60+ ways to say sorry in English to someone, sincerely with grace


Karolina Assi


Berlitz China

Oops, I ate the last cookie. I’m sorry that I forgot your birthday. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to do that. We all say sorry for one reason or another.

Sometimes, it’s because we’ve unintentionally bumped into someone on the street, and other times, it’s because we came late to a business meeting.

Apologies are an important part of being a functional, polite member of society. In some situations, saying sorry is necessary and even inevitable! Unfortunately, even though most of us know what to say in our native language when we need to apologize, that might not be the case if you’re still learning English.

Learning how to properly apologize in every situation will help you strengthen your relationships with other people despite your mistakes and become a better communicator overall. And depending on the circumstances, there are different ways to say sorry in English. In this guide, we’ll explore useful expressions to apologize in English.

Man saying sorry to his friend in English for arriving late to the cafe.

How to say sorry in English

Although most people think that I’m sorry and excuse me are the only ways to apologize in English, there are actually several different ways to say sorry depending on the situation.

For example, if you did something wrong, you’d use “I’m sorry,” but if you want to get past someone blocking the way on the street, saying “excuse me” is a better choice. It’s important to distinguish between these two expressions because using the wrong one could make you sound rude in certain situations. A good rule of thumb is that “sorry” is used to ask for forgiveness (for example, if you did something wrong), and “excuse me” is used to ask for permission.

Here are a few more expressions to apologize that you may have already heard. We’ll cover those in detail in the tables below, but you need to know the difference between them from the start.

I beg your pardonThis is a fancy phrase that you can use if you want to express shock or surprise.
I apologizeThis is the simplest way to apologize for something you did wrong.
PardonIf you didn’t hear what someone said, use this to ask them to repeat it.
My badThis one’s slang and should only be used with friends or people your age. It’s very casual and generally used to apologize for a minor mistake.

How to say sorry to someone you have hurt

When you apologize to someone you’ve hurt, you essentially take the blame for something that was mostly or entirely your fault so that the other person can forgive you and move on. In this case, you want to make it clear that you understand why they are upset with you and make a genuine effort to make things right again.

To express our apologies in English, we use a variety of words and phrases with different levels of formality. The most common way is to use the phrase “I’m sorry.” We can also add “for” followed by a noun, for example: “I’m sorry for the mistake I made” or “I’m sorry for the way I reacted.” If we want to give a slightly longer explanation with a verb, we can add “that,” for example: “I’m sorry that I forgot your birthday,” or “I’m sorry that I offended you.”

Here are other ways to say sorry to someone you’ve hurt.

Woman says sorry in English for the misfortune her friend is going through.

I’m very/truly/terribly/deeply sorry./ ˈaɪm ˈveri/ˈtruli/ˈterəbli/ˈdipli ˈsɑri/Use when you’re aware that you’ve hurt someone and want to genuinely apologize.
I’m so sorry about that./ ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri əˌbaʊt ðæt/Same as above.
I feel terrible, I’m so sorry./ ˈaɪ ˈfil ˈterəbl̩ ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri/Same as above.
I’m so sorry, that was thoughtless of me./ ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri ðæt wəz ˈθɒtləs əv mi /Use it if you’ve hurt someone by doing something thoughtlessly.
I’m sorry, that was wrong of me./ ˈaɪm ˈsɑri ðæt wəz rɒn əv mi /Use it when you know did something wrong.
I was wrong about that./ ˈaɪ wəz rɒn əˌbaʊt ðæt /You can use this expression to admit you’ve made a mistake.
I’m sorry, that was my fault./ ˈaɪm ˈsɑri ðæt wəz maɪ ˈfɒlt /Use it to admit that you’ve made a mistake that hurt someone.
I’m very sorry for the way I behaved./ ˈaɪm ˈveri ˈsɑri fər ðə ˈweɪ ˈaɪ bəˈheɪvd /Use this if you behaved rudely and want to apologize.
I apologize. I was out of line./ ˈaɪ əˈpɑləˌdʒaɪz ˈaɪ wəz ˈoʊt əv ˈlaɪn /Same as above.
You can blame me for that./ ju kən ˈbleɪm mi fər ðæt /With this expression, you admit it was your fault and take the blame.
How should I apologize to you?/ ˌhaʊ ʃəd ˈaɪ əˈpɑləˌdʒaɪz tə ju /With this expression, you’re asking someone to indicate how to best apologize to them.
I wanted to say I’m sorry/I want to tell you I’m sorry./ ˈaɪ ˈwɑntɪd tə ˈseɪ ˈaɪm ˈsɑri/ ˈaɪ ˈwɒnt tə ˈtel ju ˈaɪm ˈsɑri /A polite way to say you’re sorry.

