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Is It Correct to Say “Apologies”?

We often need to say “I’m sorry,” and in English, there are many ways of saying this. In conversation, we sometimes use single words or abbreviated phrases that stand alone to express our feelings. Is this the case with “apologies”?

It is correct to say “apologies” as a quick way of saying, “I’m sorry.” It is used when we are expressing regret for something in a polite, collegial setting or in an email. You may use the idiom “apologies” or “my apologies” in place of the more formal expression, “Please accept my apologies.”

This article will explore what it means to say “apologies” and examine when and how to use this phrase correctly. We’ll also look at alternatives and consider other expressions and common terms we use as interjections.

What Does “Apologies” Mean?

“Apologies” is a quick and polite way to say, “I’m sorry.” It’s the plural of the noun “apology,” which we usually define as an expression of regret or the act of saying you are sorry for something (source).

The word “apology” dates back to the 15th century and has its roots in both Latin and Greek from the word apologia, meaning “a speech in defense” (source). We sometimes still use the term to indicate a defense of something, but most often, it is an expression of regret.

There are two other definitions for “apology” that you can use in specific contexts. If you send your apologies, it means you are apologizing for being unable to attend an event.

At a meeting, someone might say, “We received apologies from two committee members”; this means two people said they could not attend.

We can also use “apologies” simply as the plural of “apology” rather than an interjection. In that case, we can place it anywhere an objective noun can go in the sentence. 

  • They gave their apologies for the meeting because they will be out of town.
  • I have written apologies for my behavior at the party.
  • Written apologies were received from Harry, Jennifer, and Sarah.

How Do You Use “Apologies”?

We use “apologies” as an interjection, which means it can stand alone as grammatically independent. An interjection usually occurs at the beginning of a sentence and is often followed by an exclamation point.

When you say “Apologies” or “My apologies” on its own, you are abbreviating the sentence, “Please accept my apologies.” In this case, you would usually, but not always, place it at the beginning of a sentence. Look at the following examples:

  • Apologies! I was in such a rush that I forgot to greet you.
  • My apologies! I didn’t mean to stand on your foot.
  • It’s later than I thought. Apologies!

You may even stress how sorry you are by adding an adjective to “apologies,” as shown below.

  • A thousand apologies! I got the time wrong.
  • That shouldn’t have happened. My humblest apologies
  • My deepest apologies! I am sorry to have inconvenienced you. 

We often follow the interjection “apologies” with “for …” When we use it like this, we imply the verb. See the examples below where you could substitute “I apologize” for “Apologies” without changing the meaning.

  • Apologies for the interruption, but I just couldn’t wait to show you.
  • Apologies for asking, but I just had to know!
  • It’s getting late—apologies for the slow service.

We usually see this use of “apologies” in workplace conversations or emails. You might use it with friends, but you are more likely to use it among acquaintances when you need to be respectful but not overly formal.

When Can You Use “Apologies”?

You can use “apologies” anytime you are in a context, especially with colleagues or acquaintances, where you want to express your regret or say sorry for something. You can also use it as the plural for “apology” in a sentence.

We often use “apologies” when writing emails or on instant messaging platforms in the workplace. With friends, we’d more likely use the casual “sorry.”

We also use it as an interjection in conversation when we want to say we’re sorry to acquaintances or work colleagues. We would use “apologies” in the present tense as an interjection.

You can use “apologies” as the plural of “apology” at any time, in writing or in a conversation of any tense.

In What Context Can You Use “Apologies”?

We most often use “apologies” as an abbreviation for “I apologize” or “Please accept my apologies” in environments where we are being polite but not overly formal. However, you may use its plural form in any context where you refer to more than one apology.

As with other interjections, “apologies” is an expression of emotion or meaning, so we do not use it in strictly formal, legal environments. However, we consider the term respectful, which makes it a good fit for semi-formal environments like the office.

We often use the interjection “apologies” in polite conversation to express regret, as shown in the examples below.

  • Speaker 1: Have you returned the jacket you loaned?
  • Speaker 2: Apologies! I completely forgot.
  • Speaker 1: My apologies. I should have offered you a lift.
  • Speaker 2: Don’t worry about it. I caught the bus easily.
  • Speaker 1: Apologies, I cannot attend the meeting.
  • Speaker 2: I will let the chairman know.

We will also commonly see it within workplace communications, such as emails:

  • Apologies, Sam, I didn’t realize we were both working on this report.
  • Unfortunately, I’m not going to make the meeting today – apologies.
  • Apologies for the rush, but could you get the report back this afternoon?

You can also use the plural noun “apologies” together with verbs such as “make,” “give,” or “offer” to indicate that you apologized. This would be appropriate in any context, though it rarely appears in a casual setting.

  • After spilling wine on the carpet, I gave my apologies to the Smith family.
  • I offered my apologies to the organizers.
  • Please make your apologies, and then you may leave.
Image by Nick Fewings via Unsplash

When Not to Use “Apologies”

You should not use “apologies” as an interjection when you give your apology in writing. “Apologies” is polite and respectful but not strictly formal. You should also not use “apologies” in a casual context with friends.

If you were writing a formal apology, it would be preferable to use the entire expression, “Please accept my apologies” or “I apologize.” You could use it in semi-formal or even formal conversation, but we generally don’t use interjections in formal or legal writing.

