I need to send an message via SMS to my supervisor.

Which is more a idiomatic introduction?

  1. "Sorry if I bother you."
  2. "Sorry if I bothered you."
  3. "Sorry to bother you."
  • 1
    If it's an emergency SMS, then you should absolutely not worry about apologising at all. Your boss needs to know whatever it is. However, "which is more polite?" is entirely a matter of subjective opinion. A question "which is more idiomatic?" is less subjective because it can be backed up with (say) an Ngram graph or a dictionary example. Please edit the question to show what you have looked up and what you found. – Andrew Leach Aug 6 '19 at 13:24
  • @Andrew Leach , It's edited: "which one is more idiomatic ?" Thanks – Questioner Aug 6 '19 at 13:27
  • You can't ask "Which is more polite" because it's opinion-based. Also, you can't ask more than one question. So the most-idiomatic one is the one to keep. Evidence of your own research would be beneficial. – Andrew Leach Aug 6 '19 at 13:42
  • @Andrew Leach , OK. Could you please answer to this one? "Which is more a idiomatic introduction?" Thanks. – Questioner Aug 6 '19 at 13:44
  • "Sorry to bother you, but...," It's present tense because the message is doing the bothering. – Kate Bunting Aug 6 '19 at 14:03

This sort of question is easily answered by starting with Google Ngrams. Here's the chart comparing

  • Sorry if I bother you
  • Sorry if I bothered you
  • Sorry to bother you
  • Sorry if I am bothering

Ngrams can only cope with phrases of up to five words, but missing you off the last one isn't going to change the result significantly, especially as that five-word phrase isn't found.


Sorry to bother you is streets ahead of all the others, two of which don't appear at all.

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Rather than bother (don't presume that you are a bother,) how about using the word interrupt in its place and make it a statement, not a question?

"I don't mean to interrupt you. ..." Then get on with your message.

When someone asks "Can I ask you a question?" My first thought is "You just did" and my second thought is "if you'd have just asked it, this would be an answer to it right now."

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