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3 min read
Max Gowan
December 11, 2023
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3 min read

How to apologize with sincerity and tact in English

In this article, we'll explore the art of apologizing in English, discussing the best ways to convey regret, seek forgiveness, accept apologies, and make amends.
How to apologize with sincerity and tact in English

How to apologize with sincerity and tact in English

Like the old saying goes: Mistakes come easy, but apologies are hard to come by. Apologies have the power to repair many mistakes and social missteps if you know just what to say and how to say it. In this article, we'll explore the art of apologizing in English, discussing the best ways to convey regret, seek forgiveness, accept apologies, and make amends.

Whether you're a native English speaker or learning the language, mastering the art of apologies is essential for nurturing strong relationships and resolving conflicts.

Apologizing to friends and family

When it comes to apologizing to friends and family, a simple "I'm sorry" is often the go-to phrase. The word "sorry" carries the weight of regret, guilt, sympathy, or pity. While saying "I'm sorry" to others is a thoughtful gesture, there are times when it just isn't enough.

Imagine accidentally crashing your brother's new car or stepping on your best friend's new phone. In such situations, "sorry" might not cut it. You need to find a stronger way to convey your deep feelings of regret and show that you're willing to make amends.

Statements like "I'm so sorry," "I'm terribly sorry," "I want to apologize," "I'm sorry, that was wrong of me," "I'm really sorry about that," and "It was my fault; I take full responsibility" show a profound sense of remorse and accountability. These expressions demonstrate your willingness to take responsibility for your actions, acknowledge the impact they had on others, and make amends.

Woman expressing sincere apology

Additionally, younger Americans have adopted the phrase "My bad" when apologizing to friends and family. It succinctly conveys admission of wrongdoing and a desire to move forward without dwelling on the mistake.

Public apologies

In public settings, proper etiquette dictates a simple nod and a quick "sorry" when accidentally bumping into someone on the street. The goal is to acknowledge the incident without belaboring it. However, there are instances where the mishap causes more significant inconvenience or harm.

For example, if you accidentally cause someone to spill hot coffee all over their shirt, incorporating words like "so," "extremely," or "sincerely" can help ease the tension and convey the depth of your regret. These additional words demonstrate your empathy and show that you understand the impact of your actions.

Man making a genuine apology

Accepting apologies in public settings often involves acknowledging the other person's apology and expressing forgiveness.

Language matters

While "I'm sorry" is a commonly used phrase for apologies, English offers alternative expressions to convey regret. However, it's important to consider the context and potential interpretations of these expressions. One such phrase is "I beg your pardon."

While it can be used to politely ask for clarification, it can also be interpreted as a sarcastic remark when someone wrongs you. Therefore, it's wise to use it carefully. Instead, a better way to apologize politely is to say, "Pardon me." This phrase is commonly used when seeking forgiveness for a minor inconvenience caused by your actions.

Unfortunately, there are times when finding the right words to apologize becomes challenging. In such instances, you can express the depth of your remorse by saying, "Words can't express how sorry I am."

Woman expressing her remorse

This phrase is often used when a simple apology falls short, and you want to emphasize the depth of your regret. It shows that you genuinely understand the gravity of the situation and the impact of your actions.

In accepting apologies, it's important to listen, acknowledge the other person's regret, and express your willingness to move forward and rebuild trust.

Apologizing in a business setting

Apologizing in a professional or business environment requires additional tact and diplomacy. For minor mistakes, you can use expressions such as "My apologies," "I'm sorry for my actions," "That was rude of me," or "Please forgive me."

These phrases convey your acknowledgment of the error and your desire to be forgiven or excused for any fault, insult, failure, or injury caused.

Man expressing apology in a business setting

In the case of more significant mistakes or errors, it's important to demonstrate a sincere commitment to improvement. Phrases like "Please forgive me and know that this will never happen again" or "I was badly misinformed, and I deeply regret the error" can help rebuild trust and confidence.

Adding "It will never happen again" further emphasizes your determination to rectify the situation and prevent similar mistakes in the future.

Accepting apologies

So, what should you do when someone apologizes to you? If you want to accept the apology, you can first acknowledge the person's mistake or bad actions. Oftentimes, you will want to discuss the impact the other person's actions had on you before you look for ways to resolve the issue.

Some common phrases for accepting apologies are "It's okay," "I forgive you," "I accept your apology," and "I appreciate you taking responsibility."

Young woman nodding and crossing arms

A popular informal way of accepting an apology is to say, "You're good" or "It's all good." Accepting genuine apologies shows grace, understanding, and empathy. It also allows you to move forward with a better understanding of each other.


Apologies are an important part of the social fabric. Knowing how to apologize appropriately and sincerely is essential for resolving conflicts, accepting apologies from others, and strengthening interpersonal connections. By mastering the art of apologies in English, you can navigate conversations with empathy, respect, and the intention to heal.