How to write an apology email – Saying sorry to your friend
Check the following example.
I’m really sorry that I didn’t join you in London on your birthday. I realise that you have had a difficult year and you wanted to do something special, and I understand how disappointed and hurt you are that I turned down your invitation. The fact is that I have a lot of demands on my time at the moment, and I’m finding it very stressful to meet the needs of all my friends, family and work clients. That meant that when you suggested going to the show at the last minute, my heart sank with the idea of fitting something else into my diary, which, to be honest, I didn’t really want to do. I’m not really into musicals and hate travelling into London. There aren’t any late trains home, so if I had come, I would have had to stay overnight, which would have been expensive and would have disrupted my work schedule. I would have felt resentful, and I’m sure that you would prefer to spend time together when we both want to be there. As I said before, I had set aside the previous weekend to spend with you, and it’s a shame that you weren’t available then. Plus, I assumed that you had invited other friends too. Next time, I’ll be sure to communicate better with you so that we avoid assumptions and miscommunications. Anyway, I’m glad that you found someone else to go with, and I hope you had a good time.
I hope we can draw a line under this and move on. Why don’t we put a date in the diary and meet up somewhere? I’ll treat you to a meal to make it up to you.
Love from Emily
Check the useful language.
➪ Apologise and show that you understand.
➪ Use adjectives to describe your feelings or your friend’s feelings.
➪ Use expressions to tell your side of the situation, the reason why you did what you did.
➪ Use the third conditional to talk about a hypothetical past, to say what would have happened if you had acted differently.
➪ Use expressions to talk about past assumptions that led to a misunderstanding.
➪ Make offers or promises and suggest some way to compensate for what you did.
Apologizing and Understanding
You can use these phrases before a clause to apologize and show your understanding.
- I (want to) apologise for + verb-ing / I’m sorry for + verb-ing
- I want to apologize for hurting you.
- I’m sorry that…
- I’m sorry that I didn’t join you in London.
- I understand / know / realise that…
- I understand that you are disappointed.
- I realise that you have had a difficult year.
If you use a question word after understand, realise or know, you must not use the word order in questions because this is not a direct question. So, don’t invert verb forms or add do/does/did.
- I understand how are you upset.
- I understand how upset you are.
- I realise why are you angry with me.
- I realise why you are angry with me.
You can add more detail after how by using that.
- I understand how upset you are that I didn’t want to join you.
- I know how annoyed you are that I lost your new phone.
The following adjectives are useful to describe a person’s feelings in emotional situations and conflicts. Note that some of them end in –ed. -Ed adjectives are used to describe how we feel.
- hurt, disappointed, angry, annoyed, frustrated, upset, embarrassed
The following adjectives are used to describe situations or things/people that evoke a feeling in somebody. Note how some of them end in –ing. -Ing adjectives are used to talk about the things that inspire these feelings.
- stressful, hurtful, unbearable, irritating, unreasonable, annoying, frustrating, disappointing, upsetting, embarrassing
You can use find + object + adjective to show how something affects your emotions.
- I found your demands unreasonable.
- I’m finding life very stressful.
- I find your attitude very hurtful.
Telling your side
Tell someone your side of a situation often involves telling them something they may not want to hear. You can introduce the bad news with one of these phrases:
- To be honest,…
- The truth is,…
- Truth be told…
- The fact is,…
Talking about past assumptions
Most personal misunderstandings happen when we make assumptions. In letters of apology, you can use the verbs thought (that) or assumed (that) with the past simple, would, or the past perfect.
- I didn’t invite you because I assumed you were too busy.
- I didn’t invite you because I thought that you wouldn’t enjoy
- I didn’t come because I assumed that you had invited other friends too.
Use assumed + past simple if the event you assumed to be true occurred at the time when you made your assumption. Use would if the event would happen after you made the assumption. Use assumed + past perfect if the event you assumed was earlier.
Using the third conditional to talk about the hypothetical past
When we look back at a past event with regret, we often think about what didn’t happen and other things that didn’t happen as a result.
In the example above, Emily didn’t go to London, so she didn’t feel resentful. To think about this past possibility which did not happen, the third conditional structure is used. Form the third conditional with If + past perfect, would have + past participle.
- If I had come, I would have felt resentful.
It is not necessary to use the If + past perfect part of the sentence to indicate a past possibility which did not happen:
- [If I had come,] I would have felt resentful, and I’m sure that…
Making offers and promises
You can use these phrases to make an offer about what to do next.
- Why don’t we…?
Use will to make a promise.
- I’ll treat you to a meal.
- I’ll be sure to communicate with you better next time.
Useful expressions for apologies
- I’d like to make it up to you = I’d like to do something to apologise/compensate for my actions (informal).
- I’d like to make amends = I’d like to do something to apologise/compensate for my actions (formal).
- Let’s draw a line under this / Let’s put it behind us / Let’s move on = Let’s stop thinking about this bad, past situation and think about the next step.
- I’ll treat you to this = I will pay for this for you, as a treat.