Kotowaru hyougen (expressions for declining offers) are used when you are invited to a movie or to dine out, or when you are offered a drink or a meal. The phrase “chotto” is often used when you are asked to go somewhere and you decline for instance “Korekara asobi ni ikanai?” (Why don’t you come out for some fun?). You might respond with “Imakara wa chotto” or “Eiga wa chotto.” The meaning of “chotto” is described in the dictionary as “a situation in which it is difficult to make a clear judgment,” but in fact it means “I can’t go” or “I’m reluctant to go.” In a Japanese conversation you often consider the feelings of others, rather than expressing your thoughts directly. Even close friends do not often bluntly turn each other down. However, only using the phrase “chotto” creates a cold impression. After expressing your delight at the offer, it’s better to follow “chotto” up with a phrase expressing thanks or an apology. For instance, “Sore iinee. Demo, kyou wa chotto. Gomen ne,” or “Sasotte kurete ureshii kedo, chotto ... zannen.” Furthermore, when you are offered some cookies or juice, with a “Kore, douzo,” you decline saying, “Gomen. Ima wa chotto,” or “Ima iiya. Arigato.” Even if it’s not to their taste, people often say “Ima wa iranai” (I don’t need it now). Standard polite conversation / Casual expressions Would you like a piece of this chocolate? Thank you, but I don’t need it. By the way, would you like to go for a barbecue by the river this Saturday? That sounds great. But unfortunately, I have an appointment on Saturday. I’m sorry I can’t go.
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