In a casual environment, you would be much more likely to use the expression “sorry” or “I’m sorry” because “apologies,” especially in the American English context, sounds a little stiff.

You also shouldn’t use “apologies” when referring to a single apology. For example, you might say, “The president will issue an apology for the attack,” or “I owe you an apology.” The singular “apology” is much more specific than the general “apologies,” which points to broader regret. 

You should also not use “apologies” in place of the verb “apologize.” Because the two words look similar, they are often confused. Remember that the verb form is “to apologize,” and the plural of “apology” is “apologies.”

In British English, it’s even more confusing because the verb is spelled “apologise.”

What Can You Use Instead of “Apologies”?

We’ve already mentioned that we use “apologies” as a quick, polite way to say, “Please accept my apologies” or “I’m sorry,” but there are even more ways we can say we are sorry in English.

Let’s consider some of the more common alternatives for “Apologies! I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

  • I’m sorry that I hurt you.
  • Please accept my apologies for hurting you.
  • I apologize for hurting you.
  • It was my fault; I’m sorry for hurting you.
  • I regret my actions in hurting you.
  • Please forgive me for hurting you.
  • Pardon me for hurting you.
  • I hurt you — my bad (casual, colloquial, and somewhat dismissive).

As you can see, some of these are much more formal than others, so it’s important to know what context you are speaking in to make the correct choice.

Using “Apologies” in a Full Sentence

The interjection “apologies” can stand as a complete sentence by itself. However, it requires some context for understanding, so we usually follow it (or occasionally precede it) with another sentence. Sometimes, we follow it with “for …” to explain what we are sorry for.

Let’s consider some examples that show how we use “apologies” as an interjection.

  • My apologies! I forgot to set the timer on the cake, so it’s burnt. 
  • Apologies! This misunderstanding is entirely my fault.
  • Apologies for the mess. I’m going to clean up later.
  • A thousand apologies! I didn’t mean to run so late.

The examples above all use “apologies” in place of “Please accept my apologies.” When using “apologies” as the plural of “apology,” we have myriad ways to place the word in a full sentence:

  • Jack, Sarah, and Michal all gave apologies for the upcoming council meeting.
  • Her apologies were accepted after she explained why she behaved so badly.
  • The painting is of a man formally giving apologies.

Polite Expressions as Interjections

We regularly use interjections in conversation. They’re generally small words or phrases that express emotion, meaning, or feelings, such as pleasure, shock, or surprise (source). Think of words like “yikes,” “wow,” or “ouch.” These expressive words pepper our conversation.

Image by Bernard Hermant via Unsplash

Sometimes, we use interjections to be polite. These interjections are milder and less emotive. “Apologies” falls into this category, as do other expressions like “excuse me” or “please.”

We use many minor sentences and interjections in English just to be polite. To see some examples of interjections of gratitude, read Is It Correct to Say “Thank You Both”?

We might say, “Sorry, could you pass me the salt?” or “Excuse me, could I just squeeze past you?” In both examples, we’re being polite by preceding our request with an interjection. 

There are many phrases that we use in English to be polite. “I’m sorry” and “Pardon me” are two common ones we often use when we aren’t actually sorry or asking to be pardoned. We say them to be polite.

When we say, “I’m sorry, could you pass me the salt,” we aren’t sorry for asking someone to pass the salt; we’re apologizing for the inconvenience. 

Similarly, saying, “Pardon me, could you help me with my coat,” is a polite way of asking for assistance and excusing the inconvenience. 

Other polite interjections include phrases such as “If I may,” “Ahem,” or “Oh dear.” We use these regularly in polite conversation to avoid being overly direct or rude. We generally use them to soften what we want to say.

Read our article Is It Correct to Say “Best Wishes”? to look further at how we use polite, socially acceptable phrases in English. 

Common English Phrases Using “Apology” or “Apologies”

Other idioms or phrases that use “apology” in English have particular meanings. Let’s examine a couple of them.

Make No Apologies For

This means being confident in your actions when others may doubt you. For example, if you make no apologies for something, you are saying you believe you are right in your actions, as shown in the sentences below. 

  • I make no apologies for my methods because they’ve worked well so far.
  • It was very upsetting, and I make no apologies for my tears.

With Apologies To

We use this phrase to indicate that we are improperly adapting what someone wrote or said, or that we are explicitly excluding someone from something. 

  • With apologies to Shakespeare, the question is to eat or not to eat!
  • With apologies to Jack, who is an exception, this team has been a disappointment.

Be an Apology For

Speakers sometimes use “apology” in British English to mean “a poor example.” In this context, we might say something like, “He’s a poor apology for a chef,” meaning that he is not a very good chef (source).

In American English, we articulate the same expression by saying, “He’s a sorry excuse for a chef.”

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As with many English idioms, you have to understand what they mean to use them appropriately because they don’t always make sense literally.

Final Thoughts

We have learned that we can use “apologies” or “my apologies” when expressing regret for something. It’s a typical English idiom that means “I’m sorry” in a broad context and stands in the place of the formal expression, “Please accept my apologies.” It’s also the plural form of the word “apology,” which often appears in English.

As English has evolved, many polite expressions have come into everyday conversation. These expressions often imply a broader meaning, and “apologies” is one of those.

We generally use it as an interjection meaning “I’m sorry” in semi-formal contexts to apologize.