How to Apologise in English with Examples

How to Apologise in English with Examples

As long as we are humans, we do things that offend the other person. Do you remember the popular cliché: To err is human, to forgive is divine? Many people are desirous to know how to apologise in English in the appropriate way. So, this post, How to Apologise in English with Examples, presents the different ways of tendering apology in English with copious examples.  Let us see the different ways…

What Does Sorry Mean?

The word ‘sorry’ is a word that can function both as an adjective and an interjection. According to Encarta Dictionary, sorry is apologetic in nature and it has to do with ‘feeling or expressing regret for an action that has upset or inconvenienced somebody, or is likely to do so.’

Apart from being apologetic in nature, ‘sorry’ also connotes a sense of sympathy. In that context, it means ‘feeling or expressing sympathy or empathy, especially because of something that has happened.’ For example:

  • I felt sorry it had to end that way.
  • Don’t start feeling sorry for yourself.

‘Sorry’ also means pitiful, pitifully bad or neglected as in:

  • It was a sorry sight to behold
  • It was a sorry little compound overgrown with weed.

As an interjection, we use sorry to for hurting, interrupting, or inconveniencing somebody. For instance:

  • Sorry, I didn’t know I took away the key
  • Sorry, I did not realise that I stepped on your foot.

People use sorry, sometimes, when asking somebody to repeat something. It is used with an interrogative inflection to ask somebody to repeat something; though this is mostly informal. For instance:

  • Sorry? What did you just say?
  • Sorry? Could you repeat the numbers?

There are other contexts in which we use the word ‘sorry’; but our focus is on How to Apologise in English with Examples.

Apologize or Apologise

This is a matter of convention. In British English, it is spelled as ‘apologise’; while in American English, it is spelt ‘apologize’. See British and American Spellings.  

Having established what ‘sorry’ means and differentiating between ‘apologise’ and ‘apologize’. Let us see several ways on How to Apologise in English with Examples

How to Apologise in English with Examples

The popular expression that people readily use to apologise is:

Sorry/I’m Sorry

Like pointed out above, it is the usual word to use when apologising to someone. Sometimes, it is personalised to make it more heartfelt. For example:

  • Sorry I’m late; the traffic was really bad.
  • I’m really sorry about all the things I said.
  • We’re deeply sorry (very sorry) for what happened.
  • Sorry to bother you; can I ask you about something?

Note: When saying that one is very sorry or deeply sorry, one often says that one is ‘so sorry’ as in:

  • I’m so sorry about the delay.
  • We’re so sorry we couldn’t be at the meeting.
  • I’m deeply sorry I hurt your feelings.

Excuse Me/Pardon Me

Still on how to apologise in English with examples, we also use the expressions ‘excuse me’ or ‘pardon me’ when we have accidentally touched or pushed someone, or made a noise such as sneezing or yawning. It is also used when interrupting someone, when one wants someone to repeat something, or when one has made a small embarrassing mistake. Let us see some examples:

  • Excuse me! I didn’t mean to stand on your foot.
  • He yawned and said ‘Pardon me!
  • It’s been a long day!’ Excuse me – may we come in?
  • Pardon me, I didn’t catch your name.
  • Excuse me, I meant to say 50, not 15.

‘Excuse me’ and ‘pardon me’ are more common in American English than in British English. When British people accidentally touch or push someone, or make a small embarrassing mistake, they usually say ‘sorry’.

I Beg Your Pardon

This expression is used when you have made a small mistake. It is also used when you have not heard what someone said, and you want them to repeat it. For instance:

  • A: ‘That’s my chair.’
  • B: ‘Oh, I do beg your pardon.’
  • A: ‘Her name is Fumie.’
  • B: ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘F-U-M-I-E.’

The expression ‘I beg your pardon’ sounds a little more formal than ‘I’m sorry’ or ‘excuse me’.

Forgive Me

Another way of apologising in English is to use the expression ‘forgive me’. We use it when saying that we feel sorry about something, especially when we have said or done something that might upset, annoy, or offend someone. Look at these examples:

  • Forgive me. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.
  • Forgive me for saying this, but you don’t look very well.
  • You look like you have seen a ghost; forgive me.

The expression ‘forgive me’ sounds very polite.

I Owe You an Apology

Another expression people commonly use when it comes to how to apologise in English is ‘I owe you an apology’. This is used when you have done something that you later find out to be wrong or unfair. It is a slightly formal expression. See these examples:

  • I owe you an apology for not believing you.
  • I think you owe him some kind of apology – you shouldn’t have spoken to him in the way that you did.
  • The man finally exclaimed to his wife ‘I owe you an apology, dear’.

I Feel Bad/Terrible/Awful About Something

There are times when you really feel bad, terrible or awful about what you have done. In such instances, in a bid to apologise, you use the expression: ‘I Feel Bad/Terrible/Awful about Something’. It is used when telling someone that you regret something and feel sorry about it. For example:

  • I feel terrible now about what I said.
  • I feel bad that I lied to my parents.
  • You can apologise by saying, ‘I feel awful about my actions’.

Note that we use this expression mostly in formal English.

I Apologise/We Would Like To Apologise

There are instances where you need to apologise in a formal way when you have done something that you regret; for example, when you have offended someone. This expression is used. Also, you can use it in formal announcements, notices, and letters from companies and organizations. Consider these examples:

  • I apologize for my behaviour yesterday.
  • The airline would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused by the cancellation of the flight.
  • Do you find that suggestion offensive? If so, I apologise.
  • We would like to apologise for our inability to attend the meeting.
  • I apologise for my impatience at the mall.

Do take note that you apologize to someone for something you have done.

Please Accept My/Our Apologies for Something

You can also use this expression when apologising for something, especially in formal written English. For example:

  • Please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to your email.
  • First of all, please accept my apologies for any confusion about the dates of the conference.
  • Kindly accept my apologies for the damaged goods.
  • Please accept our apologies for arriving late.

Note: Many people are confused about when to say My Apology or My Apologies. Check the post on this for more clarifications.

I/We Regret Something

We use this when telling someone about something that we apologize for; or that the other person may feel disappointed about, especially in formal written English. See these examples:

  • I regret that I will be unable to join you at the meeting.
  • We regret that on this occasion your application has been unsuccessful.
  • The ‘Evening Post’ has since removed the story from its website, and we regret the error.
  • We regret to inform you that your application could not be considered at this time.

Related Posts

Having gone through this post on How to Apologise in English with Examples, I am sure you have learnt something useful that would be applicable for you in almost every context especially when it comes to How to Apologise. Kindly go through other related posts outlined below. Remember to share this with your friends and do send your comments and questions in the comment box. See you around.


Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, Fifth Edition (LDOCE5)

© Pearson Education Limited 2009

 Microsoft® Encarta® 2009. © 1993-2008 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

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