Sorry and Apologize: What's the difference?

Sorry and apologize are two words we often hear after a person does something wrong to us. Many would argue that these expressions are the same however, these two expressions have their own share of subtle differences just like review and revise.

An apology formally admits wrongdoing. It may or may not be heartfelt — i.e., a person may apologize without feeling remorseful.

On the other hand, saying “I am sorry” is usually seen as being a truer admission of regret. It is what we call a “heartfelt apology.”

If someone says he is sorry but does not feel any remorse, then he is said to be lying.

Explicitly, we use “I’m sorry” to express sympathy. For example, “I’m sorry for your loss” can communicate sympathy following the death of a loved one. There is no such usage for “I apologize.” An apology is only for wrongdoing.

Grammatically, there’s more to these words than using it to ease the tension caused by wrongdoing.

In this article, we are going to dig deeper and understand when and how to use these words correctly.

Are you ready? I bet you are so, let’s get started.

When to say "I am sorry"

As mentioned above, we use “I am sorry” to express regret or remorse for actions. Besides, we also use I am sorry when you wish to express sympathy for someone who has experienced a loss or hardship.

Compared to apologize, sorry is a little less formal. When we say sorry, it sounds more emotional and empathetic. Depending on the person saying it and how the receiver interprets it, saying “I am sorry” can sound and be taken sarcastically. Moreover, saying I’m sorry can also sound insincere, especially if the one saying it does not fully acknowledge his/her fault.

1. I am sorry to hear about your father’s tragic death. He was a remarkable man.

2. I am sorry that I disappointed you when I said I wouldn’t join the trip you organized.

3. I am sorry that I ruin your plans today.

4. I cannot tell you how sorry I am to hear that you lost your pet.

When to say "I apologize"

We say “I apologize” to formally admit that you did something wrong, whether you feel “sorry” about it. So, while you might formally admit that what you did was wrong, you might not feel remorse for your actions.

Often, we interchangeably use sorry and apologize because we think they are the same. But unlike sorry, we the word when we feel regret or responsibility for our wrongdoing. And when we say I apologize, it sounds more formal than saying I’m sorry.

Let’s consider how the following sentences sound.

1. I apologize for ruining your plans today.

2. I apologize for disappointing you when I said I wouldn’t join the trip you organized

Here are some additional examples:

3. I apologize if I made you feel uncomfortable on our first date.

4. If you think I was being rude, I apologize.

The Bottom Line

Sorry and Apologize are two similar words that mean similar things, and they are often used interchangeably. However, despite their similarities, both expressions also have their own connotations.

But generally, I am sorry connotes a feeling of remorse, while I apologize does not.

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