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.
“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.
“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.
“I am sorry that I was late”.
Apologies can be informal:
I’m really sorry about this.
“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.
“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.
“Did I tread on your foot? I’m sorry. Are you all right?”
An exclamation can be used for the same purpose.
“Oh dear! I’m so sorry. Did I hurt you?”
You can also put in extra words to sound more sorry.
“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.
“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 …
“I’m sorry about the noise – my children are at home.”