9

I have troubles with this simple question: Cashiers do not understand my accent, so I want to find some answer that is easier to articulate.

When I answer " I already have one " - they never understand.

Is there any other option to say (apart of "No, thanks) that I have a bag (I brought it with me) that utilizes "better" vowels for non-native speaker?

British English UPD To those answering later: I want to improve my English pronunciation. The example in question is just one of the examples, not the whole issue, thus pantomimic clowneries could not be taken into account: NO, THANKS!

  • 5
    Could always just say "Got one, thanks!" or alternatively just hold up the bag and smile, they'll understand. – Tyg13 Oct 27 '15 at 3:19
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    What's wrong with, "No thanks" and a smile? – Jim Oct 27 '15 at 5:50
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    If you're in Britain, they might just be taken aback that you're not using your manners. It sounds like a joke, but I can tell you as an American living in Canada, not using your manners seriously confuses people!! I can only imagine it's worse in Britain – corsiKa Oct 27 '15 at 17:44
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    I wonder whether the cashier might be wondering whether you have your own bag,or have already taken a new 5p bag and need to pay for it. – Mark Smith Oct 27 '15 at 18:26
  • Say no and hold up your hand as though blocking something. Smile if it's appropriate. – RedSonja Oct 28 '15 at 9:14
37

Cashiers want customers to get through the line quickly. They don't need justification. It is a simple YES/NO question. So "No" or "No thank you" to be more polite.


David Richerby made an excellent point in his answer below that you need to consider head nods too. In English speaking countries a head nod up and down means yes, while shaking side to side means no.

in a comment on David's answer nigel222 made another great point. It is "No, thanks" but "Yes please". That gives the person you're speaking to two chances to hear you: "something please" implies Yes, "Something thanks" implies No. Useful in a busy / noisy environment, as well as polite.

I guess the other point here is that you need to be sure that you're speaking loudly enough. Checkout lines are noisy.

So saying "No thanks" with a couple of side to side head shakes should get you through the line without a "Huh??" from the cashier.

  • 2
    I want improve my English, not well being of the cashiers :)) If I answer No, they ask again - all the time. – Ilan Oct 27 '15 at 8:09
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    A simple "no thank you" should immediately stop that conversation. If they ask again, the issue may be one of comprehending an unfamiliar accent – Richard Oct 27 '15 at 8:22
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    "No thanks" is instantly recognisable and will almost never be confused. It's a set phrase and doesn't sound like anything else, so if anything is clearer than a simple "No", which is short and can sound unusual with different accents. The consonant sounds, however, mean that even if wrongly pronounced, "No thanks" is recognisable. – Jon Story Oct 27 '15 at 16:11
  • Not sure about that "yes, thanks" is perfectly acceptable too. So [something] thanks, doesn't mean "no". – Araucaria Oct 28 '15 at 11:39
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    "In English speaking countries a head nod up and down means yes, while shaking side to side means no" - try telling that to the Indians :-) en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_bobble and youtube.com/watch?v=Uj56IPJOqWE – Mawg Oct 28 '15 at 15:04
13

A simple "No, thanks" should be understandable in almost any accent; "no" is less polite but isn't rude and should be even more understandable.

In the UK (and most but not all other countries), the standard gesture for "no" is to shake your head, i.e., to turn it slightly to each side a few times. If you shake your head while saying "no", things should be very clear. However, there are some cultures, mostly between the south-eastern Mediterranean and Iran, where a single nod of the head (moving it slightly up but not down) is used to mean "no". In the UK, and most other countries, nodding up and down means "yes". If you're from a culture that uses a small nod to mean "no", it's possible that you're saying "no" verbally while making a physical gesture that looks like yes. That would be very confusing to a British person: you'd be saying "yes" and "no" at the same time.

