I wonder which word is more appropriate in the dialogue below, especially in British English. Usually I prefer "ruin", but it sounds a little bit strong here, at least to me as a non-native speaker. The chosen word should be the most polite one.

A: Would you like some chocolate?

B: I don't want to ruin/spoil/decrease my appetite just before lunch. Thanks.

  • 1
    The usual expression (in the UK at least) is "I'd spoil my lunch" or "It'd spoil my lunch." A rather strange usage of 'spoil', really. The chocolate doesn't / wouldn't change the meal in the slightest. May 18, 2020 at 11:59
  • 2
    It's the same in the US as what @EdwinAshworth says. Definitely idiomatic rather than literal.
    – Paul
    May 18, 2020 at 13:07

2 Answers 2


For some kind of objective evidence of what I would otherwise say was a matter of opinion, you can look at Google Ngram Viewer, which tracks the number of times something appears in print.

ruin, spoil, or decrease your appetite

Per this resource, spoil your appetite is the most common. This is followed by ruin your appetite, which gets about a third of the use, and decrease your appetite trails with about a sixth of the use.

Changing the corpus to look only at US and UK English shows the same commonality, except that decrease your appetite seems to appear only in printed form in the US—it has no measurable use in the UK.

Interestingly, if I query the frequency of just spoil versus ruin, I find that ruin is the more commonly used verb outside of any particular context.

Asking which is more polite is something that cannot be captured objectively, as far as I know. Trying to answer that would seem to be entirely subjective or a matter of conjecture.


I am a native speaker, and I would say the most natural of the three options is spoil.

Though it would not be literally correct to say "I don't want to spoil my lunch", English speakers use it anyway. I suppose it depends on what aspect of the lunch you are referring to--the food itself, or the experience of eating the food. If you wanted to be literal, it would be correct to say "I don't want to spoil my appetite before lunch."


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