Where do we use decline and where reject?

Here are some examples -

How do I say if I don't want the proposal submitted?

Your proposal is declined.
Your proposal is rejected.

How do I say if my article is not accepted by The New York Times?

My article is declined by the NY Times.
My article is rejected by the NY Times.

How do I say if she did not accept my love?

Yes, that's true. I proposed her but she declined.
Yes, that's true. I proposed her but she rejected.

Is there any specific condition/matter where reject fits better than decline?

  • Also, where better use refuse?
    – Maulik V
    Jan 21, 2014 at 8:59
  • Adapted from one of my books: We have discussed your proposal and we regret to inform you that on this occasion it has been turned down. :-) Jan 21, 2014 at 9:16
  • 5
    Check it out here on BBC's. Decline more formal/polite
    – learner
    Jan 21, 2014 at 9:22
  • @learner Ah. I missed that! That's perfect. How do I close this answer now?
    – Maulik V
    Jan 21, 2014 at 9:40

1 Answer 1


Definitions from TFD:

Refuse: To indicate unwillingness to do, accept, give, or allow

Reject: To refuse to accept, submit to, believe, or make use of.

Decline: To express polite refusal.

They are all synonyms. But the difference between them is more clearly depicted here under synonyms:

Synonyms: refuse, decline, reject, spurn, rebuff

These verbs all mean to be unwilling to accept, consider, or receive someone or something.

Refuse usually implies determination and often brusqueness: "The commander . . . refused to discuss questions of right" (George Bancroft). "I'll make him an offer he can't refuse" (Mario Puzo).

To decline is to refuse courteously: "I declined election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters . . . and now I must decline the Pulitzer Prize" (Sinclair Lewis).

Reject suggests the discarding of someone or something as defective or useless; it implies categoric refusal: "He again offered himself for enlistment and was again rejected" (Arthur S.M. Hutchinson).

If I have to put the difference in my words I would say:

Refusal usually implies determination and may or may not result in the final action.


He was forced to join the group even after his refusal to do so.

Reject & Decline can be considered a result (after-action) of refusal.

Rejection is often blunt whereas decline implies polite act of refusal.

This difference can be explained much better using your last example.

If the girl was polite and understanding then she declined. If she threw vodka on the guy's face then she rejected. (wink wink)

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