Apologising and making excuses

PUBLISHED : Friday, 25 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 25 May, 2007, 12:00am


I've had a very bad day today. On my way to work a woman banged into me and the coffee I was drinking spilled on my shirt. She said she was really sorry and then quickly walked away. The MTR station was so crowded and I accidentally trod on a man's foot. I said, 'I beg your pardon', but he shouted at me and I was really embarrassed. I had been in my office about half an hour working away when my assistant came in. She said 'I'm sorry to disturb you, but Mr Chan has been waiting 20 minutes downstairs.' I had completely forgotten I had got a meeting with him this morning. I rushed downstairs and asked him to accept my apologies. I told him I had been caught up with an important phone call. He wasn't pleased at all and the meeting went very badly.

I apologised when I trod on a man's foot in the MTR station.


You can apologise to people in different ways in different situations.

a) I'm sorry

When you bump into someone accidentally in the street or when you tread on someone's foot.

E.g. I'm sorry. I didn't know you were in front of me in the queue.

b) I'm really / very sorry

When you want to make 'I'm sorry' stronger.

E.g. I'm really sorry. Are you okay?

c) I beg your pardon / I do beg your pardon

This is a very polite way of apologising. You would say this in a fairly serious situation to someone senior or important.

E.g. I do beg your pardon. I didn't know this seat was taken.

d) I'm sorry to bother you but .........

When you interrupt someone who is doing something because you want to ask them something.

E.g. I'm sorry to bother you, but you could you tell me the way to the station?

e) I'm sorry I'm late.

When you have kept someone waiting.

E.g. Sorry I'm late. I missed the bus.

f) I must apologise for ......

I would like to apologise for ......

When you want to make a serious and polite apology for something.

E.g. I would like to apologise for my behaviour yesterday.

I'm sorry I'm late. I missed the bus.


Choose the correct word to make these sentences make sense.

1. I'm very (apologise/sorry) for losing your key.

2. I do beg your (pardon/sorry). I wasn't paying attention.

3. (Apology/sorry) for not giving in my homework, miss. The dog was sick over it

last night and I haven't had time to do it again.

4. I'm sorry to (bother/apologise) you but could you help me, please?

5. I would like to (apologise/apology) for what I said yesterday. Please forgive me.

6. Are you going to say (sorry/bother) for what you did last night?

7. I'm so (sorry/apology) for breaking your pencil. I'll buy you another.

8. I must (apologise/sorry) for making that awful mistake. I'm so sorry.

9. I beg your (pardon/sorry). I didn't know that was your bag.

10. Are you going to (pardon/apologise) for losing your temper last night?

I'm so sorry for breaking your pencil.


Sometimes it is polite to give an explanation after you have said sorry. This explanation is an EXCUSE and it may or may not be true!

Can you match up these APOLOGIES and EXCUSES?

1. I'm sorry about my messy bedroom. ........

2. I'm sorry I can't give you your pen back. ........

3. I must apologise for missing our appointment last week. ........

4. I'm really sorry for forgetting your birthday. .........

5. I'm very sorry for burning your dinner. ......

6. I must apologise for not sending you the information I promised but ..........

7. I'm very sorry I don't have time to chat. ......

8. I'm sorry your car won't be ready until tomorrow. ........

a) I haven't had time to tidy up.

b) It's your mother's fault for talking on the phone so long.

c) I thought it was next week the same day as my brother's.

d) Our computer system crashed yesterday and we didn't get it sorted out till this morning

e) I think someone must have stolen it.

f) One of our mechanics has rung in sick today.

g) I'm in the middle of something really important at the moment.

h) My secretary forgot to remind me.

I'm sorry I can't chat because I'm doing something important at the moment.

Answers: Sorry / pardon / sorry / sorry / apologise / sorry / sorry / apologise / pardon / apologise; 1a / 2e / 3h / 4c / 5b / 6d / 7g / 8f