How to say you are sorry when something bad has happened to someone you care about

If you want to express your empathy for something bad that has happened to someone you care about, you can simply say, “I’m sorry.” In this case, “I’m sorry” doesn’t mean that what happened was your fault or that you’re somehow admitting the blame. It means that you simply feel sad because of a misfortune or a loss that someone is going through.

However, there are other expressions you can use to say you’re sorry when someone close to you is having a hard time.

Granddaughter says sorry in English to her Grandmother.

I’m so sorry to hear that./ ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri tə ˈhɪr ðæt /Use this to express sympathy for something bad that happened to someone (except the death of someone close to them).
I’m sorry that happened to you./ ˈaɪm ˈsɑri ðæt ˈhæpənd tə ju /Same as above; it can be used if someone lost a job or had an unpleasant experience.
I’m so sorry for your loss./ ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri fər jər ˈlɒs /Use this expression when someone’s relative or friend has died.
My deepest sympathies./ maɪ ˈdipəst ˈsɪmpəθiz /Same as above.
My condolences./ maɪ kənˈdoʊlənsɪz /Same as above, but more formal.
That’s terrible/dreadful!/ ðæts ˈterəbl̩ ˈdredfəl /Use this expression to show your sympathy for the terrible thing that happened to someone.
Oh no! How awful!/How terrible!/ ˈoʊ ˈnoʊ ˈhaʊ ˈɑfl̩/ˈhaʊ ˈterəbl̩ /Use these exclamations to show that you’re shocked at the awful thing that happened to someone.

How to apologize when you bump into someone by accident, or you want to get past someone blocking the way

How many times have you accidentally bumped into someone on the street or had to politely ask someone to move out of the way when you were trying to get off the subway? It happens all the time, and it’s not a big deal. However, not apologizing in those situations can come off as extremely rude.

So, here are a few phrases you can use to apologize whenever you bump into someone or need to get past them on the street.

Woman with a pram says excuse me in English, to get past someone in her way.

Excuse me (please)/ ɪkˈskjus mi ˈpliz /This is the most common way to politely ask someone to move out of the way.
Pardon me!/ ˈpɑrdn̩ mi /This is the same as “excuse me,” but more formal and slightly more polite.
Sorry, can I get by?/ ˈsɑri kən ˈaɪ ˈget baɪ /This is a more direct way to politely ask someone to move out of the way.
Sorry, could you move, please?/ ˈsɑri kəd ju ˈmuv ˈpliz /If someone is blocking your way, this expression is a good one to use.
Sorry!/I’m so sorry!/ ˈsɑri/ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri /Use this if you bumped into someone by accident.

How to apologize when you need to ask someone to repeat something

If you’re an English learner, you may often need to ask someone to repeat what they’ve said. But don’t worry! It happens to the native speakers too! We understand that asking someone to repeat can often feel awkward, especially if you don’t really know how to do it politely.

These expressions will help you find the right words to apologize whenever you want to ask someone to repeat something.

Woman asking for the person on the other end of the phone to repeat themselves while saying sorry in English.

Sorry?/ ˈsɑri /This is a common way to both apologize and ask someone to repeat.
Pardon?/ ˈpɑrdn̩ /This is a formal way to apologize for asking someone to repeat.
I beg your pardon./ ˈaɪ ˈbeɡ jər ˈpɑrdn̩ /A very formal way to apologize and ask someone to repeat.
Sorry, I didn’t hear you./ ˈsɑri ˈaɪ ˈdɪdənt ˈhɪr ju /With this expression, you indicate that you haven’t heard what someone said.
Sorry, I didn’t catch what you said./ ˈsɑri ˈaɪ ˈdɪdənt ˈkætʃ wɒt ju ˈsed /This informal term indicates you haven’t heard or understood what someone said.
Sorry, could you please repeat that?/ ˈsɑri kəd ju ˈpliz rəˈpit ðæt /This is a direct way to politely ask someone to repeat.

