"Sorry to" is not an apology

There is a good chance you've said or heard someone say this:

Sorry to be late!

But that's a mistake. 

Expressing sympathy

Using sorry to + verb is not for an apology. It's used to express sympathy for an action you will do or are doing. For example: 

  • "I'm sorry to say, but you need to work on that a lot more."
  • "I'm sorry to hear that."
  • "Sorry to interrupt, but I have a question."

In all of those examples, the person is not apologizing. Rather, they are acknowledging that something unpleasant is happening and they sympathize. 


If you are apologizing, the most common structure is I'm sorry[, /that] + full sentence, or just sorry + full sentence.

  • I'm sorry, I forgot the report. It's at home on my desk. 
  • I'm sorry that I said you were stupid. I didn't mean that. 
  • Sorry I'm late

If you forget this rule and say "Sorry to be late", try to correct yourself by saying, "Sorry, I made a mistake! I meant, 'sorry I'm late.'" 

So, the next time you are late to class, make sure you use the right apology style!

And, if you'd like to practice, then write some homework. Write three apologies for anything you can imagine.