Is one of these sentences used more than the other?

  • (I'm) sorry I'm late.

  • (I'm) sorry for being late.

Or is one more formal than the other?

  • 4
    The former can only be said at the moment of being late whilst the latter can be said any time after the fact.
    – Dom
    Jan 21, 2014 at 13:37
  • Agree. "Sorry I'm late" is usually said when you arrive. Jan 21, 2014 at 13:41
  • Agree. Otherwise it would be "Sorry I was late". Jan 21, 2014 at 14:06
  • 4
    And "I'm sorry for being late" connotes more contrition than "Sorry I'm late", in my view. Jan 21, 2014 at 15:10
  • That's also a good point. Jan 21, 2014 at 15:15

1 Answer 1


Neither expression is really that formal, in my opinion. A more formal expression could be,

"I sincerely apologize for being late."


"I sincerely apologize for having been late."

Or possibly,

"I apologize; I'm late."


"I'm late; I apologize."

Actually, I prefer the latter over the former.

  • Taking the other comments into account, could the first two sentences be said to be a belated apology and the last two an on-the-spot one?
    – user58319
    Jan 21, 2014 at 15:53
  • @user58319: Yes, the first two could be uttered belatedly, but the second of the two even more so. In each case, the words "this morning" (or something similar) added to the sentences, say, later in the day (e.g., at 3:00 PM) would make them belated apologies. Yes, the last two are appropriate for an on-the-spot apology in the present. Jan 21, 2014 at 16:37

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