English for Everybody - Advanced course
Sorry about this. It will never happen again!

 

Apologies.

 

'An apology? Bah! Disgusting! Cowardly! Beneath the dignity of any gentleman, however wrong he might be.' Baroness Orczy

Just because someone says that they are sorry, this does not mean that they are. An English speaker might apologise to start an arguement, to tell you that you are being unreasonable, to suggest that you should apologise, or because he really is sorry. On the other hand, an English person might try to show that he is sorry, even though he can't force himself to say it.

Sorry.

To be Sorry does not mean to apologise. To apologise is to admit that you are at fault. But sorry only expresses regret. That is, something has happened, which you would prefer had not happened, so you are sorry.
For example:
"I'm sorry to hear about your accident.".
"I feel sorry for people with no homes."

In the examples above, the idea expressed is regret, but not apology.

I'm afraid is often used to introduce bad news or an upsetting statement. Another way to do this is to use I am sorry to say.
For example:
"I'm afraid you will miss your train"
"He won't pass the exam, I'm sorry to say"
"I'm sorry to say Joey's aunt died yesterday."
"I'm afraid we're lost."

Apologies.

Because I apologise is a formal expression I'm sorry is often used in informal apologies.
With apologies, you admit to doing something to upset another person.
For example:
"I am sorry for making a noise".
"I am sorry for ignoring you.".
The politician Winston Churchill was once deliberately ambiguous when he was ordered to apologise in parliament. Read the statement below and decide how he used the words 'it' and 'sorry'
'You say that I called you an idiot. It is true and I am sorry.'

In an apology the speaker admits to doing something wrong, and says that he feels bad about this. This is why sometimes commercial organisations or politicians express regret (which does admit responsibility) rather than apologising.
For example:
"The bombers expressed regret for the civilian casualties." (not admitting a fault, so not apologising)
"How could I have been so stupid as to forget the tickets?" (taking responsibility, and so apologising)

Apologies can be informal:
For example:
I'm sorry about the mess.
It's my fault. I shouldn't have done that. Sorry, I'll never do it again.

Or formal.
For example:
"We apologise for the late departure of the London train".
"Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today."

The noun "apology" or the verb "apologise" (or "apologize") is often used in formal apologies. The person may also use emphasisers to show how sorry he is. The same adjectives can be used with "regret" though we have seen that "regret" and "sorry" can be used without admitting responsibility.
For example:
"We sincerely reget to say you have not got the job".
"I do apologise for this interruption, Dr Jones."
"Mentendo inc. wishes to express its most profound regret...."

Things to say with apologies.

Apologies go with excuses. An excuse tries to explain why the offense has been given.
For example:
"We apologise for the delay, which has been caused by a traffic jam."
"I'm sorry about my homework, teacher, the dog ate it."

Often the person apologising will stress that the fault was not intentional.
For example:
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."
"I apologise if I inadvertently offended you."

Asking a question is one way to show that you didn't intend that result.
For example:
"Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you ok?"
"I'm sorry. What did I do?"
"Sorry I'm late. Were you waiting long?"

An exclamation can be used for the same purpose.
For example:
"Oops! I did it again."
"Oh dear! I'm so sorry. Did I hurt you?"
"Oh no! I do apologise. Let me help you pick it up."

You can also put in emphasisers.
For example:
"I'm sorry"
"I'm very sorry."
"I'm really very sorry."
"I'm really so very sorry."
"I'm really so very sorry indeed."

"I apologise"
"I do apologise."
"I do most sincerely apologise."
"I do most sincerely and abjectly apologise"

Excuse me

We say Sorry because we feel bad that someone is upset. We Excuse me if we think we are about to upset someone. In US English excuse me is also used to say sorry. However, the tone is important here. 'Well, excuse me!' said indignantly, means that the speaker feels he has been unfairly treated. We use please as an emphasizer for excuse me
For example:
"Excuse me, do you have the time"
"Excuse me please, I need to get off"
"Would you move your car" - "Well, excuse me, I only stopped for a second."

Please excuse ... is used in the same formal way as our apologies for .... The informal construction is (I'm) sorry about ...
For example:
"Our apologies for the inconvenience."
"Please excuse the delay."
"I'm sorry about the mess - I'll clean it up."

Making amends

Some English people (mostly men) find it hard to say 'sorry'. Instead they may indirectly apologise, by taking responsibility for putting things right. Hwover offers to make amends can also be used with apologies.
For example:
"Well, I'll buy you another one. An even better one.."
"I'm sorry, I'll clean it up."
"It's ok. I'll fix it."

Not really apologizing.

Aggressive apologies. If an English speakers are going to be aggressive, they sometimes apologise for it. If 'sorry' is said with a rising tone, this is probably aggressive. (Apologies normally use a falling tone.) A 'non-apology' is often followed by 'but'. Sometimes 'sorry' is used to suggest that you should apologise.
For example:
"I'm sorry, but you will have to leave."
"Excuse me, you are sitting in my place."
I'm sorry, but I don't have to put up with this.
I'm sorry, but you are standing on my foot.

Apologies can also be used to say no. 'I'm afraid' is also used for this.
For example:
"I'm afraid that's impossible."
"I'm sorry, that table is reserved."

I beg your pardon (or just pardon), are polite ways of saying what do you mean?
For example:
"It's noisy in here" - "Eh? Sorry?"
"I'm diffgidi ddjja" - "Er I beg your pardon?"

However, if the stress is on the word 'beg' , or if the speaker sounds surprised, you may have offended someone. English speakers may react to an offensive statement by pretending they cannot have heard it properly.
For example:
"Not everyone is as lazy as you"
"I beg your pardon? You think I am lazy?"

You apologise for giving bad news.
For example:
"I'm afraid your team lost."
"I'm sorry, there was nothing we could do."
"Your car needs expensive repairs. I'm sorry."


Summary
If you have done something to upset someone else, you should apologise. If you don't want to admit responsibility, you can 'express regret' (formal) or say 'I'm sorry that this happened' (informal). Not everyone who apologises is sorry, and sometimes 'sorry' is used to point out to you that you are the one who should be apologising.

Receiving an apology.

There are gracious and ungracious acceptances.

Gracious acceptances might tell the apologiser not to think about the matter any more.
For example:
"Don't worry about it" "Forget about it" "Don't mention it".
Or they may suggest the matter is not serious.
"It's not important." "It doesn't matter" "It happens"
Or they may say there is no problem.
"No problem" "It's all right" "That's ok" "I don't mind"
For more serious matters
"Let's forget about it" "We'll say no more about it" "We'll consider the matter closed".

Ungracious acceptances of "sorry" . (For when you are still angry.)
"You should be." "Well, that's not good enough" "Don't do it again" "Oh, all right then." "Quite right, too". "Yes, you are (sorry)"

English people may sometimes ignore apologies. This can mean that your apology has not been accepted, but the person does not want a discussion right now
For example:
"I'm sorry I'm late." "We'll talk about it later."
"I'm sorry I lost it." "Well, let's see what can be done now."

Sometimes you can be told to "push/shove/ **** off", this is insulting, and means that your apology is not accepted.


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