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Sometimes I am offered something but because I'm just a beginner I don't know what verb they used.

I know the proper way to say "no" is to answer with the negative form of the verb the other person used, that いいえ alone is too abrupt.

Also from experience I know that the words in some languages meaning "want" or "need" might have nuances that make them inappropriate.

Usually I want to say "I don't need it" or "I don't want one" in a shop that offers me a bag or a drinking straw or disposable chopsticks. But this evening while exploring Naha I discovered I had wandered into the red light district and was offered a "nice girl"!

How should I correctly express "no thanks, I don't want one" when I didn't hear the verb used?

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3  
おかえり、hippietrail さん! –  snailboat Feb 25 at 18:48
1  
the quick answer is 結構です or いいです. –  oldergod Feb 26 at 4:51
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3 Answers

I'm familiar with the following options.

いらない
いらないです
いりません

結構です

いい
いいです

Their usage overlaps (after all, they all mean "no, thank you" in some sense). 結構です is quite formal and いいです probably the most common option, closely followed by いらないです. (The forms based on いらない are more direct.) If you want to be informal, use いい or いらない.

The first reaction "No" is usually voiced as いや and can be used with all the options above, e.g. いや、いいです. いいえ can be used in いいえ、結構です.

Caveat. Although いいです is understood to mean "No, thank you", いいですね would usually be interpreted to mean "Yes, please".

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いい and 結構 both mean fine, I think we can say the latter is 丁寧語 for いい、the caveat is that you have to get the intonation correct. –  Tim Feb 25 at 19:22
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@Tim It might be helpful if you explained a little bit about the proper intonation. –  snailboat Feb 25 at 19:26
    
I am not sure how put it into words or I would (especially as the NHK 発音アクセント辞典 only gives one way of saying it (ケッコウ{HHLL}, 〜な)). However, also, when using the expression I am careful to give the correct NVC. –  Tim Mar 4 at 10:00
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Just to add to other answers. For "no thanks", from young people you'll often hear

大丈夫{だいじょうぶ}です

which originally means "I'm fine (safe, alright)".

Some might even find いいです or 結構です a bit cold or rude.

Some links:
http://questionbox.jp.msn.com/qa8287306.html
http://detail.chiebukuro.yahoo.co.jp/qa/question_detail/q1323030728

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Usually you can say this (for food if offered) for refusing politely:

Iie, kekkou desu. いいえ、結構です (けっこうです)

Using the japanese for 'I dont need, I don't want' (verb iru) might be a little rude. Use it only if you have to refuse it strongly:

"Irimasen desu" Polite (somewhat rude) [いりませんです]

"Iranai" (rude/familiar) [いらない]

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Does "kekkou desu" also work for my examples of plastic bag, drinking straw, disposable chopsticks, etc? –  hippietrail Feb 25 at 16:08
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Depending on the context いいです also works. –  Earthliŋ Feb 25 at 16:23
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We don't say いりませんです. (and @Earthliŋ Yes I'd say いいです too) –  Chocolate Feb 25 at 16:25
    
If "いいです" is a more correct answer for my indicated situations than whatever's answer then please write it up and submit it and I will vote it up. –  hippietrail Feb 25 at 16:36
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