What are the differences between "sorry to keep you waiting" and "sorry for keeping you waiting"?

It seems that a lot of native speakers do not distinguish "sorry to do" and "sorry for doing".

But this site says:

To be sorry to + infinitive = to apologise for a present action

I´m sorry to interrupt but could you come with me for a second?

To be sorry for + verb with -ing = to apologise for a past/earlier action

I´m sorry for lying to you, I won´t do it again


"sorry to keep you waiting."==> I will let you wait after I say this

"sorry for keeping you waiting."==> I let you wait before I say this.

  • 1
    Interesting. To say "sorry for having kept you waiting" sounds more grammatical.
    – user17814
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 15:17
  • Well, you've kept me waiting for an additional syllable with for keeping.
    – TimR
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 15:52

1 Answer 1


Let's say you've been waiting to speak with someone in their office. You're outside in a waiting room. They open the door. Any of these phrases could come out of their mouth:

Sorry to keep you waiting.

Sorry to have kept you waiting.

Sorry for keeping you waiting.

Sorry for having kept you waiting.

The only nuanced difference, and it is a very slight one indeed, is that with the perfect your wait is presented as something which is now at an end.

Even though the non-perfect versions could be spoken when the person is ready to see you, so that you're no longer waiting, they could also be spoken when the person is asking you to wait a little longer.

Sorry to keep you waiting. It will be just another 5 minutes. Thanks for being patient.

If the person used the perfect in that case, you might momentarily think that your wait was over, making the added wait a tad more irksome if only because you thought the wait was over:

Sorry to have kept you waiting. You may infer your wait is over and begin to stand up. But it will be just another 5 minutes.

  • My personal opinion is it may depend on how easy to say these candidates. But still I don't understand why the OP's text is overlooking the perfect to denote the past event.
    – user17814
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 17:37
  • Native speakers would not find one more easy to pronounce than the other, although I think there may be a socio-economic component. There may be some correlation between to have kept you and a higher educational level.
    – TimR
    Commented May 27, 2018 at 20:02

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