How Do Native English Speakers Apologize: Formal & Informal

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What do native English speakers do when they make mistakes, hurt someone, or mess up things? They usually apologize with convincing words, tone, and body language to resolve them. Unfortunately, many ESL speakers find it difficult to say “sorry” confidently. If you are also wondering how to apologize appropriately in English, this post is for you.

“I’m sorry for…” or “I would like to apologize…” are the two common expressions native English speakers use to apologize. To apologize, you should first admit that you have done something wrong and then apologize with a commitment that it won’t happen again. You may also share the ways you are planning to resolve it.

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Apart from these two above expressions, there are many other ways to say “sorry” to someone. However, just using appropriate words may not always be enough to apologize. Therefore, besides some more English expressions to apologize, I’ll also share some tips so that you can appropriately apologize in both formal and informal situations.

Table of Contents

Situations When We May Need to Apologize

In our social, personal, and professional life, there are so many situations when we may need to apologize for doing anything wrong or not doing something we are supposed to do. Now let’s see some situations when we may need to apologize. So, we should apologize when we:

  • make any mistake
  • are late
  • make someone upset or angry
  • are incapable of doing something
  • hurt someone
  • cause any problem or inconvenience for someone.
  • damage or break something
  • do something wrong or bad.
  • behave rudely or offensively
  • don’t listen to or follow someone we were supposed to listen to

Formal Expressions to Apologize in English

How you apologize to your friend should vary from how you say “sorry’ to your boss. A plain and simple “sorry” with a tone of apology may convince your friend. However, if you do anything wrong to a stranger, just the word—sorry may not work well. You should do something more to convince the other person to forgive you for what problems you have caused.

Formal Expressions to Apologize in English

Here I’ll share some very effective English expressions you can use to apologize in your social and professional life when the situation is formal.   

  • I sincerely apologize for the problems I caused.
  • I would like to apologize for what I have done.
  • I sincerely apologize for the way I reacted.
  • I would like to apologize for my behavior.
  • I owe you an apology for the wrong that I have done.
  • I really apologize for the confusion arisen for me.
  • I regret how I behaved with you at the last event.
  • Please accept my apology for the mistake.
  • I am ever so sorry for not informing you about the update on time.
  • I am extremely sorry for the inconvenience that I caused.
  • It’s my apology for the late reply.
  • I am so sorry that I couldn’t attend the meeting on time.
  • Please forgive me for the delay.
  • Please accept my apology for my reaction.
  • I beg your pardon for being late in responding.
  • I beg your forgiveness for what I did.
  • I take full responsibility for the errors in the document. Please excuse me.
  • It was thoughtless of me. I owe an apology for what I did yesterday.
  • I feel so ashamed of myself. I hope you understand that I didn’t mean to hurt you.

Informal Expressions to Apologize in English

While apologizing, there should be a difference in your choice of words considering the formality of the situation. For example, when you apologize to someone close to you, you may casually do it with a “sorry.” However, there are some other smart and convincing ways.

Informal Expressions to Apologize in English

Here I present some English informal expressions to apologize in English.

  • I’m sorry. 
  • Please, forgive me.
  • Please, don’t hold a grudge.
  • My bad.
  • Oopsie-daisy!
  • I’m very sorry.
  • I’m so sorry about that.
  • I feel terrible for doing this.
  • I’m sorry, that was wrong of me.
  • I was wrong about that.
  • I’m sorry, that was my fault.
  • I’m very sorry for the way I behaved.
  • Whoops!
  • My mistake.
  • Oops!
  • I am sorry for being out of line.
  • I’m sorry that I couldn’t control my anger.
  • I take the blame for everything.
  • You can blame me for that.
  • It was my bad.
  • I messed up everything.
  • I screwed up things.
  • Oh my goodness! I got no clue how I could be so silly.
  • I didn’t want to hurt you.
  • I’m sorry for bothering you.
  • Can you forgive me?
  • Please forgive me.
  • I promise that I won’t do it again.
  • Please tell me how I can make it up.

