How to Say “No, Sorry” in Spanish: A Comprehensive Guide

Being able to say “No, sorry” in Spanish is a vital skill for navigating various social, professional, and casual situations with politeness and respect. In Spanish-speaking cultures, expressing refusals with courtesy is essential to maintaining positive interactions. This guide will explore different ways to say “No, sorry” in Spanish, delve into cultural nuances, and provide practical usage examples. Additionally, we will offer tips to practice and improve your communication skills to ensure you can refuse politely and confidently.

Basic Translation

Direct Translation

The direct translation of “No, sorry” in Spanish is “No, lo siento.” This phrase combines “no,” meaning “no,” with “lo siento,” which translates to “I’m sorry.” This expression is widely understood and used across Spanish-speaking regions.


While “No, lo siento” is the most straightforward way to say “No, sorry,” there are other variations you might use depending on the context:

  1. No, disculpa – No, excuse me.
  2. No, perdón – No, pardon me.
  3. No, lamentablemente no – No, unfortunately not.

Cultural Nuances

Importance of Politeness

Politeness and respect are crucial in Spanish-speaking cultures. Using courteous expressions and maintaining a respectful tone can help you convey your refusal effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

Contextual Usage

Understanding the context in which you use these phrases is essential. Here are some scenarios where you might use “No, sorry” or its variations:

  • In response to a request for help: “¿Puedes ayudarme con esto?” (Can you help me with this?) “No, lo siento.” (No, sorry.)
  • In response to an invitation: “¿Vienes a la fiesta?” (Are you coming to the party?) “No, disculpa, no puedo.” (No, sorry, I can’t.)
  • In response to an offer: “¿Quieres un café?” (Do you want a coffee?) “No, perdón, no gracias.” (No, sorry, no thanks.)

How Do You Say No Sorry in Spanish?

If you’re learning and want to ask someone, “How do you say no sorry in Spanish?”, you would ask “¿Cómo se dice ‘no sorry’ en español?” This phrase helps you learn and confirm the correct usage from native speakers.

Practical Usage

Everyday Conversations

  1. In the Workplace:
    • Colleague: ¿Puedes revisar este informe?
    • You: No, lo siento, estoy ocupado/a.
  2. At School:
    • Teacher: ¿Terminaste tu tarea?
    • Student: No, lo siento, no la terminé.
  3. With Friends:
    • Friend: ¿Vienes al cine esta noche?
    • You: No, disculpa, tengo otros planes.

Formal vs. Informal Settings

The way you say “No, sorry” might vary slightly depending on whether you are in a formal or informal setting. Here are some examples:

  1. Formal:
    • No, lo siento, pero no puedo asistir. (No, sorry, but I can’t attend.)
    • No, disculpe, señor/señora, no está permitido. (No, excuse me, sir/ma’am, it’s not allowed.)
  2. Informal:
    • No, lo siento.
    • No, perdón.

Enhancing Your Communication Skills

Role-Playing Exercises

Practicing with a partner can help you become more comfortable with saying “No, sorry” in Spanish. Role-playing different scenarios where you might need to refuse can improve your fluency and confidence.

Listening and Mimicking

Listening to native speakers and mimicking their intonation and phrasing can be very beneficial. Watching Spanish movies, TV shows, or listening to Spanish music and podcasts can provide real-life examples of polite refusals.

Written Practice

Writing down different ways to say “No, sorry” and creating flashcards can help reinforce your learning. Try to use these phrases in sentences and practice writing short dialogues where you need to refuse something politely.

Overcoming Common Mistakes

Avoiding Literal Translations

Avoid translating directly from English, as this can lead to awkward or incorrect phrasing. For example, translating “No, sorry” literally as “No, lo siento” is correct, but other variations might be more appropriate in different contexts.

Being Too Blunt

In Spanish-speaking cultures, direct refusals can be perceived as rude. Always try to soften your refusal with polite expressions and maintain a respectful tone.

Misusing Polite Expressions

Ensure you use “lo siento,” “disculpa,” and “perdón” correctly. While they all mean “sorry,” their usage can vary slightly based on the context. “Lo siento” is more heartfelt, “disculpa” is more casual, and “perdón” is used in more formal apologies.

Advanced Techniques

Softening Your No

Sometimes, a direct “No, sorry” can be too harsh. In such cases, softening your refusal can be more effective. Phrases like “No, lo siento, no estoy seguro/a” (No, sorry, I’m not sure) or “No, disculpa, pero no puedo” (No, sorry, but I can’t) can convey a negative response without sounding too blunt.

Offering Alternatives

Another way to soften a refusal is by offering an alternative. For example, if you can’t help someone at the moment, you might say “No, lo siento, pero puedo ayudarte más tarde” (No, sorry, but I can help you later). This shows willingness to help, just not at the current time.

Using Conditional Refusals

Conditionals can be very useful in softening refusals. Phrases like “Si pudiera, lo haría” (If I could, I would) or “Me encantaría, pero no puedo” (I would love to, but I can’t) show empathy and understanding while still conveying your inability to comply.

Practicing with Native Speakers

Conversation Exchanges

Joining a language exchange group can provide valuable practice opportunities. Engaging with native speakers allows you to practice refusals and deferments in real-time and receive immediate feedback.

