Mastering the Apologies: Different Ways to Say Sorry in English

Ellison Clapton8 min
Created: March 29th, 2023Last updated: April 12th, 2023
How to say sorry

There is no need to apologize for not knowing some words in a foreign language. Yet, it is essential to learn how to say sorry because it is a vital skill that can be useful in different circumstances. This article will provide you with many forms and examples of apologies and explain the differences between them.

Different Ways to Say Sorry in English 

In some languages, there are only a few apology words that you can use for various situations, but English is not one of them. Instead, we use three primary expressions to say sorry, all suitable for different situations. 

  • I’m sorryThese words of apology are used to express regret or remorse for something you have done wrong, or to show sympathy or empathy for someone going through a difficult time. It is suitable for situations where you have made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings, such as bumping into someone, arriving late for a meeting, or forgetting someone’s birthday. 
  • Excuse me. You can use this phrase to politely ask for someone’s attention or request someone to move out of the way. It can also be used to apologize for interrupting a person or to ask for clarification. For example, you may say “Excuse me” when you need to pass someone in a crowded area or when you need to get the attention of a waiter at a restaurant.
  • I apologize. This phrase is similar to “I’m sorry” and expresses regret for something you have done wrong. However, it is generally considered a more formal or serious way of apologizing. It is often used in professional settings or situations requiring a more official tone.

Even though the difference between these words to say sorry is not that big, it is still essential to know it because, in some cases, mixing up such expressions might be inappropriate and cause misunderstandings. And now that you know about the different ways to apologize, it is time to move on and discuss in more detail these and other popular phrases you can use as an apology.

Common Phrases and Expressions for Saying Sorry in English

There are hundreds of different ways to apologize in English. Some are casual; you can hear them in movies or daily conversations. Others, however, can be more slang or informal and are usually used by native speakers. Below, you will find a comprehensive list of different ways to say sorry in English, with explanations and examples of use. 

  • I’m so sorry.

This simplest and the most widespread expression is the best way to genuinely apologize for doing something wrong or hurting someone (intentionally or unintentionally). By saying this phrase, you show that you know your mistakes and want to improve things. Also, this expression is suitable when you need to tell some unpleasant news. For example: 

I’m so sorry for being late! I’ve been stuck in traffic for an hour. 

I’m terribly sorry for that mistake. I’ll do my best to fix it. 

I’m sorry to tell you that, but we no longer sell those shoes. 

  • I’m sorry to hear that/I’m sorry that happened to you/I’m sorry for your loss. 

Sometimes, we can feel sorry even though we didn’t do anything wrong. This feeling often appears when something bad happens to people we care about. This phrase is one of the best ways to say sorry and show sympathy. For example:

Y: I’ve failed my final exams, and I feel devastated. 

X: I’m sorry to hear that. Maybe, I can do something to cheer you up?

  • Pardon me./I beg your pardon.

This phrase differs from the common apologies. It is mostly used to clarify previously said things if you didn’t get them the first time. Also, delivering it in a specific tone can show outrage and indignation. For example: 

Pardon me, can you say that again?

I beg your pardon! Saying this to me is an insult!

  • I was wrong about that. 

It is another way to say sorry in English. You can use it when you’ve offended someone and realized you were wrong. For example:

I’m sorry. I was wrong about saying that to you. 

You are such a great girl, and I feel bad for spreading those rumors about you. I was wrong about that. 

  • I didn’t mean to…

You can use these apology words if your actions or words offend your interlocutor. For example:

I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to make you cry. 

I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. I’m sorry.

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Slang and Informal Ways to Say Sorry in English

As always, native speakers don’t limit themselves by using common terms. There are dozens of slang and colloquial expressions you can use to sound more fluent in different circumstances. Let’s look at some of them. 

  • My bad. 

It is ​​an informal way of saying “I’m sorry” or admitting fault for a mistake or error. It is commonly used in casual conversations among friends and peers. For example:

Q: You were supposed to meet with me after school!

Y: Oops, my bad. I forgot to tell you I was grounded. 

  • I messed up/I screwed up. 

