English for Everybody - Intermediate Course
It will never happen again!

"I'd rather be sorry for something I did than for something I didn't do." - Kris Kristofferson.

English people often apologise. But sometimes they say sorry when they are not apologising, and sometimes when they apologise they are not sorry. They may also offer an apology to start an argument, or apologise without saying so.


To be Sorry does not mean to apologise. Instead it expresses regret. That is, when something has happened, and you would be happier if it had not happened, you can say I'm sorry.
For example:
"Do that again and you will be sorry.".
"I'm sorry you didn't pass your exam. Better luck next time."

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

Another way of expressing regret without really apologising is to use I'm afraid. In this sense, it is almost the same as I am sorry to say.
For example:
"I'm afraid I can't let you in - the play has started."
"I'm sorry to say that you can't come in - the play has started."
"I'm sorry to say I can't come."
"I'm afraid I can't come."


In apologies, the speaker admits responsibility.
Sorry is used in apologies when the speaker knows he has done the wrong thing.
For example:
"I am sorry that I was late".
"I am sorry that I was so rude".

This is an apology because the speaker is saying that he did something he should not have done, and now he feels unhappy about it. There are other ways to do this.
For example:
"I shouldn't have done what I did yesterday." (admitting a fault)
"I'm really angry with myself for what I did." (showing regret)

Apologies can be informal:
For example:
I'm really sorry about this.
Look, I know I was wrong. It's my fault I can't apologise enough for forgetting the tickets.

Or formal.
For example:
"We regret to announce the late departure of the London train".
"Miss Otis regrets that she is unable to lunch today."

The noun "apology" or the verb "apologise" (or "apologize") is often used in formal apologies. You may often find adjectives stressing how apologetic the speaker is. (Though these are not always convincing!)
For example:
"Mr Jones sends his deepest apologies for not attending the meeting".
"We apologise for the delay in answering your call."
"Please accept our most sincere apologies for this error."

Things to say with apologies.

Apologies are often followed by excuses. An excuse is something which the speaker hopes will calm the person he is apologising to.
For example:
"I was so hungry I ate the rest of the cake. I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry about my homework, teacher, the dog ate it."

With apologies you can say directly that you did not intend to upset someone.
For example:
"I didn't mean to scare you. I'm sorry."(Informal.)
"We deeply regret any inconvenience, as this was not our intention."(Formal)

Sometimes a question is used to show that the fault was unintentional.
For example:
"Oh, am I late? I'm sorry."
"Is this your seat? Oh, I do apologise."
"Did I tread on your foot? I'm sorry. Are you all right?"

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 extra words to sound more sorry.
For example:
"I'm sorry"
"I'm very sorry."
"I'm really very sorry."
"I'm really so very sorry."

Excuse me

Sorry is used after something has happened. Excuse me is used if an action might upset someone else. (In US English excuse me is also used to say sorry.) The only extra word to make excuse me stronger is please.
For example:
"Excuse me, can I come past?"
"Excuse me please, could you move your car?"
"That was a bit rude" - "Oh, excuse me."

Please excuse ... is a more formal way of apologising for something that is happening at this moment. The informal construction is (I'm) sorry about ...
For example:
"Please excuse the mess in the office."
"I'm sorry about the noise - my brother is at home."

Not really apologizing.

English apologies can be aggressive, and are sometimes used to start an arguement. Here the apology is followed with but.
For example:
"I'm sorry, but I was here before you."
"Excuse me, but you are talking rubbish."
I'm sorry, but you are standing on my foot.

Apologies can also be used to say no
For example:
"I'm afraid that's impossible."
"I'm sorry, but you can't come in here."

We also apologise if we can't hear or understand someone. I beg your pardon (or just pardon), were forms of apology in the past, but now are polite ways of saying what?
For example:
"It's noisy in here" - "Eh? Sorry?"
"I'm diffgidi ddjja" - "Er I beg your pardon?"

But remember that if an English person is very offended by what you have said, that person will pretend not to have understood you. (The tone of voice is very important here.)
For example:
"Who is that fat woman?"
"I beg your pardon? Do you mean my mother?"
(This is the moment to practise some of the apologies you have been studying!)

Apologies are also when you give 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."

You 'apologise' when you feel bad because you have upset someone, you are about to disturb someone, to show sympathy for someone, or even because you are about to start an arguement with someone. You often receive formal apologies from organizations if they have treated you badly - though sometimes this is because it is easier to apologise than to improve the service!

Receiving an apology.

You can do this graciously, or ungraciously (graciously is better)..

Gracious acceptances suggest that the offence was either very small, or already forgotten, or both.
For example:
"That's ok" "No problem" "Don't mention it" "It happens" (For small matters)
(If someone apologises for bumping into you, you might reply "Sorry" - for getting in his way.)
"It's quite all right" "It's not important." "Don't worry about it" (For more serious matters)
"We'll say no more about it" (For very serious matters)

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".

English people may sometimes refuse to accept an apology by pretending that it has not been given - but sometimes they may pretend the same thing to show that they don't think the problem was important.
For example:
"I'm sorry I'm late." "Let's get started, shall we?"
"I'm sorry I lost it." "I'll go and get another one."

Or they can tell you (sometimes very rudely) to go away, which means that they do not accept your apology.

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