decline / deny / refuse / reject

To deny something is to say something is not true, or say that you DID NOT do something:

  • The teenager denied stealing the DVDs from the store.
  • The businessman denied the accusations that he had stolen money from the company. (He said he didn’t do it)

    To refuse is NOT to do something, or to say firmly that you WILL NOT do something:

  • My 5-year-old son is refusing to go to bed because he wants to keep playing with his toys.
  • The employee was fired after he refused to do what the manager asked.

    Note that after deny we use the -ing form or a noun, and after refuse we use the “to” form of the verb.

    To reject something is to not accept it – often because it’s not good enough, or because you don’t believe in it.

  • She was rejected from the state university because her grades were terrible.
  • Gary is an atheist. He rejects the idea of god.
  • He asked her out to dinner, but she rejected him.

    To decline is to say “no” politely to a proposal, invitation, or suggestion

  • Thank you for your invitation to the banquet, but I’m afraid I’ll have to decline.
  • The president declined to comment on the political scandal.