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I know sorry basically conveys two different meanings depending on including responsibility or not. "I'm sorry your grandpa was dead" usually conveys no responsibility, just sympathy. But "I'm sorry for breaking your pot plant" often means a regret or an apology and implies responsibility.

We can tell the difference after looking at the words behind "sorry". Then, what about this situation?

Thor: Couldn't we find a way (for me) to come back?
Loki: Mother has forbidden your return. This is goodbye, brother.
I'm so sorry.
Thor: No, I AM SORRY. Thank you for coming here.

source: http://www.wattpad.com/18715443-loki-scenes-~thor~

In that case, how can we understand Loki's "I'm so sorry"? Does it imply responsibility or not?

2 Answers 2

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At plain value, "sorry" means sorrow. The two meanings you refer to are in fact both the same meaning—"the case we are talking about causes me sorrow". That one is accepting responsibility may be clearly implied, clearly not implied, or ambiguous.

I can also mean something in between. If someone asked you to for help it was not in your power to give, then you might say you were sorry. Here you are clearly not fully responsible, nor fully not responsible. You may or may not feel guilt, but it is polite to say "sorry" as part of any refusal either way.

In the quote from the movie Thor you give here, the first sorry is on the direct level an example of the latter; Loki can't offer an end to exile, and so he says "sorry".

The second sorry is at the direct level an apology accepting responsibility—Thor's actions led (at least so he is led to believe) to difficulties necessitating his exile, and he is apologising.

However, it's important to remember that people can both mean more than one thing at a time, as well as flat-out lying.

In the first "sorry", Loki isn't sorry at all, and indeed is lying in most of what he says.

In the second "sorry", Thor may have some sense of responsibility for the actions leading up to his exile, though he is angry and blaming others also.

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Based upon the text you've supplied, it appears that Mother made the decision to forbid Thor, and that Loki had nothing to do with it. Therefore, Loki could not be using "sorry" to express responsibility, just regret.

If Mother's decision was based on something Loki said or did, then Loki may feel responsible. (I never saw this movie, but given the character of Loki from Scandinavian mythology, it's certainly possible that he engineered this situation--though it is perhaps less likely that he feels guilty about it.) But that cannot be assumed from the text we have to work with.

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  • And Thor is not sorry. He is angry and finds it unreasonable
    – mplungjan
    May 6, 2014 at 15:52
  • @mplungjan Was Thor being ironic? May 6, 2014 at 15:58
  • Perhaps not. More like a sorry little person being told off by his mom
    – mplungjan
    May 6, 2014 at 16:06

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