What is the difference between

  • I am sorry to bother you again.


  • I am sorry for bothering you.

Do they mean the same thing because again implies that it is not the first time the person has bothered the other one; as if "bothering" was an ongoing action (began in the past and has continued up to now).

So what is the difference? Does the gerund imply that the action has lasted for a long time: a kind of habit?

  • 1
    Why have you included the word again in the second ("continuous") example, but not in the first ("infinitive")? – FumbleFingers Oct 27 '20 at 12:15

The presence or absence of "again" is totally unrelated to the difference between "sorry for + gerund" and "sorry to + infinitive." All four of the following are possible and perfectly natural:

  • Sorry for bothering you.
  • Sorry for bothering you again.
  • Sorry to bother you.
  • Sorry to bother you again.

"Again" is simple: you can include this if you have previously "bothered" this person and are apologizing for a second or subsequent occurrence.

The difference between "sorry for" and "sorry to" is more subtle. "Sorry for bothering you" works when you have already bothered the person -- not necessarily a second occurrence, but the bothering has already begun, so to speak. It would fit at the end of the conversation. The thing you are apologizing for is a concrete thing that has already happened or at least started to happen.

"Sorry to bother you" works better at the beginning of the conversation: the thing you are apologizing for is a detached, almost hypothetical thing, as if it hasn't occurred yet or is only just starting to occur.

The distinction between the two is a little blurry, and if you said "sorry to bother you" at the end of the conversation -- or "sorry for bothering you" at the beginning -- it's unlikely anyone would even notice, let alone care that you used the "wrong" form. So don't worry about this too much, but here's a simple scenario to help it stick in your mind.

  • Sorry to bother you -- could I borrow your pencil?
  • Sure. Here.
  • Thanks. Sorry for bothering you.
  • Sorry to bother you again -- could I borrow your eraser?
  • Sure. Here.
  • Thanks. Sorry for bothering you again.
  • Can I use sorry for bothering at the beginning of a conversation if it began in the past and has continued up to now – Yves Lefol Oct 27 '20 at 10:52
  • @YvesLefol Do you mean a situation where you've been doing something that's been bothering this person (say, listening to loud music) and have just started to talk about it? Then, sure, you could say "sorry for bothering you." (Don't leave off the pronoun.) – TypeIA Oct 27 '20 at 10:55

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