Ask a Teacher: Sorry and Excuse Me

2018-12-29

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1
  • Imagine that you are in a crowded place in an English-speaking country.
  • 2
  • You want to politely ask someone to move but are not sure how.
  • 3
  • Here is today's question from our reader Slava:
  • 4
  • Question: Hi! Would you like to explain the difference between "sorry" and "excuse me"? Thank you. - Slava
  • 5
  • Answer: Hello, Slava, and thanks for asking.
  • 6
  • In many situations, both "Excuse me" and "Sorry" are suitable.
  • 7
  • For example, you can use either "Excuse me" or "Sorry" to politely get someone's attention. Let's listen:
  • 8
  • Excuse me, do you know where the Metro is?
  • 9
  • Sorry, do you happen to have the time?
  • 10
  • But when speaking to strangers, "Excuse me" is much more common.
  • 11
  • We also use "Excuse me" and "Sorry" to politely interrupt a person or people to ask or tell them something. Listen:
  • 12
  • Excuse me, everyone, the meeting is starting in five minutes.
  • 13
  • Sorry, Shelly, can I get your opinion on a gift idea?
  • 14
  • "Excuse me" and "Sorry" are also used to politely ask someone to move so that we can walk past them or to apologize for bumping into someone.
  • 15
  • Let's listen:
  • 16
  • Excuse me, may I please get past? Thanks!
  • 17
  • Sorry about that. It's really crowded in here!
  • 18
  • You heard the second speaker say, "Sorry about that." This is a common way of saying, "I'm sorry," when we make a small mistake.
  • 19
  • And, we use "Excuse me" and "Sorry" when we need someone to repeat what they said. Have a listen:
  • 20
  • Sorry, I didn't hear that. Can you say it again?
  • 21
  • Excuse me, can you speak a little louder? We can't hear you in the back of the room.
  • 22
  • Other times, only one of the phrases is suitable.
  • 23
  • We use "I'm sorry" to:
  • 24
  • To tell someone that we regret something we did that affected the person in a bad way.​
  • 25
  • I'm so sorry for damaging your camera.
  • 26
  • To share unpleasant news.​
  • 27
  • I'm sorry but all the rooms this weekend are taken.
  • 28
  • Or to refuse an offer or request​.
  • 29
  • Sorry but I won't make it to dinner. I have to work late!
  • 30
  • And we use "Excuse me" to:
  • 31
  • Politely tell someone that we are leaving a place​.​
  • 32
  • Excuse me for a minute. I need to make a phone call.
  • 33
  • And that's Ask a Teacher.
  • 34
  • I'm Ashley Thompson.
  • 1
  • Imagine that you are in a crowded place in an English-speaking country. You want to politely ask someone to move but are not sure how. Here is today's question from our reader Slava:
  • 2
  • Question:
  • 3
  • Hi! Would you like to explain the difference between "sorry" and "excuse me"? Thank you. - Slava
  • 4
  • Answer:
  • 5
  • Hello, Slava, and thanks for asking.
  • 6
  • In many situations, both "Excuse me" and "Sorry" are suitable.
  • 7
  • To get someone's attention
  • 8
  • For example, you can use either "Excuse me" or "Sorry" to politely get someone's attention. Let's listen:
  • 9
  • Excuse me, do you know where the Metro is?
  • 10
  • Sorry, do you happen to have the time?
  • 11
  • But when speaking to strangers, "Excuse me" is much more common.
  • 12
  • To interrupt someone
  • 13
  • We also use "Excuse me" and "Sorry" to politely interrupt a person or people to ask or tell them something. Listen:
  • 14
  • Excuse me, everyone, the meeting is starting in five minutes.
  • 15
  • Sorry, Shelly, can I get your opinion on a gift idea?
  • 16
  • To ask someone to move
  • 17
  • "Excuse me" and "Sorry" are also used to politely ask someone to move so that we can walk past them or to apologize for bumping into someone. Let's listen:
  • 18
  • Excuse me, may I please get past? Thanks!
  • 19
  • Sorry about that. It's really crowded in here!
  • 20
  • You heard the second speaker say, "Sorry about that." This is a common way of saying, "I'm sorry," when we make a small mistake.
  • 21
  • To ask someone to repeat
  • 22
  • And, we use "Excuse me" and "Sorry" when we need someone to repeat what they said. Have a listen:
  • 23
  • Sorry, I didn't hear that. Can you say it again?
  • 24
  • Excuse me, can you speak a little louder? We can't hear you in the back of the room.
  • 25
  • Other times, only one of the phrases is suitable.
  • 26
  • I'm sorry
  • 27
  • We use "I'm sorry" to:
  • 28
  • Excuse me
  • 29
  • And we use "Excuse me" to:
  • 30
  • And that's Ask a Teacher.
  • 31
  • I'm Ashley Thompson.
  • 32
  • To ask another question, simply go to our website: learningenglish.voanews.com.
  • 33
  • _________________________________________________________________
  • 34
  • Words in This Story
  • 35
  • politely - adv. in a way that has or shows good manners or respect for other people
  • 36
  • interrupt - v. to do or say something that causes someone to stop speaking
  • 37
  • phrase - n. a group of two or more words that express a single idea but do not usually form a complete sentence