Lesson Summary 

Have you ever made a plan with someone, but then realised you need to change or cancel the plan?

There are lots of reasons why you would need to change or cancel plans in English…
– Perhaps something more important or urgent has come up.
– Perhaps you’ve double-booked yourself
– You might be feeling lazy or just not feel like it!

Cancelling plans can be a little awkward (especially if you are doing it at late notice!) So, in this lesson, I’m going to give you some useful expressions that will help you to help you cancel or change plans, in English.

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Video Transcript
Section 1

Hello I’m Emma from mmmEnglish! Have you ever made a plan with someone, but then realised that you need to change the plan or cancel it?

In English, you need to be careful about the language that you use to make sure that you’re doing it politely. Now, there’s lots of reasons why you would need to change your plans or cancel your plans in English.

Perhaps you genuinely can’t meet someone because something more important or urgent has come up. Perhaps you’ve double booked yourself – and that means that you’ve made two appointments at the same time without realising it, so you need to cancel one. And other times you might just be feeling lazy or you just don’t feel like meeting them. But of course, you don’t want to offend someone by telling them that!

Cancelling plans can be a little uncomfortable, a little awkward. So in this lesson I’m going to give you some useful expressions that will help you to change or cancel your plans in English!

Now, these expressions will be useful for formal appointments that you’ve made, like, at the doctors or the dentists, with a
work client or a colleague, your child school principal or even a Skype lesson with a new English teacher!

But they can also be used informally as well, when you’ve made plans to have a coffee with friends or meet a date for dinner or even to cancel or change a meeting time with a new friend that you’ve met online.

Break the news

So, the first thing you’ll need to do is “break the news” and this idiom means to tell someone something – especially if it’s something that they’re not expecting to hear or it’s bad news. To “break the news” start with something like
“I’m calling because…” or
“The reason I need to speak to you is…”

So if you’re at a professional office, for example, you could say “I need to cancel or change my appointment.”
If you’re talking to a colleague that you don’t know that well, you could say “I won’t be able to attend the meeting on Thursday.”
But with a colleague that you do know well, you might say “I can’t make it to the meeting on Thursday.” It’s a little more informal.
And, with a friend you could say “I can’t make it to dinner on Friday.”

Now, these expressions are great if you’re cancelling or rescheduling in a reasonable amount of time, you know, with
enough notice. But let’s be real, sometimes we aren’t as organised as we want to be and we need to change or cancel an appointment without much warning, right? Perhaps the meeting or the appointment is tomorrow or it’s even the
same day!

So then, you really should include an apology. It’s polite to include an apology any time that you change plans but if you do it at late notice you must apologise and you can do that simply by adding an introduction to your sentence.
“I’m really sorry, but… I need to cancel.”
“I’m so sorry for the late notice, but… I need to cancel.”
“My apologies, I need to cancel.”

Now, that ‘s quite formal, that last example – best in an email or in a very formal situation.

Soften the blow

So, to “soften the blow” and that idiom means to make a bad situation less serious.  To “soften the blow” you could add “I was really looking forward to it!” Now this helps to reassure the person or tell them that you’re upset that you can’t make it and that you still want to meet them at some stage in the future.

“I was really looking forward to dinner on Thursday.”
“We were really looking forward to meeting you!”
“I was looking forward to seeing your new office!”

Okay, so you’ve broken the news, you’ve cancelled your plan and you’ve apologised. So now, you need to explain why you cancelled. It’s polite in any situation to offer a reason why you have to cancel. But you might not want to explain all of the details, especially if you don’t know the person well, it might be a personal reason or it could be embarrassing! At times like this, you can use the expression:
“Something’s come up.”
“Something has come up.”

Now, this is a good expression to cancel an appointment with someone that you don’t know and most English native speakers will understand this expression. They’ll understand that it’s not possible for you to attend the meeting or the appointment and there is a reason but you don’t want to explain why and that’s perfectly acceptable!

Especially with formal appointments in a professional context or with people that you don’t know well.

“Something’s come up and I need to reschedule.” It’s perfectly acceptable!

But don’t use this expression with friends or close colleagues because they might feel a little offended that you don’t feel comfortable enough to explain why. Usually with friends, you can be a little more honest, right? So if you don’t mind explaining why you had to cancel or change the plans, you can simply explain why.
“I was really looking forward to dinner on Thursday, but I’m flying to Sydney on Wednesday night for work.”
“I’m really, really sorry. I’ve had such a busy week and I’ve double-booked myself!”
“I’ve been feeling under the weather all day. Is it okay if we postpone dinner until I’m feeling better?”

So now the last thing that you need to do is reschedule your appointment – to make another time. Since you’re the one who’s cancelling or changing the plans, you should try to reschedule the meeting by offering some suggestions.
“Can we reschedule? I’m free at 3 p.m. on Friday.”
“Can we try for Tuesday instead?” It’s a little more informal.

Now these ones are better for appointments, more formal appointments.
“Is it possible to reschedule?”
“Can I make a new appointment time?”

So do you want to see some examples of all of these elements together?

“I’m so sorry, Sarah. I was looking forward to catching up on Friday, but my boss has asked me to work late, so I won’t be able to make it. Can we reschedule to Monday?”

“My apologies, but I can’t make our meeting this afternoon. Something’s come up. Are we able to reschedule to next week?”

“Hi Farah! I’m really looking forward to meeting you on Skype, but I have to apologise because I need to cancel our meeting. I was confused by our time zone difference, so I need to reschedule to later in the evening. Is 7pm okay for you?”

Well that’s it for this lesson, I hope that you’ve learned a few new useful expressions that can help you to cancel appointments or change meeting times in English. Make sure that you subscribe to the mmmEnglish channel right here so that you never miss a lesson! You can do that just by clicking that red button there.

And don’t go anywhere just yet! There are lots and lots of other lessons here on the mmmEnglish channel, like this one or this one.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next lesson. Bye for now!

mmmEnglish Video Lessons are a series of video lessons created to build confidence in English learners and focus on English in daily life. Download them and watch them anywhere! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel to be the first to get my new videos, and come and say hi on my Facebook page!!