So, I have shared some English expressions native speakers use to apologize. Now, let me share a list of situations when we need to apologize. Later in the post, I will give you some tips you may follow while saying “sorry” to someone.

8 Tips to Apologize Like a Native English Speaker

Knowing the words is not enough if you can’t put them correctly. And yet there are other things to consider when you apologize to someone.

8 Tips to Apologize Like a Native English Speaker

Therefore, I share some exclusive tips here.

#1 Admit that You Have Done Something Wrong

The first step to apologize is admitting what wrong you have done. For example, suppose you visited your friend’s place and accidentally broke the TV remote. What would you do? If you leave the place without telling them about the incident, it will create a bad impression on you to them.

On the other hand, if you admit that it was an accident and express how bad you feel about that, it’s obvious that things will be all right. So, it’s always better to admit your mistakes while apologizing.

#2 Don’t Try to Defend Yourself or Blame Others

When you make a mistake, it’s better not to try to defend yourself. But unfortunately, in many cases, we try to protect ourselves by blaming someone else. This may not always bring anything good for you but may worsen the situation.

So, if possible, you should always avoid defending yourself with excuses if you really have made any mistake.

#3 Feel Sorry Genuinely & Apologize Sincerely

If you have done anything wrong, you should genuinely feel sorry. If you really feel sorry from the core of your heart, you can only apologize sincerely. So, don’t say “sorry” just to say sorry. You must feel sorry before you say sorry.

#4 Explain Valid Reasons Briefly

Sometimes you may explain why you have done something wrong. While apologizing, if you can briefly share the reasons behind any mistake, it may help convince the other person. But again, don’t explain reasons to defend yourself; instead, share the reasons so that the other person becomes convinced and forgives you.

However, not everyone will be ready to hear your explanation. So, if possible, ask for permission from them to explain why you made this mistake.

#5 Share How You Want to Resolve the Problem

Sometimes, people may expect your action to resolve any problems caused by you. For example, suppose you had a collision with another car, and it was completely your fault. Naturally, the other person may expect compensation. So, just saying a polite “sorry” in such a situation may not work best. Instead, it would be best if you offered compensation for the damage that occurred.

However, some people may find it insulting or offensive if you offer monetary compensation. So, before you offer some, be sure that you don’t make another mistake by doing this.

#6 Do Something Else When Words Are Not Enough

Well! Suppose your boyfriend asked you out, and you couldn’t make it. How do you manage the situation? He might be very upset. Yes! You certainly should apologize, but what if words don’t work enough?

In such situations, when words are not enough, you may give her other things, such as flowers or gifts. Or try to find out what sort of gifts make that person happy. Then, buy that and apologize with some nice English words I mentioned earlier in the post.

#7 Consider the Context

Whether you should apologize casually or seriously depends on where you are and to whom you plan to apologize. In a professional setting, you must use formal expressions to apologize. On the other hand, if you apologize to a friend, you may apologize informally.

I have already shared some formal and informal English expressions above; please check them and find the most suitable ones for you.

#8 Think About Your Voice Tone and Body Language

Your voice tone and body language matter a lot when you apologize. When you apologize, you admit that you have done something wrong. Therefore, you make a request to forgive you. So, it would be best if you used a sincere and convincing voice tone as well as polite body language.

In addition, you must make eye contact and a positive gesture to show that you genuinely feel sorry.

In Conclusion

All right! That’s all about different expressions that native English speakers use while apologizing for any of their mistakes or wrong-doings. I believe if you learn them and practice, you will be able to say “sorry” confidently in different ways.

Thanks for reading.

Happy learning.

Niaj A A Khan is an ESL Instructor with over 7 years of experience in teaching & developing resources at different universities and institutes. Mr. Khan is also a passionate writer working on his first book, "Learn English at Ease."

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