How to apologize when you have made a small mistake (that did not hurt anyone).

Whether we’re at work, at a family dinner, or out with friends, we all make small mistakes from time to time. It can be something like spilling coffee while having breakfast with a friend or accidentally stepping on someone’s toe while dancing salsa (not based on a real example).

While an apology isn’t always necessary, it’s good to know how to say sorry (without going overboard) when you’ve made a small error that didn’t hurt anyone (or just someone’s toe).

My bad!/It was my bad./ maɪ ˈbæd/ˈɪt wəz maɪ ˈbæd /Use it when you’ve committed a small mistake. Can be used both in a formal and informal setting.
I messed up./ ˈaɪ ˈmest ʌp /If your actions messed something up, you can simply admit it!
I screwed up./ ˈaɪ ˈskrud ʌp /A very informal way to say that you’ve messed up.
Sorry about that!/ ˈsɑri əˌbaʊt ðæt /Use it when you’ve committed a small mistake. Can be used both in a formal and informal setting.
Oops!/Whoops!/ˌoʊ eɪ ˈpiz/ˈwups /Usually used to express a light apology for a minor mistake.
Oopsie-daisy!/ ˌoʊ eɪ ˈpzi ˈdeɪzi /This expression is meant to be a little silly and apologize for a tiny mistake.
My mistake!/ maɪ ˌmɪˈsteɪk /Use it when you committed a small error that didn’t hurt anymore
Mea culpa!/ ˈmi ˈkəlpə /This expression comes from Latin and generally means admitting to an error.
Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry./ ˈoʊ maɪ ˈɡʊdnəs ˈaɪm soʊ ˈsɑri /Use it when you’ve committed a small error. It can be used both in a formal and informal setting.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to do that./ ˈsɑri ˈaɪ ˈdɪdənt ˈmin tə du ðæt /If it was a minor, unintentional mistake, you can use this phrase to apologize for it.

How to say sorry in a professional, formal or business environment

When you’ve made a mistake at work or a formal gathering, sometimes an apology is in order. Being able to say “sorry” with style and sincerity is vital for anyone who wants to be taken seriously at their workplace or in another community.

Sometimes informal apologies may also be appropriate in the workplace. If you accidentally spilled coffee on your boss’ new suit, saying “I’m so sorry!” will be enough to right the situation. You may even provide a little extra explanation, like “I’m sorry, I didn’t notice your coffee sitting on the table!”, which will help clarify the situation.

However, “sorry” isn't the only way to convey remorse in the office. There are plenty of ways to say sorry in English to help you make amends with your coworkers and supervisors.

Man says sorry in English during a business meeting.

I (want to) sincerely apologize./ ˈaɪ ˈwɒnt tə ˌsɪnˈsɪrli əˈpɑləˌdʒaɪz /A formal and polite way to say you’re sorry.
I’d like to apologize for how I reacted/behaved./ aɪd laɪk tə əˈpɑləˌdʒaɪz fər ˌhaʊ ˈaɪ riˈæktəd/bəˈheɪvd /Apologize in a formal manner or for something very serious.
I owe you an apology./ ˈaɪ ˈoʊ ju ən əˈpɑlədʒi /Apologize for something serious.
Ever so sorry./ ˈevr̩ soʊ ˈsɑri /Another way to apologize for something serious.
Sorry for the inconvenience caused./ ˈsɑri fər ði ˌɪnkənˈvinjəns ˈkɑzd /This can be used if whatever you did caused an unpleasant situation or badly impacted someone.
Sorry for the late reply./ ˈsɑri fər ðə ˈleɪt rəˈplaɪ /If you’re replying late to an email, you can apologize for it using this phrase.
Please forgive the lengthy delay./ ˈpliz fərˈɡɪv ðə ˈleŋθi dəˈleɪ /This can be used if you sent a report after the deadline.
I apologize for the confusion./ ˈaɪ əˈpɑləˌdʒaɪz fər ðə kənˈfjuʒn̩ /If your actions somehow made someone feel confused, use this expression to apologize for it.
I’m sorry to bother you./ ˈaɪm ˈsɑri tə ˈbɑðr̩ ju /Use this if you need to interrupt someone or ask for a favor.
Sorry I couldn’t attend the meeting./ ˈsɑri ˈaɪ ˈkʊdənt əˈtend ðə ˈmitɪŋ /If you missed an appointment, you can apologize for it with this simple phrase.

