Usage 4: Genuine regret, or sorrow.
This, of course, is what we normally think of when we think of the words, “I’m sorry.”
“Oh dear. I broke your favorite glass figurine. I’m so sorry!”
“I’m sorry I wasn’t able to give you a ride that time.”
This usage doesn’t really require any explanation. It’s why the phrase exists in the first place. To apologize when we’ve done something wrong, hurt someone, disappointed them, etc. In my experience, the challenge comes in keeping a balance between NOT apologizing merely to defuse hostility, and NOT apologizing to accept blame for something that isn’t our fault, yet still remembering to apologize when we really have something to apologize for.
I’ve often been accused of apologizing too much, too often, or when it wasn’t needed. There’s a tendency, I think, for people to view apologies as always showing weakness or accepting blame. “Why should I feel sorry for that?!” seems like a common refrain these days. There’s a common mistake that we tend to make, when the words “I’m sorry” are actually appropriate.
This one is short, so perhaps I’ll put the next one up right away.
Next time: Usage 5: “I’m sorry, but…”