Online Platforms

There are numerous online platforms where you can practice Spanish with native speakers. Websites and apps like Tandem, HelloTalk, and Speaky can connect you with language partners from around the world.

Immersion Programs

If possible, participating in an immersion program in a Spanish-speaking country can greatly enhance your language skills. Being surrounded by the language and culture provides countless opportunities to practice saying “No, sorry” in various contexts.

Common Scenarios and Phrases

Declining Invitations

  1. No, lo siento, tengo otros planes – No, sorry, I have other plans.
  2. No, disculpa, no puedo asistir – No, sorry, I can’t attend.
  3. No, perdón, esta vez no puedo – No, sorry, I can’t this time.

Refusing Requests

  1. No, lo siento, no puedo ayudarte – No, sorry, I can’t help you.
  2. No, disculpa, no tengo tiempo – No, sorry, I don’t have time.
  3. No, perdón, no es posible – No, sorry, it’s not possible.

Turning Down Offers

  1. No, lo siento, no estoy interesado/a – No, sorry, I’m not interested.
  2. No, disculpa, no necesito eso – No, sorry, I don’t need that.
  3. No, perdón, pero gracias – No, sorry, but thank you.

Handling Persistent Requests

Sometimes, people might persist after your initial refusal. Here are ways to handle such situations:

  1. Ya dije que no, lo siento – I already said no, sorry.
  2. Por favor, entiende que no puedo – Please understand that I can’t.
  3. No insistas, no puedo hacerlo – Don’t insist, I can’t do it.
  4. No me es posible, lo siento – It’s not possible for me, sorry.

Cultural Considerations

Formality and Respect

In many Spanish-speaking cultures, showing respect through language is important. Using polite expressions and maintaining a respectful tone can help you convey your message more effectively and avoid misunderstandings.

Gender Considerations

While the phrase “No, sorry” does not change based on gender, the surrounding language might. Addressing people with “señor” (sir) or “señora” (ma’am) shows respect and consideration.

Regional Variations

Different regions have their own slang and colloquial expressions. Being aware of these regional variations can help you sound more natural and integrated into the local culture.

Advanced Contexts

Professional Settings

In professional environments, refusing or deferring can be delicate. Use polite and formal language:

  1. Lo siento, pero no puedo aceptar el proyecto – I’m sorry, but I can’t accept the project.
  2. No es posible para mí en este momento, pero lo consideraré – It’s not possible for me at this moment, but I will consider it.
  3. Agradezco la oferta, pero debo declinar por ahora – I appreciate the offer, but I must decline for now.

Social Gatherings

Refusing or deferring in social gatherings requires tact to avoid offending anyone:

  1. Gracias, pero prefiero no beber alcohol – Thank you, but I prefer not to drink alcohol.
  2. Lo siento, pero tengo que irme temprano – I’m sorry, but I have to leave early.
  3. No, gracias, estoy lleno/a por ahora – No, thank you, I’m full for now.

Educational Settings

When interacting with teachers or classmates, politeness and clarity are key:

  1. No entiendo la pregunta, ¿puede explicarla de nuevo? – I don’t understand the question, can you explain it again?
  2. No puedo asistir a la clase hoy, lo siento – I can’t attend class today, I’m sorry.
  3. No he terminado mi tarea todavía – I haven’t finished my homework yet.

Travel Scenarios

Refusing or deferring while traveling can involve various contexts, from declining services to refusing offers from vendors:

  1. No, gracias, no necesito un taxi todavía – No, thank you, I don’t need a taxi yet.
  2. No, no estoy interesado en comprar aún – No, I’m not interested in buying yet.
  3. No, no quiero hacer un tour por ahora – No, I don’t want to take a tour for now.

Enhancing Your Skills

Continuous Practice

Consistent practice is key to mastering refusals and deferments in Spanish. Engage in regular conversations with native speakers, use language learning apps, and immerse yourself in Spanish media.

Feedback and Improvement

Seek feedback from native speakers or language teachers. Constructive criticism can help you refine your pronunciation, tone, and choice of phrases.

Expanding Vocabulary

Expand your vocabulary to include various ways to say “No, sorry” and related phrases. This will give you more tools to handle different situations with ease.


Learning how to say “No, sorry” in Spanish is a multifaceted skill that involves understanding basic phrases, cultural nuances, and appropriate contexts. Whether you’re asking how do you say no sorry in Spanish, wondering how to say no sorry in Spanish, or exploring different ways to say no in Spanish, this guide provides a comprehensive resource to help you refuse effectively and politely.

Remember, practice is essential. Engage with native speakers, use language learning tools, and immerse yourself in Spanish-speaking environments whenever possible. By doing so, you’ll become more confident and adept at navigating refusals and deferments in Spanish. Whether you’re asking how to say no in Spanish, wondering how do you say no in Spanish, or exploring different ways to say no in Spanish, this guide provides a comprehensive resource to help you refuse effectively and politely.

If you’re interested in mastering more aspects of Spanish communication, be sure to explore our site for a comprehensive guide on How to Say No in various contexts and languages. This resource is designed to make your Spanish communication smoother and more natural.

Jessica Whitney (Guest Author)

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