Is there any difference in meaning or usage between the following two sentences:

Sorry for that mistake
Sorry about that mistake

2 Answers 2


To me (native American English speaker) they are equal in meaning. There can be a subtle difference in tone between the two in some situations. For example:

I'm sorry for the damage I've caused

feels slightly more formal and sincere than

I'm sorry about the damage I've caused.

Also, it might be good to know that when talking to somebody with a friend or relative who has died, it is correct to say

I'm sorry for your loss

but does not sound correct to say

I'm sorry about your loss

  • "but does not sound correct" could you provide some rule to differentiate between the two?
    – Rupsingh
    Commented Dec 5, 2016 at 9:31

I'm not a native speaker but generally there is a big difference between "sorry for" and "sorry about":

  1. I'm sorry for my wife.
  2. I'm sorry about my wife.

The former means that you are sorry to say that your wife is such that you feel sorry for what she is. I mean you can't do anything - she is what she is. The latter means that your wife did something and you are saying sorry instead of her.

It helps to think of it as "sorry for" means that you are to blame yourself whereas "sorry about" means that it's somebody's else fault.

  • Sorry for the mess. - You blame yourself because there is a mess.
  • Sorry about the mess. - You blame someone else but you say sorry that the mess is.

Still, as a non-native speaker I try to feel the way the verb works. In some cases "for" is better while in others "about" is. In other cases "that-clause" is better. And generally with v-ing we use "for":

  • I'm sorry for hurting you. (I'm sorry because I hurt you)
  • Are you sorry for what you've done? ("about" sound odd to me)
  • I really feel sorry for him. (I feel as sorry as he is now)
  • I feel sorry for your loss. (I can't see a way "about" to be correct here)

There seems to be a huge difference when referring to animates or inanimates, events or actions, and the use of prepositions in declarative or negative sentences.

You wouldn't normally say "I feel sorry about your cat" and you wouldn't normally say "I'm sorry about hitting you".

  • Any comments and discussion would be helpful. This is a rather interesting question as a matter of fact. Commented Jan 17, 2018 at 18:03

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