Textes, tests et illustrations copyright william bertrand (sauf indications contraires).
English people often apologise. But sometimes they say sorry when they are not apologising, and sometimes when they apologise they are not sorry.
It sounds rather difficult so let’s have a look at this :
To be Sorry does not mean to apologise. Instead it expresses regret.
For example : "I’m sorry you didn’t pass your exam. Better luck next time."
In this example 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 we can’t let you in - the film has just started."
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".
Apologies can be informal :
For example : I’m really sorry about this.
For example : "Miss Otis regrets that she is unable to lunch today."
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."
Sometimes a question is used to show that the fault was unintentional.
For example : "Did I tread on your foot ? I’m sorry. Are you all right ?"
An exclamation can be used for the same purpose.
For example : "Oh dear ! I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you ?"
You can also put in extra words to sound more sorry.
For example :
"I’m very sorry."
"I’m really very sorry."
"I’m really so very sorry."
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 please, could you move your car ?"
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 : "I’m sorry about the noise - my children are at home."