain, saying ‘No’ to suggestions or invites is considered rude. To be polite, people try to avoid using the dreaded N-word at all cost.

Whatever the event you invite a Brit to – whether it’s your work colleague’s Medieval re-enactment play, your dad’s book presentation or a game of connect4 at your parents’ house, Brits will always respond with an enthusiastic ‘Yes’.

Or so you think.

There are several ways in which a Brit can respond to your invitation and make you believe the answer is ‘Yes’. But when you play back the answer later in your head, you will realise no one ever actually agreed to anything.

Here are my top five:

1. The Thumbs Up

Thumbs up

The Brit says: “That sounds lovely. What a great idea to go to that place. I’ve heard lots of good things about it.”

 TRANSLATION: ‘I’m not coming but I’m going to say a lot of affirmative, positive words to avoid having to actually respond to your invite.

2. The Calendar Promise


The Brit says: “I’d love to come – I’ll just have to check my calendar, but I’ll let you know. I’ll text you.”

TRANSLATION: “I’m not going to check my calendar because I’m not coming. I won’t text you, but I’m hoping you will have forgotten this conversation ever happened in a few hours.”

3. The Double Check 


The Brit says: “The fifth of April? Is that a Thursday? Great!”

TRANSLATION: “The fifth of April? Whether that’s a Thursday or any other day in April, I’m not coming.”

4. The Suggestive Subjunctive


The Brit says: “Oh my God, I would be well up for that. That sounds like so much fun.”

TRANSLATION: “I would be well up for that – if it was with other people, at a different time and date and a completely different activity.”

5. The Vague Plan


The Brit says: “Yeah, we should definitely do that. And if not this time, definitely another day.”

TRANSLATION: “We should definitely do that – once every NEVER.”

So if you want to get an accurate headcount for your event, don’t trust what people say to you face to face. Message them a few days beforehand. And if people’s written responses include words like ‘if’ or ‘might’ it’s most likely they will not be attending.

Key terms
Here’s some notable vocab we picked out for you

    • to be well up for (verb, informal): to be very interested in
      Also: “The food was well good” (informal for “The food was very good”)
    • headcount (noun): an instance of counting the number of people present; a total number of people, especially the number of people employed in a particular organisation


Stay up to date! Follow us on Twitter or sign up to our Newsletter

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *