Canceling plans can be awkward in any language. Maybe you have to break them for a good reason – like you got sick. Or maybe it’s for something less truthful – like you just feel lazy. Either way, when you cancel, you don’t want to offend the other person. Here’s how to cancel plans in English without upsetting or offending anyone.
Greet the person
Suddenly telling someone you need to cancel plans is likely to make them surprised or upset. Make sure you greet them by saying “Hi”, “Good morning” or “Good afternoon” and asking how they are first as you would in any conversation or email. Once you have started the conversation, it makes it much easier to let them know you want to cancel your plans.
Break the news
Now it’s time to explain that you need to cancel your plans. Use an expression like “The reason I called is that…” or “The reason I wanted to speak to you is that…” to break the news to them. Once you have their attention, you can say “I’m sorry. but I have to cancel (the appointment).” If you are in an informal situation, you could use the expression “I’m sorry but I can’t make it to (the appointment).”
Use an expression like “I was really looking forward to our meeting” to indicate you took the plans very seriously. No one wants to feel like you didn’t care! Then, use the word ‘but’ to introduce the reason why you are unable to come.
People will naturally want to know why you have to break the plans you had made and it’s polite to give them a reason. If you don’t want to be specific, you could just say “Something has come up.” This phrase means something has happened to make it impossible for you to be there. Most native English speakers understand when you say this, they shouldn’t ask questions about what has “come up.”
If you don’t mind explaining the reason why you have to break the plans, you can explain it in more detail. For example, “I was really looking forward to seeing you but I’ve got to go overseas on a business trip.”
Reschedule for another time
After you’ve broken your plans, it’s important to try to “reschedule” or set a new time. This is especially important if you’ve canceled a business appointment. Since you’re the one who canceled, it’s your responsibility to try to reschedule. After canceling, always ask, “Can we reschedule?” This statement makes it easy for the other person to back out if it’s not convenient for them to meet at another time. And they’ll feel good that you made the effort!
Just remember, make sure to reschedule for a time that you definitely free so you don’t need to cancel the plans again!