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    I disagree that "No" is more understandable than "No, thanks", since "No, thanks" is a set phrase and will be more easily recognized. Good point on the nodding/shaking though - perhaps you could stress that you mean looking from left to right, rather than tilting from left to right - tilting would confuse an Indian cashier as it means "yes" in Indian culture (and perhaps some others, too). – Sanchises Oct 27 '15 at 10:26
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    @sanchises I think that "turn" means "turn" and not "tilt", whereas "looking from left to right" could mean just moving your eyes. – David Richerby Oct 27 '15 at 10:37
  • @DavidRicherby I'm Iranian, and I'm pretty sure we don't nod to convey "No". Curious to know the story behind the remark. – racetrack Oct 27 '15 at 11:50
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    @racetrack Thanks for helping out -- better now? – David Richerby Oct 27 '15 at 12:22
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    Worth noting it's "No, thanks" but "Yes please". That gives the person you're speaking to two chances to hear you: "something please" implies Yes, "Something thanks" implies No. Useful in a busy / noisy environment, as well as polite. One occasionally hears "Please" on its own as an answer to "do you need ...", meaning yes. – nigel222 Oct 27 '15 at 17:13
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The mistake you've made (and even if you were a native speaker this is still a minor mistake), is to answer a yes/no question with a sentence that the cashier needs to fully understand in order to work out whether to sell you a bag or not.

Simply change, "I already have one" to "No thank you, I already have one", make sure that you can enunciate "no" in a way that's clear to natives, and you should be good to go.

If the cashier hears "no something something something", and they ask you to repeat because they want to know what the "something"s are, then you might have to cut it down to just "no thank you". But if you start out by answering the question then the pressure is much reduced for both of you, because the urgent and important part of the communication is done.

8

"No, thanks". No other information needed, and in a busy shop it slows things down. "Yes please" if you do want one.

For readers not living in England it is perhaps worth pointing out that the 5p bag charge was recently introduced, and so there's no long-established protocol for this small negotiation. I recently passed my own previously used carrier bag, bearing a different store's logo, to the sales assistant in a clothing shop so she could fold my new clothes into it. She was briefly nonplussed (a "what's that" expression on her face) before she caught on.

  • good point, I've not bought any clothes since the new rules came in, no reason to accept inferior service just because they aren't allowed to give you a free bag anymore! – Joseph Rogers Oct 27 '15 at 11:15
2

In my experience the most easily understood response is the most predictable response.

In Singapore, you say "no need" or "no thanks".

In Canada, I switched to "I don't need a bag" or "I have a bag" (notice the construction and syntax of the two sentences are really similar) - it's what everyone else was saying, and I've yet to find a cashier to misunderstand.

I'm tempted to start saying "I already have one" to see if cashiers start misunderstanding. My hunch is that in most abbreviated social situations, people are listening not just for the words, but also for tone, cadence, and general "sound". We don't hear words, we hear sounds which then get parsed into meaning and subsequently action. The actual literal meaning of words is just one form of encoding - often not the primary form, even.

There's no universal "most correct English" - it's all relative.

1

If you're struggling to be comprehended in spoken English, the best way to avoid the situation is to hold up a bag and jiggle it so that it makes a rustling noise (preferably while smiling and making eye contact).

The cashier will understand completely even if you don't accompany it with the customary "no thanks" or "I've got one/some".

  • There's no need to resort to mime when you can just say "no". I don't think anyone is going to have difficulty understanding "no", however strong a person's accent is. – David Richerby Oct 27 '15 at 8:39
  • @DavidRicherby - Yes, but considering that the OP clearly stated that when he says "I already have one", he gets asked again, I was wondering just how bad his English accent really is :-) – Richard Oct 27 '15 at 8:41
1

To make it even more clear, in addition to saying No, thanks: visually show that you already have a bag. When I clearly have my backpack already opened in front of me, cashiers often refrain completely from asking whether or not I need a bag. This works even in a country where I don't speak the tiniest bit of the language.

On the other hand, it does not further the goal of improving oral communication skills.

0

No. I don't need one.
Yes, I want one.

protected by J.R. Oct 28 '15 at 18:46

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