If I have a previous appointment, what can I say instead of appointment? Previous engagement? Promise?
And I wonder exactly what they both mean. (I thought they were similar.)

3 Answers 3


Besides the expression already discussed above, here are a few alternative expressions I tend to use in the situation:

  • I already have plans for the evening(or day)
  • I have prior committments for the afternoon

If you plan to use "promise" in a more informal manner, you could. But then you'd have to probably be more specific on what's keeping you occupied at the time.

For eg., I tend to say:

  • I would love to, but I already promised to run an errand for my mom
  • Ah - but I've promised my friend I'd volunteer for the charity event on friday.

Hope this helps.

  • "I already have plans" means that you would rather follw those plans than accept the invitation, while "I have a previous engagement" means that you can't get out of your previous commitment, much though you'd love to accept this one (which may be a white lie). Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 14:46

Previous engagement is more correct. In this context, it refers to a specific time of promise: a promise to be at a particular place at a particular time.

Promise is a general commitment made by someone. You can promise not to eat someone else's lunch, for example, but you wouldn't refer to that kind of promise as previous engagement.


The definition given for promise from the NOAD is the following:

promise |ˈprɑməs|
a declaration or assurance that one will do a particular thing or that guarantees that a particular thing will happen.
- What happened to all those firm promises of support?
- [with clause] He took my fax number with the promise that he would send me a drawing.
- [with infinitive] I did not keep my promise to go home early.
• the quality of potential excellence_: he showed great promise even as a junior officer.
• [in singular] an indication that something specified is expected or likely to occur: the promise of peace.

For engagement the definition is:

engagement /ɪnˈgeɪdʒmənt/ /ɛnˈgeɪdʒmənt/
1. a formal agreement to get married.
• the duration of such an agreement: a good long engagement to give you time to be sure.
2. an arrangement to do something or go somewhere at a fixed time: a dinner engagement.
• a period of paid employment.
3. the action of engaging or being engaged: Britain's continued engagement in open trading.
4. a fight or battle between armed forces.

Promise is not the correct word to replace appointment (the fact you went to an appointment doesn't implicate you did a promise to go); engagement is a better choice, but who listens could understand you are using the meaning 1 or 3.

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