Do You Say "I'm Sorry" in English Too Much?


I’m so sorry.

I apologize.

I’m sorry, but can you help me?

Do you say “I’m sorry” a lot? I used to say “I’m sorry” for all sorts of things—even things that didn’t really require an apology. I got my first clue that I overused the phrase when I was living in Germany. “I’m sorry” in German is, “Es tut mir leid.” It literally translates as, “It does (or causes) me sorrow.” I would use this phrase often in Germany. If I was in someone’s way, I would say, “I’m sorry,” in German. If I was walking through the elevator door when someone was coming out, I would say, “I’m sorry.”

I was sorry for many things, it seemed.

I don’t remember the details, but at some point in time, an acquaintance called it to my attention that I said, “I’m sorry” an awful lot. In fact, I was told that the times that I was apologizing were not really times when I should apologize—at least in the German culture. Perhaps, I could have used the phrase, “Excuse me,” when I had to walk close to someone, but, in reality, I didn’t really need to say anything at all, and especially not, “I’m sorry.”

In other words, I had nothing to feel sorry for.

Like I said, this was my first clue, and when I returned home to America, this new discovery caused me to re-evaluate how often I said, “I’m sorry,” in English. And, upon reflection, it was a lot.

Why did I apologize so often?

That was the question. Here is what I have figured out, and I would love to share it with you, in case, you too, overuse this phrase.