How to ask for forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness is tough. It requires you to put yourself in a vulnerable position, and it’s possible that you may not get the answer you’re hoping for. Still, it’s one of the most important things to learn how to do. When you’ve made a mistake that hurt someone, intentionally or otherwise, it’s often your responsibility to make amends.

There are many ways to ask for forgiveness in English. These expressions will be appropriate most of the time.

There are many ways to ask for forgiveness in English.

Can you forgive me?/ kən ju fərˈɡɪv mi /Use this if you want to directly ask someone for forgiveness.
Please forgive me./ ˈpliz fərˈɡɪv mi /Same as above.
Please forgive me for my behavior./ ˈpliz fərˈɡɪv mi fər maɪ bəˈheɪvjər /If your behavior hurts someone, use this expression to ask for their forgiveness.
Sorry, I won’t do it again. Please forgive me./ ˈsɑri ˈaɪ woʊnt du ˈɪt əˈɡen ˈpliz fərˈɡɪv mi /With this expression, you’re promising to never repeat whatever you did to hurt someone.
I hope you can forgive me./ ˈaɪ hoʊp ju kən fərˈɡɪv mi /This phrase expresses your desire to be forgiven.
How can I make it up to you?/ ˌhaʊ kən ˈaɪ ˈmeɪk ˈɪt ˈʌp tə ju /With this expression, you’re asking someone how you can compensate for your mistake and earn their forgiveness.

How to express regret

Regret is something all of us will experience in our lives at one time or another. And when it comes to expressing that regret, there are plenty of ways to do so. Whether you accidentally offended someone or did something that you wish you could take back, there are many phrases that can help you express feelings of regret and remorse.

Woman expressing feelings of regret and remorse.

I truly/really/sincerely regret it./ ˈaɪ ˈtruli ˈrɪli ˌsɪnˈsɪrli rɪˈɡret ˈɪt /If you want to express regret for something you did, simply say it!
I’m ashamed of my behavior./ ˈaɪm əˈʃeɪmd əv maɪ bəˈheɪvjər /If your behavior hurt someone, you can express regret with this phrase.
I wish I could take it back./ ˈaɪ ˈwɪʃ ˈaɪ kəd ˈteɪk ˈɪt ˈbæk /Use it when you feel bad for something you did.
I wish I hadn’t done that./ ˈaɪ ˈwɪʃ ˈaɪ ˈhædənt ˈdən ðæt /Same as above.
I didn’t mean to hurt you./ ˈaɪ ˈdɪdənt ˈmin tə ˈhɝt ju /If you hurt someone unwittingly, use this expression to apologize.
I didn’t mean to offend you./ ˈaɪ ˈdɪdənt ˈmin tə əˈfend ju /If you offended someone unwittingly, use this expression to apologize.
I feel so wrong about this./ ˈaɪ ˈfil soʊ ˌbæd əˌbaʊt ðɪs /With this expression, you reaffirm your regret because of something you did.

Tips for saying sorry with sincerity in English

Apologizing is hard enough without worrying about how you’re going to do it. Sometimes, the way we say things can be as important as what we say - especially when you’re trying to apologize or ask someone for forgiveness.

So, here are some tips to help you show the other person that you’re genuinely sorry.

1. Make eye contact.

If someone is upset with you, look them in the eye when you’re apologizing. It shows that you’re being sincere, and it generates trust. It also shows that you’re not afraid to take responsibility for your actions, and you’re mature enough to genuinely apologize.

2. Avoid excuses.

Don’t try to justify what you did or say that it wasn’t really your fault (unless it’s true). It’ll just make the other person angrier! It’s better to acknowledge what you did wrong and accept the blame.

3. Don’t be defensive.

When someone is upset with you, they may attack or criticize you. If this happens, try not to rise to the occasion by being defensive. It’ll just make things worse! Instead, remain calm and try to read between the lines.

What are they furious about? Once you figure it out, you’ll be able to better understand how they’re feeling. As a result, your apology will become more accurate.

This is the end. Sorry!

Well, there you have it. With these 60+ ways to say sorry in English, you’ll be able to find the right words to apologize in any situation. And the next time you need to apologize to someone, remember that we all make mistakes! What’s important is that you try to be a thoughtful, kind-hearted person every day.

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