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There's this colloquial expression "I'll pass (on that)" which means "I'll refrain (from doing this)".

I'm curious if by saying "I'm passing today" as in "I'm going to pass today" one could convey similar meaning.

To give it a bit of context:

"Hey, are you going for lunch?" - "No, thanks. I'm passing today."

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    Yes, in context, I'm passing could be understood to mean the same. – TRomano Feb 8 at 12:55
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    @TRomano But it could also mean various other things, including "I am passing (close to where you will be) today". – WS2 Feb 8 at 13:12
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    @WS2 Yes and, grimly, it could mean "I'm passing away today" meaning that the speaker as dying, either literally or metaphorically. – BoldBen Feb 8 at 13:18
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    @BoldBen - Or it could mean that the listener is apt to die, from the gas. – Hot Licks Feb 8 at 13:28
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    As others have said, it can mean that. But even in that specific context, it’s still more natural to use the future form. “Are you going for lunch? — No thanks, I’ll pass today.” is more likely to be heard than your version. The progressive implies that it’s a premeditated decision, which would more commonly be phrased differently: “I’m skipping lunch today” or similar. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 8 at 15:09
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No, it is not acceptable, even in colloquial or slang usage, to use the progressive form "I'm passing". To pass, pass on, pass up, or take a pass are all acceptable, but they are all simple tenses, because it is a complete action that one is performing. To pass is to say "no" to a specific offer or opportunity.

If, instead of turning down one specific offer, one made a decision to always turn down that kind of option, one would use a different word than "pass" to describe that. You might say one is "giving up" or "quitting" or "cutting out" or (somewhat more formally) "abstaining from" something like drinking alcohol if you mean it to be something ongoing (i.e. progressive or continuous).

Of course, in the broadest sense, people are likely to understand what you mean if you say "No thanks, I'm passing today", just like they understand all kinds of grammatically incorrect statements. Pretty much anything can follow "no thanks" and people will still understand the "no thanks". However, if you respond to "How about lunch?" with "I'm passing today" there is a fair chance you will not be understood.

  • Exactly the answer I've been looking for, especially the last paragraph. I upvoted the answer, but don't have enough rep for it to be shown - sorry! – deafnull Feb 11 at 11:31
  • @deafnull No problem. If someone asked me to lunch and I wanted to decline, I would probably say "I am going to pass on that today, but maybe tomorrow" or maybe use a different idiom and say "Can I take a raincheck?" These both stress that this is a one-time refusal due to something transient, so we can expect to have lunch together some other day soon. If I have simply made a health choice to never eat lunch, I might say "No thanks, I don't eat lunch" or "I am giving up lunch for a while" and would probably add an explanation like "I read about intermittent fasting and want to try it out." – Old Pro Feb 11 at 11:45

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