Lesson Transcript

Hi, everybody! My name is Alisha.
In this lesson, I'm going to talk about some ways to politely excuse yourself.
I'm going to talk about expressions you can use when you make a mistake and expressions that you can use to ask permission to leave somewhere.
So, let's get started!
Okay! The first expression I want to talk about is "Excuse me…"
"Excuse me" can be used when you need to ask for something and you have to interrupt someone else. It can also be used when you need to apologize for something small and we usually use "excuse me" for apologies with strangers. So, for example, if you're walking down the street and you bumped someone's shoulder, you might say, "Excuse me." "Oh! Excuse me."
You might hear some native speakers drop this E sound. It might sound more like "[s]cuse me," [s]cuse me, so this X might sound like an S sound, [s]cuse me, instead of "excuse me." So, you can use this as an apology to say "I'm sorry" with strangers or to strangers or you can use it when you need to ask for something as in this example sentence.
"Excuse me. I'm looking for the restroom."
Again, "excuse me" is used more commonly with strangers, people that we're not close to. This is a sentence you might use in like a department store or shopping mall, for example. So you don't know the other person, "excuse me." This is a nice introduction to your question. So, "excuse me" or "[s]cuse me."
Okay, let's compare this with, "I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry" is better than "I am sorry." "I am sorry" sounds very stiff and unnatural. "I'm sorry" or just "sorry." So "I'm sorry" sounds a little bit more formal, a little bit more polite than just "sorry."
So, we use "sorry" when we make a mistake and we use it when we're close to the other person or we use it, maybe with strangers sometimes for a very small problem. So, again, in like a shopping situation, maybe you touched the person next to you or you do some small motion that's maybe like a mistake or it's some small motion that might bother the other person. Some people might say "sorry." "Sorry" is more casual than "excuse me" in this situation, "Oh, sorry." So, it sounds a little bit more friendly there. "Excuse me" sounds a little bit more polite. So, "I'm sorry" or "sorry."
In this example sentence, I've used, "I'm so sorry!" I'm so sorry!
So, we tend to use "so sorry" a lot as an emphasis word. You could say, "I'm very sorry." "I'm very sorry," to me, sounds a little bit more formal than "I'm so sorry." "So" sounds a little more casual.
So, for example:
"I'm so sorry! I forgot to send you the file."
So here, this is a mistake and we use "I'm sorry" here instead of "excuse me" because in this case, "I forgot to send you the file," it's like the speaker has some relationship with the listener. It's not a stranger in this case. Here, this is probably a stranger. In this case, the speaker has some relationship, so this "I'm sorry" and "I'm so sorry" is quite natural.
Okay. So, let's compare this then to this "Sorry?"
A key here is my question mark, this question mark punctuation point. Because, "I'm sorry" and "Sorry?" have different meanings, so you can hear the intonation is different. When I want to apologize, I made a mistake, I say, "I'm sorry" or just "sorry." When I have a question now, I say, "Sorry?" My intonation goes up.
So, we use this "Sorry?" when we didn't hear something another person said or when we don't understand that thing that they just said. So in a situation like this,
"Sorry? I couldn't hear you."
So, "Sorry?" is similar to "What?" but we use "Sorry?" to mean like maybe, "Sorry? I was being noisy. I couldn't hear you." Or, maybe, "Sorry? I, I couldn't understand" and that might be a problem for you. So, "Sorry?" to me feels a little bit softer than just "What?" if someone, like said something and you can't hear them, so "Sorry?"
So please note, "I'm sorry" and "Sorry?" have different intonations. So we don't use "I'm sorry?" with the… an apology. We use this if we didn't hear something another person said.
Okay. Now, let's go on to a couple of permission-related questions. I have, for both of these, two options in the sentence or two options in the question and they are "Can I..." and "May I…" So, these are both used in situations where we need to ask someone else. In these cases, I was thinking of a teacher or perhaps a colleague. We're asking permission to leave a location. This is one that's very common for students.
So, we can say:
"Can I use the restroom?"
Or "Can I go to the restroom?" is also okay.
"Can I go to the restroom?"
"May I use the restroom?"
Or "May I go to the restroom?"
So, in everyday, at least, American English speech, both "Can I..." and "May I…" are acceptable. Some teachers; however, are very, very strict about the words that they use and they prefer students use, "May I…" The reason for this is, historically, "May I…" has been used to ask for permission. "Can I…" is used to talk about abilities, so this is the historical difference between these words. But today, in today's English, we use both of them to ask for permission.
So, "Can I go to the restroom?" or "Can I use the restroom?" are both okay, so we can change that to "May I go to the restroom?" "May I use the restroom?" Both of those are fine, but just every once in a while, I remember this from my school days, my teacher would sometimes say, in response to a student that said, "Can I use the restroom?" the student said, "Can I use the restroom?" the teacher responded, "I don't know. Can you?" So, it's kind of a joke like is it possible for you to use the restroom? Can you use the restroom? So this sort of joke, this kind of strict English grammar joke is not very funny, but it's referring to can's historical use like an ability-related word. So, in both cases, it's not a problem. Most teachers and most people in your life are not going to use this sort of joke, but if you're worried or if you want to avoid this, you can use, "May I…"
So the same thing goes with this sentence. The same thing is true here. "Can I…" or "May I leave early?" So, this is something you can use at work if you like, like, "Can I leave…" or class as well, "Can I leave early today?" or "Can I leave early tomorrow?" And you should share a reason for this, a reason for excusing yourself, for leaving the situation. So again, "May I…" is more, historically, accurate in terms of asking for permission. "Can I…" is related more to abilities, but they are both used today.
