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Someone turned down my invitation for visit to our university for some private reasons. I am not sure what he meant by that. The situation is like he used to work for a company and there might be a conflict of interest if he come to our university to give a talk. But I specifically said to him that this should not be a problem since he is now retired and also that the talk is a purely academic one. Therefore, if it is because of the conflict of interest, there is nothing so private and he could just tell me straightly.

So I think maybe he really meant "personal reasons"? I have found this post on the forum. But I still want to confirm that I am not understanding it in a wrong way.

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    Private probably meant that he didn't want to talk about it. Trying to convince him to come anyway, or trying to figure out what the problem is, might be considered an invasion of privacy. – Kevin Workman Feb 12 '15 at 16:50
  • @KevinWorkman This is what I am afraid of. I'd better back off... – Troy Woo Feb 12 '15 at 16:56
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From the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, private has quite a few meanings.

One of those meanings is this:

not related to one's official position

It sounds like that's the way you're taking his meaning. However, private can often (probably more often than the above) mean this:

intended for or restricted to the use of a particular person, group, or class

With this meaning, when I call something private, it means I don't want other people to know about it. If there's a death in the family and I don't want other people talking about it, I might call that a "private reason" for not attending an event.

So it sounds like you're using the first meaning, when the person in question might be intending the second meaning.

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