How to answer "Do you need a 5p bag"



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!


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 890

5Could always just say "Got one, thanks!" or alternatively just hold up the bag and smile, they'll understand. – Tyg13 – 2015-10-27T03:19:19.077

10What's wrong with, "No thanks" and a smile? – Jim – 2015-10-27T05:50:03.867

2If 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 – 2015-10-27T17:44:03.063

3I 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 – 2015-10-27T18:26:59.840

Say no and hold up your hand as though blocking something. Smile if it's appropriate. – RedSonja – 2015-10-28T09:14:08.907

@corsiKa No, contrary to our national stereotype, conformity to traditional manners is far from universal in Britain. Trust me, Canadians are far more polite. – mikeagg – 2015-10-28T10:10:13.920

Any chance you could provide a link to a recording of you saying "no thanks" so we can hear what it sounds like? Or do you know any native/experienced English speakers who can tell you where you're going wrong? Perhaps the people who are confused by your accent are themselves not native English speakers. I can't imagine how bad someone's pronounciation of "no thanks" would have to be that I wouldn't be able to understand it, especially in the situation you describe. – bye – 2015-10-28T13:19:22.033

"I do not" Smile and show them the bag. – None – 2015-10-28T11:09:22.010



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.


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 1 761

2I want improve my English, not well being of the cashiers :)) If I answer No, they ask again - all the time. – Ilan – 2015-10-27T08:09:13.057

5A simple "no thank you" should immediately stop that conversation. If they ask again, the issue may be one of comprehending an unfamiliar accent – Richard – 2015-10-27T08:22:54.053

3"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 – 2015-10-27T16:11:59.610

Not sure about that "yes, thanks" is perfectly acceptable too. So [something] thanks, doesn't mean "no". – Araucaria - Not here any more. – 2015-10-28T11:39:05.447


"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 :-) and

– Mawg says reinstate Monica – 2015-10-28T15:04:16.577


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.

David Richerby

Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 7 931

2I 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 – 2015-10-27T10:26:06.283

1@sanchises I think that "turn" means "turn" and not "tilt", whereas "looking from left to right" could mean just moving your eyes. – David Richerby – 2015-10-27T10:37:00.517

@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 – 2015-10-27T11:50:28.613

@racetrack Wikipedia says "in Greece, Iran, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Turkey, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, and Sicily a single nod of the head up (not down) indicates a 'no'."

– David Richerby – 2015-10-27T11:57:10.463

@DavidRicherby I see, thanks. As stated in the article, there's no moving down. – racetrack – 2015-10-27T12:03:28.923

1@racetrack Thanks for helping out -- better now? – David Richerby – 2015-10-27T12:22:02.603

@DavidRicherby Yes of course; my comment was meant in addition to, not as a correction to your answer. I just figured that perhaps for some English language learners, the difference between turn and tilt may not be so trivial. – Sanchises – 2015-10-27T12:37:12.243

2Worth 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 – 2015-10-27T17:13:30.610


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.

Steve Jessop

Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 1 537


"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.


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 355

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 – 2015-10-27T11:15:28.403


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.


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 21


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".


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 563

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 – 2015-10-27T08:39:06.737

@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 – 2015-10-27T08:41:34.667


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.


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

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


Posted 2015-10-26T22:41:23.340

Reputation: 740