So, for example, I would say, if I have an appointment:
"May I leave early tomorrow? I have a dentist's appointment."
So, you can include some time point here, "May I leave early today?" May I leave early tomorrow? I'm not feeling well." If you use that one, "May I leave early today?" make sure, it's… like, and you're using a feeling, like you're feeling sick, make sure it's the same day, like "May I leave early tomorrow? I'm not feeling well." That sounds very strange like you're planning on being sick the next day. That doesn't work.
So please use this, I recommend using this with your upcoming appointments and on the same day if you're not feeling well, you could, you could use this expression, "May I leave early today? I'm not feeling well."
Okay! Let's continue then to the next pair. The next pair, actually, all of these are a little more formal and not as commonly used in everyday speech.
The first one is "Pardon me."
So, "Pardon me" is like "Excuse me," but "Pardon me" is not used at least in American English very often in everyday speech. We don't use "pardon." It sounds very formal in American English, so we don't use it, unless we want to sound very polite, for some reason. Even in business, we don't really use this so much. We use "Excuse me" more often in American English.
So, "Pardon me," can be used again if you meet a… like a stranger and there's a small problem like you brushed against them or you maybe accidentally pushed your body into a person on the elevator, you could say, "Oh, pardon me." You can also use this to interrupt someone as I talked about her, like you're looking for information, "Pardon me, I'm looking for the restroom." So again, it does sound quite formal. We don't use this so much in American English, but this is how it is sometimes used.
The same point then applies here for this "Pardon?" "Pardon?" as a question.
So as a question, it means this as a question, "Sorry?" "What?" "What did you say?" So, "Pardon? I didn't catch that." What was that? I couldn't hear you? So again, your intonation should go up when you say this "Pardon?" It's different from "Pardon me," pardon me. So, "Pardon?" it's a question.
An example of how we use this is:
"Pardon? I don't understand."
So again, let's compare this to the pronunciation of "Pardon me" which we use to interrupt someone.
"Pardon me. Do you know where the nearest supermarket is?"
So again, we're asking for information here probably from a stranger, so we use "Pardon me" or "Excuse me" to do that.
All right, let's go on to the last pair. This used the word "forgive," forgive.
So, "to forgive (someone)" means to, like accept their apology. So they did something wrong and you know they did something wrong, they say, they're sorry and you say, okay, I understand, it's okay, no problem. That's to forgive someone.
So, "Forgive me," forgive me, we use this expression after, usually, a big mistake and we use it, usually, with people we are very close to. So, this could be like your mother or father, grandmother, grandfather, your close family members. You could use it with your partner, your spouse, husband, wife, whatever. You can use this for, yeah, big mistakes that, maybe have some strong effect on your relationship. You might use this in some cases for a serious work-related problem. So just keep in mind, this is a fairly formal expression we use more in serious mistake situations.
For example:
"Please forgive me! I won't do it again."
So maybe, you spent a lot of money on, like a new boat or something and your partner didn't know about it and it was a huge problem, so you might say, "Please forgive me. I won't do it again. I'll sell the boat." So you'll, you'll show, you want, you need to show you're going to take some action to fix the problem if you use this expression, "Please forgive me." So "I'm so sorry" and then express usually some way, some plan that you have to fix the problem you caused. So "Forgive me," again, usually used in serious, kind of heavy situations.
Okay, let's move on to the last one. This last one, I included here because you might hear it if you attend, for example, a dinner party or other type of event where someone is hosting a group of people like at their home or at an event space. So it is, "Forgive my rudeness," forgive my rudeness. So "rudeness," this means, like bad behavior. It doesn't really mean, like actually bad behavior. It means like they're not being a very good host in this situation. So, this is actually kind of a mild phrase.
This is used, for example, when you arrive at a party, when you arrive at someone's home and the host greets you and you're talking for a long time, maybe in front of the door and the host might realize this and says, "Oh, forgive my rudeness. Would you like something to drink?" Like please come inside, like it was rude of me or it was bad behavior, bad host behavior to talk to you just here at the door for a long time, so please forgive my rudeness. So this is, it sounds quite formal. This is somewhat of a formal phrase, but it's something that like a party host would use for a nice dinner, for example.
So you might hear this, you might hear this in the media as well too, "Forgive my rudeness." So, it's, it's actually kind of a friendly phrase. It shows you care about the other person and you usually do something like offer them a drink or offer them to come inside, offer to take their coat. You usually do something to show that you care about the other person and you want them to enjoy their time, so "Forgive my rudeness."
Okay! So this is just, I think, the most basic set of expressions that we use to excuse ourselves or to apologize. You might hear some variations, but I think that these are pretty good for most situations.
Just to recap then, in summary, these are the phrases and the words that we use if we make a mistake. So they are "Sorry" or "I'm sorry" with that downward intonation, "I'm sorry." We can use "Pardon me," pardon me, or just "Pardon" as well is okay. We can use "Excuse me" and we can use "Forgive me" again in more serious situations. In most cases, I use "I'm sorry," I'm sorry, or just "Sorry?" So that one is most common, I feel, in everyday life followed by "Excuse me," I think.
So these are mistake expressions and we also talked about these two patterns you can use to leave a room, like to leave a classroom or perhaps to leave part of your workplace.
So, I hope that this is helpful for you. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to let us know in the comment section of this video. Thanks very much for watching this lesson and I will see you again soon. Bye-bye!


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