Apologising politely

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 27 July, 2011, 12:00am


None of us are perfect. We all make mistakes. The courteous thing to do when we are wrong is to apologise politely.

A polite apology does not need to be long and dramatic. It should be short and simple and to the point.

Apologising politely will always save you a lot of trouble and get you back in the good books of the person you have wronged.

Are you sorry? Of course I am. I do apologise.

Ways of saying sorry

You can apologise to people in different ways depending on the situation.

a. I'm sorry

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

'I'm sorry. I didn't know you were in front of me.'

b. I'm really / very sorry

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

'I'm really sorry. I didn't see you there. 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 to someone senior or important.

'I do beg your pardon. I didn't realise this seat was taken.'

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

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

'I'm sorry to bother you, but could you tell me the way to the nearest MTR station?'

e. I'm sorry I'm late.

When you have kept someone waiting.

'Sorry I'm late. I missed my usual train.'

f. I would like to apologise for ...

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

'I would like to apologise for what I said yesterday.'

g. I do apologise

'Do' here emphasises 'I apologise'.

'I do apologise for keeping you waiting so long.'

Please say sorry

Choose the correct word to turn these sentences into polite apologies.

1 I'm very (apologise / sorry) for spilling your coffee.

2 I do beg your (pardon / sorry). I wasn't looking where I was going.

3 (Apology / Sorry) for not giving in my homework, Miss. I have done it but I left my bag on the bus on my way to school. Please (forgive / release) me.

4 I'm sorry to (bother / apologise) you but could I ask you a question?

5 I would like to (apologise / apology) for what I forgot to do last week. Please forgive me.

6 I will say (sorry / apology) to Dad the next time I see him, I promise.

7 I'm so (sorry / apology) for breaking the window. It was my fault completely.

8 I must (apologise / sorry) for making that mistake. I am so sorry.

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

10 I would like to (apologise / forgive) for being late every day this week. It was not my fault. On Monday ...

What are you sorry for?

'I'm sorry for breaking your glasses.'

The useful little phrase 'I'm sorry for ...' is followed by the present participle of the verb. Can you complete these apologies?

1 I'm sorry for (to knock over) your cup of coffee.

2 I'm so sorry for (to spill) glue all over the floor.

3 I'm really sorry for (to lie) to you last week.

4 I'm very sorry for (to give) you the wrong information.

5 Can you believe how sorry I am for (to get) you into this mess?


Please say sorry

1 sorry, 2 pardon, 3 sorry; forgive, 4 bother, 5 apologise, 6 sorry, 7 sorry, 8 apologise, 9 pardon, 10 apologise

What are you sorry for?

1 knocking over, 2 spilling, 3 lying, 4 giving, 5 getting