How to cancel your plans in English
Canceling plans can be awkward in any language. Maybe you have to break them for a good reason - like you got sick. Or maybe it's for something less truthful - like you just feel lazy. Either way, when you cancel, you don't want to offend the other person. Here are some phrases you can use to break plans politely:
I'm sorry, I have to cancel.
Be sure to start any statement with an apology like "I'm sorry." Then, a simple way to inform someone you have to cancel is to say, "I have to cancel." Though be aware this phrasing may sound abrupt to a friend or business associate. It's best to use when you're canceling something like a doctor's appointment through a secretary: "I'm sorry, I have to cancel my appointment tomorrow."
I'm sorry, I can't make it.
"I can't make it" has the same meaning as "I have to cancel," but it's more informal. It's a better choice when you're breaking plans directly with a friend or colleague. For example, if you and a friend had planned to meet for dinner you could say, "I'm sorry, I can't make it tonight." But be prepared with a reason why you can't make it - many people will naturally ask, "Really? Why not?"
Something has come up.
If you don't want someone asking "why" you have to cancel, then follow, "I'm sorry, I can't make it" with "Something has come up." This phrase means something has happened to make it impossible for you to be there. Most native English speakers understand when you say this, they shouldn't ask questions about what has "come up."
I was really looking forward to seeing you, but...
This is a very conversational way to inform someone you can't be there. Saying "I was really looking forward to our meeting" indicates you took the plans very seriously. No one wants to feel like you didn't care! You can finish the sentence with any of the above statements: "I was really looking forward to seeing you, but something has come up."
Can we reschedule?
After you've broken your plans, it's important to try to "reschedule" or set a new time. This is especially important if you've canceled a business appointment. Since you're the one who canceled, it's your responsibility to try to reschedule. After canceling, always ask, "Can we reschedule?" This statement makes it easy for the other person to back out if it's not convenient for them to meet at another time. And they'll feel good that you made the effort!