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Please help me understand an item in a self-report questionnaire: "When I am blamed for something, I make excuses."

My intuitive understanding of it is something like this: when I am blamed for something, I tend to come up with excuses like "but I had had a bad day" or "But they verbally attacked me first" or "but I was thinking about something else".

Anther person understood it to mean something like: when I am blamed for something, I apologize.

How would a native speaker understand it?

Thanks in advance!

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I concur with you, and interpret "I make excuses" the same as you - that I come up with reasons (which might not be very justifiable) to justify what it is I'm being blamed for.

EOLD gives the following definitions for excuse:

1 Seek to lessen the blame attaching to (a fault or offence); try to justify.

1.1 Forgive (someone) for a fault or offence.

1.2 Overlook or make allowances for.

1.3 (of a fact) serve to mitigate (a person or act).

(another meaning of excuse is to release (someone) from a duty or requirement, which I've not shown here)

Based on the above definitions, it appears that the person you're referring to has probably misunderstood the meaning given under 1.1 "Forgive (someone) for a fault or offence".

However, the usage of excuse in such a context is different. Quoting EOLD's example for 1.1: "‘you must excuse my brother’".

To conclude, your interpretation of "excuse" is correct, and matches the definition specified as 1.

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