If someone has already started eating his food and offers me some, I don't eat the food he has already started eating. How do I frame a sentence for that?

Thanks for the offer, but, I don't eat food ____

Any other sentence would be appreciated.


One polite way of refusing based on the OP would be:

"Thanks, but I don't like to eat other people's food."


"No thank you."

less polite:

"I never eat half-eaten food."

satirical (for close friends):

"No, it might get in my mouth." (while raising a hand in rejection)

  • 1
    I have always been told (word for word): 'A simple "no thank you" will do.'
    – lea
    Aug 7 '14 at 7:19

This is a potentially awkward situation, since I assume the reason OP doesn't want to eat the food is because he's concerned bacteria may have been transferred from the original diner's mouth via cutlery (knives and forks) to the still-uneaten food.

As a Brit, I'd be far too prissy to call attention to something like that in most contexts. It's a bit like saying you never kiss anyone on the lips for fear of tonsilitis (not the most tactful thing to say just after midnight at a New Year's Eve party! :). But if you really don't care what others think...

"No thanks - I never eat leftovers from the plate"
"No thanks - I never eat other people's leavings" 1

In my house, things like gnawed chicken drumsticks are likely to be gathered up and put in the stockpot along with the remains of the carcase (and be boiled for at least an hour to make stock, so there's really no danger of any bacteria surviving). No-one I know would ever offer a half-gnawed bone to another diner though - we're well into "Waste not, want not", but one must observe the limits of decorum.

1 Note that this use of leavings is relatively uncommon, and has particularly negative overtones (leavings are discarded/undesirable, whereas leftovers are simply surplus to current requirements/appetite).

  • 2
    As an native AmE speaker in their 30s, this answer seems quite unique to British culture. From my perspective an American wouldn't likely analyze the reason behind a refusal, whether it's based on fear of disease or for reasons of faith, etc. I would consider it rude to pass such judgement as if I were of some higher cast. To me, the phrase "leftovers from the plate" is odd, and to say "other people's leavings" sounds like your speaking about their waste, their bodily waste. Aug 6 '14 at 16:31
  • @Ross: What can I say? I've never heard an American use the expression "of some higher caste" (certainly not cast, though that would only be apparent in the written form). Although my leavings there isn't restricted to leftover food, and NGrams suggests the usage is almost twice as common in BrE as AmE, it's sufficiently common everywhere that I'm surprised you're not familiar with it (it's never used to refer to bodily waste/excretory products, in my experience). Aug 6 '14 at 17:02
  • Note that I included ...from the plate specifically because (as I pointed out) leftovers are regularly "recycled" in my house, but we almost never take them directly from another's plate. I certainly never heard of any religious faith having a problem with such activities though. To me, the only credible reason is "fear of disease", though that may be conflated with a more vague "yuck factor" (which in the end nets down to the same thing). Aug 6 '14 at 17:07
  • 2
    As you can tell from my misuse of "cast", I do not study the English language academically. What I do have is real world experience speaking English in America my entire life. My comments are based on my personal experience growing up in American society and its evolving culture, not on conjecture. Having said this, I assume your answer may be common in British culture but in my experience the phrases you used are not common in America. The most notable difference in connotation is in the word "leavings" which is often used to refer to waste that has been left behind, usually by an animal. Aug 6 '14 at 17:27
  • 1
    @Fumble - This U.S. ear can't recall hearing the term leavings used in this context until reading this answer. (That doesn't mean it's wrong, it just means it's not common in the U.S.) Moreover, I've just sifted through some of those Ngram hits; many of them have nothing to do with food.
    – J.R.
    Aug 6 '14 at 22:32

Avoid giving a reason.

Something to the effect of "No, thank you." is perfectly acceptable.

There's no need to give a reason and in this case it's much better not to. A reason can be phrased politely but you will still convey the message that you consider the other person's offer to be unworthy, and probably leave the other person a tad belittled.

  • @Dangph You just had to do it, didn't you? Anyway, Niall, rejection will always come off as the asker being unworthy in a teeny weeny sense, depending on the asker's level of self-worth. The best case scenario is, using your best cute voice and say, "Aww no, you eat, I'm good." With a very bright smile and kitty eyes.
    – Zoe
    Aug 7 '14 at 6:28

If the person has been served ahead of you then presumably they are trying to be considerate. You don't need to express disgust.

Simply say a polite no and possibly something appropriate for the circumstances.

  • Oh, no thanks. I don't mind waiting for mine to arrive.

  • Oh, no thanks, I've already eaten.

  • Oh, that's very kind but I won't, thank you.

If they insist, say, "No really, I won't thank you."


Gross. I don't want to eat food that has your drool all over it.

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