A simplified example:

— Do you think you can come?

— Yeah, unless (word here) I have a visitor.

"not very likely" seems like a solution, but is there any other shorter word/phrase to use?

One of my clients asked me if I was okay to meet with him on the coming Monday morning at 10am.

But I was expecting my mother's visit. She had told me she would visit me either on Monday or Tuesday, but most likely on Tuesday. So, this event was NOT unexpected, but rather what I was not quite sure of its possibility other than it’s low. And so words like “unexpectedly”, “possibly”, “by some miracle” don't fit.

A fuller example:

10am on Monday is fine with me, unless (with a low possibility) my mother visits me, in which case I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting.

  • 2
    replace "unless" with except: except in the unlikely case that I have a visitor.
    – TimR
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:31
  • 5
    This seems a weird thing to say. I would expect an appointment with a client to be more important than seeing an unexpected visitor. By writing this, you are saying "I can meet with you at 10 am on Monday - but if anyone else appears, I would rather see them". I suggest you either clarify that there is one specific meeting which you are already trying to arrange (not any unexpected visitor), or better, that you don't say this at all. Leave it out completely. Plans change, and if your original appointment happens, call this client and ask to reschedule. Sep 1, 2015 at 15:28
  • @TessellatingHeckler not a relevant answer to the question, but a very useful advice! Thanks! Sep 1, 2015 at 16:08
  • 1
    @technophyle Except you still need to answer Tessellating's request for clarification. Are you saying this because you'd rather meet with anyone else? Because you're not sure if you've scheduled/promised someone else a meeting already and currently have no means of checking? What is the context that makes "unexpected" et al wrong?
    – ruffin
    Sep 1, 2015 at 18:21
  • @ruffin I have updated my question. please check it thanks. Sep 1, 2015 at 20:39

9 Answers 9


I cannot see a single word answer that fits your exact pattern, "unless ________ I have an appointment."

But here are some ways to express the same idea.

Can we meet on Monday at 10?

That is fine with me, [but indicate the low possibility of having a conflicting appointment].


  • but I might/could have an appointment. [Use of italics adds stress which indicates a lower chance.]
  • though there's a slim chance I have an appointment.
  • assuming my unlikely appointment does not occur.
  • but there's a low possibility of a conflict.
  • unless, unexpectedly, the appointment I have then doesn't fall through.
  • just know that I might have to cancel if a prior tentative commitment materializes.
  • assuming I can clear the time, which I expect.

Feel free to mix and match, e.g., "but I might have a conflict."

  • Thanks for the answer. All options are perfectly worded and I would definitely use one of your examples unless I get an answer I expected. Sep 1, 2015 at 20:42

"Improbably" would be acceptable here, if you surround it with commas:

Yeah, unless, improbably, I have a visitor.

Most of the time, though, the sentence is more natural if you put the description of probability at the end, like this:

Yeah, unless I have a visitor — not very likely.

That's basically short for this, the clearest but not the shortest:

Yeah, unless I have a visitor, which is not very likely.

J.R. in comments points out that "happen to have" is a concise way to say this, although it implies a somewhat more likely event:

Yeah, unless I happen to have a visitor.


Regarding your more specific example, all four of my suggestions are still applicable with minor adjustments:

  1. 10am on Monday is fine with me, unless, improbably, my mother visits me, in which case I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting.

  2. 10am on Monday is fine with me, unless my mother visits me — not very likely — in which case I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting.

  3. 10am on Monday is fine with me, unless my mother visits me, which is not very likely, but in which case I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting.

  4. 10am on Monday is fine with me, unless my mother happens to visit me, in which case I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting.

  • 1
    You are right to point out the awkwardness of ...unless, improbably, I have... It strikes me as ungrammatical with the simple present: unless, improbably, I should have a visitor.
    – TimR
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:34
  • 7
    Another way you could say this is, "Unless I happen to have a visitor." The phrase happen to have connotes a slight degree of unlikelihood, I think.
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:36
  • We can make it a little less likely: unless I should happen to have...
    – TimR
    Aug 31, 2015 at 18:37
  • 1
    @technophile - Give it time. Not every question gets fully answered on the first try.
    – J.R.
    Aug 31, 2015 at 19:26
  • 1
    "unless I happen to have a visitor" - is the best short way to say it without sounding formal or too "wordy"
    – InitK
    Sep 1, 2015 at 19:34

In the specific example you pose, the second speaker is indicating that they aren't expecting a visitor to appear and interrupt their plans, but doesn't want to rule out the possibility. If I were in this situation, I'd say:

"Yeah, unless I have an unexpected visitor."

