Making Invitations

How to Ask People to Join You for Any Event

Idioms with Eat in English
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Invitations are a fun and useful conversational tool in the English language. They combine socialization and inquiry practices in order to ask someone to join you for an activity or event. Invitations generally replace a direct and rigid "can you" request with a more polite and flexible "would you like" question. This allows the person you are inviting to either accept or decline your proposal.

Inviting is a versatile technique that can be applied to both formal or informal situations. Whether to ask a loved one to join you at a special event or request the honor of your employer's presence in your home, you will need to master the skill of making invitations as part of your journey learning to speak English. Find out everything there is to know about making invitations here.

Invitation Phrases to Use

Some invitations work better than others in certain scenarios and the best phrase to use is generally dependent on the nature of an exchange. Your relationship with the person you are proposing an invitation to determines the required level of formality. For example, you should make casual invitations to your best friends and formal invitations to business clients. Try the following informal and formal invitation phrases to get started.

Informal

Sometimes you just want to ask someone else to do something with you without making any additional promises or commitments. To make a casual invitation, use some of the following phrases.

  • "Do you want" + infinitive verb?
    • Do you want to have a drink with me?
  • "Why don't we" + verb?
    • Why don't we go out for dinner?
  • "Let's" + verb.
    • Let's go away this weekend.
  • "How about" + verb -ing?
    • How about going to a movie?

When you want to communicate to someone that you plan to fund or otherwise coordinate an activity, indicate this with a phrase that provides more context about your invitation and/or the event. These phrases let a person know that they will not need to pay if they choose to accept your invitation because you will be assuming financial responsibility.

  • "I'm buying."
    • Let's get a drink. I'm buying.
  • "My treat."
    • Why don't we have breakfast. My treat.
  • "It's on me."
    • Let's go celebrate with dinner. It's on me.
  • "You're my guest." (usually accompanied by an offer to pay)
    • No, I'll pay the tab. You're my guest.

Formal Phrases

When a situation calls for more formality, use proper phrases like these to maintain an elevated level of respect and politeness.

  • "Would you like" + infinitive verb?
    • Would you like to attend the performance with me?
  • I'd like to ask you + infinitive verb.
    • I'd like to ask you to attend the open ceremonies next week.
  • It would be my pleasure if you would + verb.
    • It would be my pleasure if you would join us for dinner tonight.
  • May I have the honor of your + verb -ing?
    • May we have the honor of your presence at dinner on Friday?

How to Respond to an Invitation

You also need to learn how to respond to an invitation when someone makes a proposal to you. The most important thing to remember when responding to an invitation is to always thank the person making the invitation, even if you know you are going to have to decline it. This is merely as a courtesy to the person inviting you. Here are some of the most common forms of accepting an invitation.

  • "Thank you very much, I'll be there."
    • Thank you very much for offering to have me tomorrow. I'll be there.
  • "That would be nice."
    • Joining you for dinner would be nice, thanks for offering.
  • "I'd love to."
    • I'd love to come with you to the party.
  • "Sure, that would be great!" (informal)
    • Sure, it would be great to see everyone again!

If you are unable to accept an invitation, respond using one of the following polite phrases.

  • "Thank you, but I'm afraid I can't."
    • Thank you for the invitation to your gallery opening, but I'm afraid I can't go because I will be out of town. Maybe next time.
  • "I won't be able to come due to another engagement."
    • We appreciate the wedding invitation but won't be able to come due to another engagement. We send all our love.
  • "I wish I could, but I've already agreed to..."
    • I wish I could come and see you perform, but I've already agreed to babysit my niece that evening.
  • "Sorry, but I have a conflicting commitment and don't think I'll make it."
    • Sorry, but I have a conflicting commitment that day and don't think I'll make it to your open house.

Example Dialogues

The following example dialogues show what an informal and formal invitation might look like in conversation. Notice the responses of both the person being invited and the person making the invitation.

Informal

Person 1: Let's go out shopping tonight.

Person 2: Yes, let's do it.

Person 1: Should we get some dinner too?

Person 2: That sounds like fun!

Formal

Person 1: May I have the honor of accompanying you to the benefit this evening?
Person 2: Thank you for asking. Yes, that would be very nice.

Person 1: Shall I pick you up?
Person 2: Yes please, I appreciate the offer.

Practice Scenarios

Find a partner and practice proposing invitations in different scenarios. Use a variety of phrases to gain experience using many types of invitations. Consider the formality of your imagined exchange before deciding what invitation is best.

After you have practiced proposing invitations, switch with your friend and practice accepting invitations.

Try making invitations in these practice scenarios:

  1. Invite your boss over for dinner next week.
  2. Invite an old friend out for a drink/meal.
  3. Invite your grandmother to visit you in your new home.
  4. Invite your brother or sister over to watch a movie.
  5. Invite a work client to have lunch with you.