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I'm leaning English and have a question about 'not for now'. Asked a friend of mine who got an argument, if I may ask her to go drinking sometime, and she told me 'not for now'.

This 'not for now' is confusing to me, it looks like she just turns me down, or I can ask her again in near future... :(

It would be highly appreciated if you teach me the exact meaning of 'not for now' in this sentence, because I don't want to bother her now... Thank you.

  • This 'now' includes the near future. At least two weeks, I'd say, but we're into opinion here. Have you looked up "for now"? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 23 '18 at 10:05
  • As in all questions that ask what someone's friend etc. really means, the answer to this is, Ask her. – Drew Feb 23 '18 at 23:25
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"Not for now" means not for now or the near future. "Maybe in a while" might make more sense to you? The while could be anything from a few minutes to a few months/years depending on the context, but both of those are pretty common sayings.

"Not for now" would be more negative(as in less likely), than "maybe in a while" though.

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It is quite understandable that such an utterance sometimes causes confusion, but the confusion has more to do with social conventions than with English language. So far as the language goes, the phrase indeed means what it seems to mean, which implies a realistic possibility that things will change in the future (leaving it vague how far in the future that may be, although the context will usually provide some clues about that). In other words it would be misleading to say ‘not for now’, if what’s on one’s mind is ‘never’. However, people sometimes, to soften the blow of the rejection, or to avoid confrontation, do say ‘not for now’, while thinking ‘never’. That may be a problem, but it is a problem outside the scope of ELU StackExchange.

Incidentally, the phrases 'at this time' and ‘at present’, are sometimes used in the same way: an inquiry from a customer to a business about whether some service is available often produces a response that it is not available ‘at this time’, even though the business doesn’t have the slightest intention of making it available at some other time.

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