British and American people use the apology expression ‘sorry’ a lot. They can even use when they are actually the ones who did the wrong thing. This is indeed culturally based; it is deeply rooted in their Anglophone culture.
Do you know how to say ‘sorry’ as a non-native speaker of English? Do you know when to use it correctly? Do you make a difference between ‘sorry’ and ‘excuse me’? In this article, we will learn how and when to use both and what difference they imply.
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Apologizing for serious mistakes
Sometimes, it happens that you commit a serious mistake with a person you know closely. At times, this could even happen with people you do not necessarily know, but you may have some relations with at a workplace.
In this context, let us take the example of someone who loses an amount of money given to him or her to buy something. In this situation, apology should be formal and expressed face to face with the person you owe him or her an apology for such a serious mistake.
Expressions to use are:
I owe you an apology; something really bad happened! I went out and I lost $1000.
I’d like to apologize; something really bad happened! I went out and lost the money.
I want to apologize for doing this and this…
Such apology phrases are often used when you want to give long explanations of what happened. This is not the case with situations when you bump into somebody in the street or in a public space..
In such situation where you apologize for a serious mistake, it would be better to keep eye contact.
Other expressions are:
“I sincerely apologize”,
“Please forgive me”
“I take full responsibility for my behavior”
= as if you are saying: “it was really irresponsible to do that! I am really sorry”.
The above phrases are formal and can also be used in written English.
With friends, family and close relatives, there is no harm to use informal ways to apologize for something not necessarily serious. For example, if you are late, you can simply say:
I wanted to tell you I am sorry! Because the traffic jam, I could come early.
Sometimes, you drop something at a café, in this situation you can say:
Sorry! My bad / My fault / My mistake!
In some situations, you forget about an appointment or something like that, you can say:
I am sorry, I was wrong on that!
In other situations, it happens that you tell a secret to others; a secret that you should not have told. This way, the only way to apologize is to say:
How stupid of me! I should have thought about this.
Remember: these phrases are informal and can only be used with friends.
Difference between “Sorry” and “Excuse me”
There is actually a difference between “sorry” and “excuse me”. The first is used when something happened already. The second “excuse me” is used when you want to get someone’s attention.
Examples for “EXCUSE ME”
Excuse me! Could you, please, move a little?
Excuse me! Can I have a word?
Excuse me! Can I have your attention?
SORRY is for apologizing
EXCUSE ME is for drawing somebody’s attention
The Use of “sorry” to express sympathy
Americans and British people use also “sorry” to express sympathy when something bad happens like death, accident, low scores etc…
I am so sorry to hear that!
I am so sorry about your loss! My deepest condolences!
In these situations, voice, body language and maintaining eye contact are all very important to sympathize with somebody. It means you feel the person’s emotions and share the same feeling.
Common prepositions with “sorry”
People say “sorry about” when it is something they have heard.
“Sorry for” is used when apologizing for what you have done.
How to react to apologies
Don’t worry! It’s OK!
That’s all right! Forget it!
No big problem!
This is not your fault! Things happen.
Please, do not blame yourself.
You should not blame yourself!
Remember: these reactions to apology vary in their meanings and uses.