This both implies that you cannot know if a visitor will come, and also suggests that a visitor is unlikely as visitors are seldom unexpected. The latter suggestion may vary depending on context - for example, unexpected visitors might be more likely at a storefront than at a home.


Update to your update.

10 AM on Monday should be fine, but it's possible my mother will visit, in which case I'll have to reschedule.

I presume if she visits Monday, your Tuesday will be open, so you might be more verbose and just explain the situation. It's possible your client could keep an opening on both Monday and Tuesday until you confirm your mother's schedule.

In this case I would invert your answer.

Do you think you can come?

Probably, but I might have a visitor.

Here, the first word answers the question, then the conjunction explains why it's not definite. It also seems much more natural to me.

It implies you're expecting a visitor, but there's no reason to specify a visitor unless you're at least somewhat expecting one.

An alternate example where the likelihood is different.

Possibly, but I probably have a visitor.

A more generic answer would be

(Yes,) unless something crazy happens.

Here, crazy means a very unlikely event, like your house catching fire. Substitute with weird, unexpected, or something similar depending on how unusual the circumstances have to be to not go with the speaker.

Also, in normal English, the word yes is understood, and isn't strictly necessary. In the probably and possibly examples above, the interjection is needed because otherwise we wouldn't know how likely it is you'll have a visitor.

  • Thanks for the answer. I have updated my question. Please check it thanks. Sep 1, 2015 at 7:40

I would probably say it like this:

Yeah, unless by some odd chance I have a visitor.

Here, odd is not referring to odd/even numbers, but rather it means uncommon, unusual, or peculiar. The prepositional phrase can be paced at the end of the sentence too, without changing the meaning:

Yeah, unless I have a visitor by some odd chance.

  • Seems like a nice one. Sep 1, 2015 at 16:23
  • Yep, close enough to what I would've said, "Except on the off chance that I have a visitor...", that it doesn't warrant another answer.
    – ruffin
    Sep 2, 2015 at 15:32

10am on Monday is fine with me, except in the unlikely event that I have an appointment.

10am on Monday is fine with me, unless I have an appointment, which is unlikely.

I dropped 'very' because it adds nothing: unlikely means unlikely.

  • 2
    To my native-English-speaker ears, "unless in the unlikely event" is awkward, being best replaced by "except in the unlikely event".
    – ErikE
    Sep 1, 2015 at 20:44

Perhaps I am reading too much into this, but it sounds like you do expect an appointment with another, just not at 10 AM, Monday morning. If so, I would simply state: "10am on Monday is fine with me. I have a prior commitment, but it is not scheduled until X"

  • I updated the question, hope it gives you a better understanding of the context. Sep 2, 2015 at 18:59
  • In light of the updated question, I'd like to change my suggestion to: "Prior commitments are unlikely to interfere, so 10 AM Monday morning is fine". You could also use Personal commitments, depending on how much you want to reveal. This will let your client know that there is an unlikely possibility that you may have to reschedule. There is no need, in my opinion, to add " I would have to ask you to reschedule our meeting". That statement seems implicit,
    – Michael J.
    Sep 2, 2015 at 20:29

I've used "God forbid" in some similar situations, though only for the type of exception that are very bad.

— Do you think you can come?

— Yeah, unless God forbid, that hurricane doesn't turn away tonight.

You may or may not want to be religious to use it, but I think other constructs could be created to "forbid" the event if referencing God is an issue. I've also heard "Heaven forfend" from time to time which is admittedly not very different, but pleasantly archaic.


Would "contingent to" work? As in:

"Do you think you can come"

"Yes, contingent to Mr so & so not coming over"

You sincerely believe that things are going to be in your favor but you want to make sure there is full disclosure of any possibilities otherwise.

  • Can you give a fuller example that fits the asker's statement? Sep 1, 2015 at 19:07
  • Could you please be clearer? It's not really obvious you're writing an answer at first glance, and you don't cite sources, examples or anything (which are very encouraged here).
    – M.A.R.
    Sep 1, 2015 at 19:22
  • @inɒzɘmɒЯ.A.M I have cited an example. Obviously, I am new here. Could you please point me to what you would consider a good, model answer? It will help me improve my answers going forward. And I don't just mean for this question, but any question in the forum. Many thanks!
    – Prashant
    Sep 1, 2015 at 21:51
  • 1
    I'm afraid I don't think there's a canonical meta post about how to post a good answer, yet. I think as long as you cite examples and sources to back your answers up and write them as long as it would take for a good answer to the OP's question (but not too long) your answers would innately be good ones. :) As another note, it would be helpful to take a look at this meta post.
    – M.A.R.
    Sep 2, 2015 at 9:57

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