10 English Phrases to Avoid Answering a Question

 

Everyday English Speaking Course

#1 – No comment.

People often say this phrase to avoid answering questions from journalists. There’s another use for this expression – when you could say something obvious, critical, or negative, but you don’t want to say it directly:

  • “My doctor’s telling me to lose weight, but he’s 50 pounds overweight himself.”
    “No comment.”
    (avoiding commenting on the hypocrisy of the doctor, who tells a patient to diet and exercise but doesn’t do it himself)

#2 – I’m not at liberty to say.

This phrase is often used in business situations, when you don’t have permission to reveal the information.

  • “When is your company’s next big product coming out?”
    “I’m not at liberty to say.”

#3 – Wait and see.

Use this phrase when you don’t want to give an answer; you want the other person to wait and see the answer personally.

  • “What kind of music are you going to have at your wedding?”
    “Wait and see!”

#4 – Let me get back to you.

Use this phrase when you don’t know the answer (or don’t want to give it immediately) but you want to find the information and give it to the person later.

  • “Are you free on June 21?”
    “Um… let me get back to you.”
    (you will check your calendar and contact the person later with a response)

#5 – I’m sorry, that’s confidential.

Use this phrase to say that the answer/information is officially secret. Lawyers and doctors can’t give details about their clients/patients because the information is confidential.

#6 – (Sorry) That’s personal.

Use this phrase when, in your opinion, the question is inappropriate because it is asking about a personal or intimate topic.

  • “What are the biggest problems in your marriage?”
    “Sorry – that’s personal.”

#7 – I’d rather not talk about it.

Use this phrase to express that you don’t want to talk about a sensitive, painful, or unpleasant topic.

  • (if you had a terrible day at work)
    “How was your day?”
    “I’d rather not talk about it.”

#8 – Mind your own business.

This phrase is a little bit rude, it’s telling the other person to stop inquiring about your life.

#9 – I’ll tell you when you’re older.

This phrase is commonly used with kids, for answers to questions that they should wait until they are more mature to know the information.

#10 – Why do you want to know?

Use this phrase to ask about the other person’s reasons for wanting the information. Based on their response, you can then decide if you want to answer their question or not.

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