I'm confused that there are two ways to say sorry.

  1. I am sorry ...
  2. I am afraid ...

But are they exactly the same?

I want to know the difference between the two.

  • Please use full examples rather than cutting them off.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:16
  • @Catija I don't undestand. It does not matter with question. I think extra expression is redundant.
    – gmotree
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:49
  • You're trying to understand a concept and that requires an actual example. The two statements have similar meanings but you can't always put the same exact thing after "sorry" and "afraid", which is why seeing what examples you come up with helps us help you.
    – Catija
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 0:53
  • @Catija This is a problem what the point of view. As non native speak,they don't know what exactly they want to know. You know exactly what I want.
    – gmotree
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 1:16
  • 1
    “I’m afraid” is used to introduce a statement that the speaker believes will contradict the beliefs of the recipient. “I’m sorry” is used to apologize. Sometimes an apology can be phrased as a contradiction using “I’m afraid” but not all statements that begin with “I’m afraid” are apologies.
    – Jim
    Commented Jun 30, 2015 at 3:42

1 Answer 1


"I'm afraid" and "I'm sorry" are in general not interchangeable as lead ins to an apology.

I'm afraid, "I'm afraid" is not quite the same as an apology. In some cases it might be used in that way, but really it's more of a way to soften the tone of bad news. You can't for example say "I'm afraid I broke your vase," or rather you can say it, but it is not really an apology more of a statement of fact where you are trying to convey you're not really happy about it (actually whether or not you are happy about will be more conveyed by the tone and actions. You can for example say "Oops, I'm afraid I broke your vase," while intentionally dropping it in which case it's probably being used as a threat.)

Usual uses of "I'm afraid" would be for example:

"We're all out of crab salad, I'm afraid" (cite.: Rich Hall, QI)

"I'm afraid, it was me who who broke your vase. I do apologize."

"I'm afraid, we won't be able to make it today. I'm sorry."

In many cases when "I'm afraid" is used in an apologetic tone it is followed by an actual apology, usualy "I'm sorry" or "I apologize".

"I'm sorry" on the other hand is almost always used to either apologize

"I'm sorry I broke your vase. I didn't mean to. I'm just clumsy",

or convey sympathy

"I'm sorry to hear you lost your job. Can I help in any way?"

Substituting "I'm afraid" for "I'm sorry" in the first instance makes it IMO less apologetic and substituting it in the second makes no sense whatsoever.

Hope this helps, "I'm afraid I can't do much better. I'm sorry, but my english just isn't up to it."

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