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  • I'm sorry to be so late.
  • I'm sorry to hear about your sick mother.
  • I'm sorry to waste your time.
  • I'm sorry to make you feel so sad.
  • I'm sorry to frighten you.
  • I'm sorry to disagree with your decision.
  • I'm sorry to call so late.
  • I'm sorry to admit what I did.

Is it always correct to use "sorry to [infinitive]" in Standard English? Does it depend on the verb?

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I am sorry to say that not all of your examples are idiomatic. I'm sorry to frighten you. does not work. I am sorry that I frightened you works better. I am sorry to disagree also does not work. I am sorry I disagree or I am sorry to say I disagree –  mplungjan Apr 8 at 9:23
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@mplungjan I agree with your alternatives, but I find all of the above perfectly idiomatic in certain contexts. I'm sorry to frighten you, but we need to perform major brain surgery on you.. Etc. –  David M Apr 8 at 11:15
    
Yes, but not as a fragment. So in the places they do not work according to me, they MIGHT work if a , but ... was continuing the sentence. I'm sorry to disagree with your decision, but... –  mplungjan Apr 8 at 11:27
    
@mplungjan I agree with that. –  David M Apr 8 at 12:42
    
All of the sentences usually work better by saying I'm sorry to have [verb]ed ... This indicates acknowledgement of error that has already occurred, rather than the fact that you're apologizing as you're actually interrupting. –  SrJoven Aug 6 at 1:12

3 Answers 3

Mplungjan's comments are quite correct.

I think in direct answer to your question: grammaticality is not the issue with the usage.

It is always grammatical to say, I'm sorry to [vb.].

The bigger issue is verb agreement with context.

For example:

I'm sorry to disagree with you. -- Appropriate

I'm sorry to hot air balloon. -- grammatical, but meaningless.

So, the grammaticality of the phrase is not dependent on the verb choice. It's meaning in context, however, is quite dependent on verb choice.

This discussion is furthered by mplungjan's excellent discussion of which of these phrases can stand alone as a fragment. In those cases, it is dependent on the context of the verb. Some verbs need an adverb, object or objective phrase to make their point intelligible.

I am sorry to be. -- grammatical, but even as a statement of regret of your own existence, it is odd.

I am sorry to be here. -- much better.

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Is 'hot air balloon' a verb? The answer is good, but I don't understand why you spoke about verb agreement and then presented a noun phrase in your second example sentence. –  SrJoven Aug 6 at 1:04

I am sorry to say that to my non-native but sensitive ear, not all of your examples sound idiomatic regardless of being grammatically correct.

I'm sorry to frighten you.

does not work as a fragment.

I'm sorry to frighten you, but there is a snake behind you

does

I am sorry to disagree with your decision

also does not work in my ears

  • I am sorry, but I disagree with your decision
  • I am sorry I disagree
  • I am sorry to say I disagree

all work and so does

I am sorry to disagree with your decision, but we really need to ....

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I am sorry to disagree with your decision is perfectly valid. –  David M Apr 8 at 12:52
    
It is grammatically correct but the construct sounds very strange in my ears without a , but... –  mplungjan Apr 9 at 5:35
    
The only authoritative card I can play is my native speaker card. I try not to use it, but I can say this sounds like something I can and have said. The qualification I will make is that fragments like this are more tolerable spoken than written … –  David M Apr 9 at 5:56
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Right. I bow to your nativeness. I can relay an anecdote: I was working at Barclay Bank's insurance office at Forest Gate and one day one of my British colleagues turned to me and uttered You know, sometimes I think you speak better English than what I do - hilarity ensued... –  mplungjan Apr 9 at 6:10
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I'm nearly certain you speak better than I do. Most fluent non-natives do (better grammar, less reliance on slang and incorrect common usage) . What I can say is that I understand better than you do, and my inner grammarian is stronger. This is why I try not to play the native speaker card … –  David M Apr 9 at 6:14

Whether those sentences are idiomatic or not, they are all grammatical. Which I guess is what you're asking.

Sorry to. Pleased to. Anxious to. Happy to. Honoured to... As long as they make sense in other ways, you can use them freely. It's perfectly good grammar.

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