In this episode you can learn how to make, accept and refuse invitations in a business setting.
VICTOR: Well, it's been good to meet you Sam, and very interesting to hear about your business.
SAM: Look, we are having a small dinner for some of our clients and friends after this. Why don't you join us?
VICTOR: That's very kind of you. I'll just check with my associate whether they have other arrangements for us.
SAM: Your associate is most welcome to join us too.
VICTOR: Thankyou - excuse me.
WALTER: This is Sam Eriks from Eriks imports. He has very kindly invited us to a dinner.
SAM: Yes, would you like to join us?
WALTER: Unfortunately I have another engagement, but thankyou for the invitation.
SAM: Well, perhaps you could join us after that for a drink?
WALTER: Sounds great. I'd be happy to. Where shall we meet?
SAM: How about the lounge bar here. At about ten?
WALTER: I'll see you then. Excuse me…
SAM: Lin. Victor's joining us for dinner.
LIN: Oh wonderful.
VICTOR: I hope you don't mind.
LIN: Of course not, you're most welcome.
SAM: Well, shall we make a move?
LIN: Would you mind if I just say goodbye to a few people?
SAM: No problem - we'll see you outside in a few minutes.
Let's look at invitations. How do you go about inviting someone to something. How does Sam invite Victor to his dinner?
Spoken invitations in this kind of situation are semi-formal. It's more like a suggestion than a formal invitation. There are a few different phrases you can use. Practise them with Sam.
Why don't you join us?
Perhaps you could join us?
It would be great if you could join us.
Would you like to join us?
Notice that even though 'It would be great if you could join us' is not in a question form – it is still being used as a question. Notice also how we use 'could' and 'would' in polite invitations, not 'can' or 'will'.
How does Victor reply?
He says ‘ That’s very kind of you.’
When replying to an invitation, first thank the other person for the invitation, then give your answer. Here’s Victor with some different ways of doing this…
And you can put them all together, like this…
That’s very kind of you.
After thanking the person who asked, you need to give an answer, either accept the invitation, or don’t accept the invitation, or give a reason why you can’t answer. What does Victor do?
Victor says he has to check with someone else. If there are other arrangements, Victor would make an excuse. When refusing an invitation, you should give a reason. Look at this…
It’s rude just to say no without a reason, and the reason should be a good one. Look again.
Sam would rightly be offended by that reply.
So what are some ways of making a polite excuse? Listen to Walter.
Walter doesn’t need to say what his other engagement, or appointment is – just that he has already made another commitment. Notice that he still thanks Sam for the invitation. Practise with Walter some other ways of making an excuse…
By saying ‘Perhaps another time’, Walter is being polite and friendly, rather than just declining the invitation. Notice that he says ‘I can’t’. This implies that he has another commitment, without having to say what that commitment is. This is acceptable in business.
Sam and Walter make another arrangement. Watch how they do this.
Sam says ‘Perhaps you could join us after that for a drink?’
By saying ‘perhaps’ he is leaving the invitation open. Walter is under no pressure to accept. Practise these phrases using ‘perhaps’ with Sam.
Perhaps you’d like to join us later?
Perhaps you’d be interested in meeting us for breakfast?
Perhaps we could meet later in the week?
Notice that Sam says ‘you’d’. Perhaps ‘you’d like to join us later’
You’d is short for ‘you would’.
Walter accepts and they make the arrangement. Notice the slightly less formal way Walter accepts.
You can use these simple phrases to accept an invitation. Practise them.
That sounds great.
I’d love to.
I’d be happy to.
Walter says ‘Where shall we meet?’ You can use ‘shall’ or ‘will’, but ‘shall we’ is a common usage in questions, simply because it is easier to say than ‘will we’. ‘Shall’ is also used when asking for, or making suggestions.
Let’s look at how Sam makes the arrangement…
By asking ‘Where shall we meet?’, Walter is leaving the details of the arrangement up to Sam. Sam gives a place and a time, but because this is an informal meeting, he doesn’t make it sound like an appointment.
He says ‘how about the lounge bar’?
‘How about’ invites the other person to say if it is not convenient.
And he says ‘At about ten?’ as a question. This also leaves room for the other person to suggest a different time. Practise these two phrases with Sam. Listen carefully to Sam’s voice, and whether he uses a rising or falling tone.
Walter confirms the arrangement by saying ‘I’ll see you then.’ This is now a definite commitment, and an end to the arrangement. Notice how the stress is on the word ‘then’ – to confirm that the time is definite. Try saying this : ‘Ill see you then.’
Let’s have a look now at the end of the scene. There are some more useful phrases…
Lin. Mr Tang is joining us for dinner.
I hope you don’t mind.
Of course not, you’re most welcome.
Sam: Well, shall we make a move?
Would you mind if I just say goodbye to a few people?
No problem – we’ll see you outside in a few minutes.
Victor says ‘I hope you don’t mind’. It’s a polite way of asking for someone else’s approval – but Lin can’t really say no, since Victor is listening. But Lin politely confirms the arrangement. Practise how she does this…
Of course not.
You’re most welcome.
What are the main points we’ve learned today.
When inviting someone informally, make it sound like a suggestion. That way, if someone can’t accept, they don’t feel so bad. ‘Why don’t you join us?’ instead of ‘I invite you to join us.’
And if you need to make an excuse, don’t just refuse an invitation – give a reason, and apologise. ‘I’m sorry, I have another commitment.’
When confirming details, use an upward inflection.
‘About ten.’ – sounds like an order.
But ‘about ten?’ is asking whether it’s convenient for the other person.
That’s all for today on the Business of English. See you next time.