-Look,the boss is very angry with Alex.

-Well,he came late again.But that's no______ to shout at him.

A. excuse

B. reason

Our teacher told us that the answer was B.

There’s no further context for this question.

I chose excuse and I think That’s no excuse... conveys almost the same meaning as That’s no reason....

What's your opinion?

  • "What's your opinion?" makes this OT.
    – Kris
    Oct 22, 2018 at 6:22
  • 1
    Using 'excuse' suggests that the boss was already angry with, or irritated by Alex and used his lateness as an opportunity to 'let off steam' by shouting at him. Oct 22, 2018 at 7:37
  • One might have a reason (ex: frustration) to shout at another without having an excuse (justification) to do so.
    – Davo
    Aug 18, 2019 at 16:44
  • Maybe the teacher was trying to make the point that excuse for is more used than excuse to...as in "no excuse for shouting". Aug 18, 2019 at 20:25

2 Answers 2


It is important to consider not only the phrase but where it is used, so while the phrases convey a similar message they do not necessarily fit equally well into any one sentence structure.

For example, I would use the two phrases like this:

... reason to shout at him.

... excuse for shouting at him.

.... excuse why he should shout at him.

The danger with this kind of question is that usage can vary geographically and with the kind of people using the phrases, and teachers are always at risk of refining the language too far.

  • 1
    "teachers are always at risk of refining the language too far" - good point, well made. I would use 'reason' in this context but the OP is correct to say that the two possibilities have almost exactly the same meaning in context.
    – Charl E
    Oct 22, 2018 at 7:34

My personal opinion is that the two answers are both fine, and very similar to each other. If I were forced to look for nuances between the two, I could imagine these:

  1. REASON is more neutral. The boss did have a REASON to shout at Alex: Alex was late. Whether being late is a big problem at this workplace or not doesn't enter into it. There is no real judgment implied.

  2. EXCUSE is less neutral, and might imply a judgment call. The boss's REASON for shouting at Alex was lateness, but if people are almost always late to work at this place of employment, then being late is normal, and while being late can be a REASON to be yelled at, it is not a GOOD one, and so it does not EXCUSE the boss's behavior.

Thus usage depends on context entirely. Was the writer adopting a neutral stance (reason) or a judgmental one (excuse)?

Imagine a judge addressing a convicted murderer: "You killed your friend because he snores too much. That is a reason for your action, but it does not excuse you from killing him, which is an act wildly disproportionate to the offense."

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