25 ways to say "sorry" in English

By Emily Hitz, PhraseMix.com contributor


Knowing how to apologize is an important part of being polite. You probably already know "sorry", but there are many other ways to apologize in English.

Apologizing for small mistakes

Simply saying "sorry" is most common with small mistakes, like bumping into someone or saying someone’s name wrong. In these situations, people often say:

Whoops! Sorry!

Oh! Sorry.

Sorry ‘bout that.

There are a few slang phrases that you can also use for slight mistakes:

Oh, my bad.

My fault, bro.

In a very informal text message, a young person might even abbreviate "sorry":

wanna meet up later?

sry, cant. busy.


Apologizing when you make a more serious mistake:

For a more serious mistake, especially in customer service situations, you might say:

I’m so sorry.

I apologize.

Sometimes people say "oh my goodness" or "oh my gosh" before they apologize in these situations:

Oh my goodness! I'm so sorry. I should have watched where I was going.


Apologizing for incorrect information

If you cause a problem with communication, or give incorrect information, you might say: 

My mistake.

I had that wrong.

I was wrong on that.

My apologies.

Sometimes you can say two of these phrases together, and you can say "sorry" at the beginning or end:

Sorry, my apologies. I had that wrong.


Making a formal or serious apology

If you make a serious mistake with a friend, loved one, or coworker, you shouldn’t use casual language to apologize. Try a more formal apology, such as: 

I’d like to apologize.

I want to apologize.

I owe you an apology.

I wanted to tell you I’m sorry.

After these phrases, you can add "for (doing something/ how I… / what I…)":

I'd like to apologize for how I reacted yesterday.

If you want to, you can also say: 

I hope you can forgive me.

That was wrong of me.

...if you’re very serious about your apology.


Writing a formal apology

We use the most formal English in writing. In this situation, you could use these phrases:

I sincerely apologize.

I take full responsibility.

You may want to complete the sentence with one of these phrases:

...for any problems I may have caused.

...for my behavior.

...for my actions.


Other contexts for ‘sorry’

There are a few situations where English speakers (especially Canadians) say sorry, but they aren’t really apologizing. For example, when you need to pass someone in a crowded place, it’s common to say sorry, but you can also say:

Pardon (me)

Excuse me

You can also use "Sorry?", "Excuse me?", and "Pardon?" (or "Pardon me?") to ask someone to repeat what they said. In this case, you should use a rising question intonation.

Emily HitzEmily Hitz lives near San Francisco, California, but she taught English in Vancouver for four years. She now works as a freelance writer, educational consultant, and occasional teacher. She's interested in all things English and linguistics, and Spanish too.

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