The difference between Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me

I am going to tell you some points about the difference between these English phrase: Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me

The difference between Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me
The difference between Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me
There are some words and phrases for saying and expressing your regrets for doing something wrong and you want to apology in English, the most common ones are:
I’m sorry
I apologize
My apologies
Pardon me
Excuse me
Excuse my…
Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me are the most common ones and they are really close together in meaning, and they all can be used interchangeably instead of each other, while they are a bit different in the way we use them. So I try to take a look at these differences between these 3 phrase which you need to be aware of them to use them in a correct way and to avoid some common mistake between English learners.

Excuse me is used:

  1. to get someone’s attention politely. e.g Excuse me, do you know where the bank is?
  2. to show you are sorry for interrupting someone. e.g. Excuse me for interrupting your words, but I have to call my manager about the results.
  3. to notify someone about something for example to pass through a narrow way and letting you to pass without any inconvenience or to move out of the way. e.g. Excuse me may I pass through this narrow way?
  4. to tell someone politely that you are leaving the presence of the person you are talking to. e.g. Excuse me I have to go to the station otherwise I will lose the train.
  5. to ask someone politely to repeat something that you didn’t hear or understand. e.g. Excuse me you did what? I couldn’t hear you clearly.
  6. to ask for forgiveness because you did something uncalled for. e.g. Excuse me I did what I thought which is right.

Sorry is used:

  1. to emphasize how bad, stupid, or embarrassing something is
  2. to feel sadness or sympathy because something bad has happened to them
  3. to be disappointed about a situation, and wishing you could change it
  4. to apologize after someone has done something wrong.
  5. to tell something unpleasant (like a bad news) to someone
  6. to ask someone to repeat something who has told us, but we didn’t hear or understand it
  7. for not accepting or for refusing something from someone (for example an invitation)
  8. to express condolence to someone due to losing something or someone (for example the death of someone close to our audience)
  9. to get someone’s attention to ask or tell him/her something

Please note that there are some common situations which is correct to say sorry as: rudeness, disrespect, actions, behaviour, etc.

Pardon me is used:

  1. to let someone to be free without any punishment or leave someone without being punished.
  2. to forgive someone for his / her bad behavior or for undesired way of treating someone or something.

Pardon is a word which has two grammatical role; one as a verb and the other as a noun, so lets take a look at the meanings of these two different roles:

Pardon :
Verb – to forgive; to absolve; to grant clemency e.g. She could never pardon him. 
Noun – forgiveness; absolution; clemency e.g. He needs a pardon from his friend. 

Pardon me” has the same meaning as “excuse me“, but it is more commonly used for misunderstandings and mishearing. Usually in formal situation it is better to sue “I beg your pardon” instead of Pardon me. even we need to use pardon in the following ways too:

The difference between Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me
The difference between Excuse me, Sorry, Pardon me

Some important points:

1. We usually say excuse me before we interrupt or disturb someone, but we say sorry after we disturb or trouble someone.
Excuse me, may I get past?… Oh, sorry, did I step on your foot?
Excuse me, could you tell me where the station is?

I beg your pardon is a more formal way of saying sorry.
e.g. I beg your pardon. I’m afraid I didn’t realize this was your

2. Excuse me and pardon me are both the polite expressions for using when someone does something wrong that could be slightly embarrassing or rude. You usually use sorry to apologize after you have done something wrong.

3. If we don’t hear or understand what someone is saying, we usually say “sorry?”, or “What?” in the informal conversational situation, but for formal situations we use “(I beg your) pardon?” while it is more popular between Americans to say Pardon me? and “pardon” is less used by many people.
– John’s on the phone.
– Sorry?
– I said John’s on the phone.

– See you tomorrow.
– I said “see you tomorrow”.

About Ahmad Osmani

Ahmad Osmani
I am Ahmad Osmani, an English teacher, and translator. I have more than 15 years of experience. I have been the administrator and writer of the website since its creation. I have studied Translation Studies and English Language. I love learning and teaching different languages. My main profession is writing and translating and sometime I teach English in my free time.

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