What is the difference between "Excuse me, ..." and "Sorry, ..."? When do we use one or the other?
For example, when you haven't heard the speaker, or stepped on someone's foot or accidentally spilled some sauce.
Sorry expresses more regret than excuse me does.
If I'm trying to leave the room and you're in my way, I'll say "Excuse me." I recognize that I'm inconveniencing you by asking you to move, but the inconvenience is very small, and I don't expect you to be offended by the request. People often say "excuse me" when they commit small violations of etiquette, such as sneezing loudly.
If I accidentally step on your toe while I'm trying to get to the door, I'll say "I'm sorry!" I didn't mean to step on your toe, and I regret injuring you.
"Excuse me" is asking for permission. "Sorry" is asking for forgiveness.
You say "excuse me" before doing something that might inconvenience someone.
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Investigating the speech of the English upper class in 1956, the linguist Professor Ross identified U(pper) and Non-U(pper) features. ‘Pardon’ was a non-U term used
(1) when the hearer didn’t hear the speaker properly;
(2) as an apology (eg on brushing by someone in a passage); and
(3) after hiccuping or belching.
The U equivalents were (1) What? (2) Sorry (3) (Silence).
These days, I suspect AmEng uses Excuse me more often for (1) and (2) than does BrEng, which prefers Sorry. BrEng mainly uses Excuse me for (3) and perhaps AmEng does too.
If you bump into someone on a British street, the bumped is just as likely as the bumper to say Sorry.