These apology words are great when you are ready to admit doing something wrong. However, they are also informal and not suitable for business conversations. For example: 

I know I screwed up. Can I do anything to fix that? 

I really messed up this time. I hope you can forgive me.

  • Oopsie-daisy. 

This slang term is a cute way to say sorry for something insignificant, like giving the wrong phone number or bumping into someone in the crowd. For example: 

X: Hey, look where you are going!

Y: Oopsie-daisy, sorry, man.

  • Mea culpa. 

According to Urban Dictionary, this Latin phrase translates to “my fault” or “my mistake.” It is commonly used in English to take responsibility or apologize for something. For example:

I’m sorry for causing you trouble. Mea culpa. 

I shouldn’t have said that about your friend. Mea culpa. 

  • Soz/sowee/sry. 

Using these phrases is the best way to say sorry in a text. However, they are very informal, so forget about them when talking to your boss or colleagues. For example:

X: I thought you would FaceTime me to tell me about your date! 

Y: Sry, I was finishing my project. 

How to Say Sorry in a Business Environment

There are many good ways to say sorry in English. Yet, not all of them are suitable for business settings. Formal situations require certain behavior – you must be polite and choose words carefully. Hence, here are some useful phrases that can be appropriate ways to say sorry in such cases 

  • I apologize for the inconvenience that this may have caused.
  • I’m deeply sorry for the mistake.
  • Please accept my apologies for any misunderstanding that may have occurred.
  • I regret that this has happened.
  • I apologize for any delay or confusion.
  • I take full responsibility for the issue.

You must be respectful and professional when saying these phrases, even if you feel upset about doing something wrong. Remember that everyone makes mistakes; there is nothing bad about taking responsibility or admitting your fault.

Learning to Say Sorry in English with Promova 

The ability to apologize is an essential skill for every person, and it is also one of the first topics people learn when studying foreign languages. Yet, to become fluent and sound more like a native, you need to go beyond the basics and memorize many colloquial terms and expressions. In this case, you might need some professional support. And we are happy to help you find one by introducing you to Promova – an international language-learning platform. 

Here you can find dozens of options and the perfect one for yourself. Our professional tutors are always ready to help you with any studying requests. You only have to pass a quick test to determine your proficiency level and provide some information to help us make a plan based on your skills and needs. And if you are unsure about your final decision, you can book a trial lesson to get acquainted with the details. 

The user-friendly Promova application is the best option for those who prefer studying alone. Install it on your iOS or Android device, provide more details, choose the topics you are interested in, and enjoy dozens of fun and engaging lessons. And if you want to practice speaking, you can join our speaking classes or Conversation Club, where you can discuss various topics without being afraid of making mistakes.

Conclusion

Saying sorry is not always pleasant because it is hard for people to admit their mistakes. Yet, it is a vital skill that requires a lot of courage. Apologizing in a foreign language can be even more stressful because it might be harder to find the right words. We hope this article was helpful and that now you know enough formal and informal expressions to be able to make things up in different circumstances.

FAQ

What is an appropriate answer to the apology?

There is no correct way to accept the apology because the answer can vary depending on several factors. Yet, there are some common phrases you can use. In some cases, saying “that’s okay,” “nevermind,” or “it’s fine” can be enough. Sometimes, you can use more formal phrases like “I accept your apology” or “I forgive you.” 

Are there situations where saying sorry is not enough?

Yes, in some cases, saying sorry may not be enough. Usually, it happens when your words or actions cause significant harm or if your apology is insincere. In these situations, you need to take extra steps and discuss them with the other person to find the best way to solve the issue and fix the relationship. 

What should I say if the person doesn’t accept my apology?

The first thing you need to do is to understand why it is hard for the other person to forgive you. After that, you can ask them what you can do to improve things. If they don’t know how to answer that, you should give them some time or do your best to solve the problem yourself. 

Should I apologize if I didn’t do anything wrong?

Usually, the answer is no. For example, you don’t have to apologize when someone accuses you of doing something you didn’t do. Yet, in some cases (it mostly relates to business settings), it is better to say sorry to avoid possible problems that can appear in the future.

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