More about invitations
(An example from British television)


    When I watch television or a video, I sometimes listen for interesting examples of everyday English, which I can use in class.

    A few days ago I was looking through some old notebooks and I found a very short but interesting piece of dialogue. I wrote it down last Christmas when I was in England. It comes from a British TV series called Emmerdale Farm. Emmerdale Farm is a soap opera (*see note) which my mother watches every day. It is about the daily lives of a group of people who live in a small village in the English countryside.

    Anyway, the dialogue is a very nice example of an everyday English conversation. Speaker A invites Speaker B to a Christmas dinner, but Speaker B politely says no.

    Note:
    Soap opera: a television or radio story about the daily lives of the same group of people, which is broadcast regularly. (Longman Advanced American Dictionary).
    Typical Japanese soap operas include programmes like Wakaba and Chura-san.

    Television dialogue

    1. I was wondering... are you doing anything for dinner tomorrow? Only you're welcome to come over to our place.
    2. Oh, that's kind of you, but I've got a turkey in and my own weight in chocolate... and I was really looking forward to being on my own.

    1. Oh, that's all right, then. You enjoy yourself.


    Giving and rejecting invitations

    GIVING SOMEONE AN INVITATION:
    School textbooks often teach students to give invitations with phrases like these:

    • Would you like to come over for dinner tomorrow?
    • Why don't you come over to dinner tomorrow?

    These phrases are useful, of course, but please notice the way Speaker A gives the invitation in the dialogue above:

    1. He starts with the phrase, I was wondering...  This is a politeness phrase which people often use before they give someone an invitation or ask someone to do a favour.
    2. He then asks, Are you doing anything for dinner tomorrow? Before making an invitation, it is useful to check whether the other person is free to accept the invitation.
    3. He then gives the invitation, but he does it in a very indirect way. He doesn't give the invitation with a yes/no question form (Would you like to come over for dinner? / How about coming over for dinner?), but instead says, Only, you're welcome to come over to our place.

    REJECTING AN INVITATION:
    One way Speaker B could have rejected the invitation could have been to say, I'm sorry, but I'm busy tomorrow evening. However, I think he would have sounded a little cold. Let's have a look at what Speaker B does:

    1. He begins by expressing his appreciation (感謝の気持ち): Oh, that's kind of you.
    2. He then gives a reason why he can't accept the invitation: (a) he already has a turkey and a lot of chocolates at home, (b) he was looking forward to being on his own.

    REACTING TO THE REJECTION:
    Speaker B accepts the rejection: Oh, that's all right, then. And preserves the harmony by saying something nice to A: You enjoy yourself.

    TO SUMMARISE:
    Speaker A:

    1. begins with a politeness phrase;
    2. asks a question about whether  B is free;
    3. gives the invitation.

    Speaker B:

    1. begins by showing appreciation for the invitation;
    2. gives a reason why he can't accept it.

    Speaker A:

    1. accepts the rejection;
    2. ends on a friendly note.

    Some special language points

    ARE YOU DOING ANYTHING FOR DINNER TOMORROW?
    Notice the use of for in this question. We often use for speacial occasions like these:

    • What are you doing for Christmas?
    • Are you doing anything special for New Year?
    • What are you doing for dinner next Sunday?

    What are you doing for Christmas? means something like "What are you doing in order to celebrate Christmas." What are you doing for dinner? means something like "What plans have you made for dinner?"

    ONLY YOU'RE WELCOME TO COME OVER TO OUR PLACE
    This use of only means something like, "The reason I'm asking this question is..." Another example of this use of only was when my mother telephoned me once and began the call like this:
    Are you and Ari all right? Only I heard there's been a food-poisoning scare in Japan." (i.e. The reason I'm asking this question is because I heard...)

    YOU'RE WELCOME TO COME OVER TO OUR PLACE
    Come over is often used when we talk about visiting somebody's home or office. Although Speaker B says come over to our place, he could also have said simply You're welcome to come over. We can also use come round (Would you like to come round for dinner?) in a similar way.

    I'VE GOT A TURKEY IN AND MY OWN WEIGHT IN CHOCOLATES
    I've got a turkey in means "I've bought a turkey and I have it at home."
    My own weight in chocolates: Literally (文字通り) this means (自分の重さの量のチョコレート), but it's really an exaggerated way (大げさ)of saying "a lot of chocolates."

    THAT'S ALL RIGHT, THEN
    Then can often mean そうして、but, in this case, where then is said at the end of a sentence with a falling intonation, it means "in that case." In Japanese, それでは is used in a similar way.


    Further practice on invitations

    There is no special exercise this week, but if you want to learn more about giving, accepting and rejecting invitations, please check these other one point lessons:
    Saying "no" to invitations - the gentle way
    Inviting on the telephone


    You can often pick up a lot of useful language from watching TV and video. Sometimes it is useful to pick a small everyday scene like the one in today's lesson, try to write it down and then have a look at the type of language people are using. If you have DVD, it's even better because with many DVDs you can switch on the English subtitles (英語の字幕). Why not give it a try?

    Remember that there are many more one-point lessons on this site. Please click below if you want to try some of them:
    Bob's previous one-point lessons.

    © Robert E. Jones, 2004