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  1. #1
    tyrp is offline Junior Member
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    Default sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Hello everyone,
    Our school teacher taught us that the best way to show that you hadn't heard something or didn't understand what you were asked about was to say 'Pardon?'. A friend of mine argues that it's incorrect, and we'd better stick to 'Sorry?' if we don't grasp the message or fail to hear it properly. Could you tell me who is right? I heard both variants, but still don't know which of them is more typical in the given situation. What about 'I apologise/my apologies'. Is this expression more high-flown or official? Shall I use 'I apologise' after some misdeed or offence? Thanks for your help in advance!

  2. #2
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    probus is offline Key Member
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    "Pardon" is correct and understood everywhere. Some people say "Sorry" when they haven't heard something clearly, but in my opinion this usage is less common, and it may be somewhat regional as well. Your teacher is right: you are better off sticking to "Pardon", or to be formal and a bit old-fashioned "I beg your pardon."

    "I apologise/my apologies" are not used to ask someone to repeat something you haven't heard. You can use them to indicate that you are sorry for some misdeed or offence.

    And lastly, you should say "Should I use ..." rather than "Shall I use ..."

  3. #3
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    "Shall I use..." is fine in my opinion.

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    tyrp is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Thank you so much for clearing it up for me and correcting my question. Could you kindly explain to me the mistake? I guess 'should' is better as it implies a recommendation, though I used 'shall' simply as Future Indefinite, which is perhaps less natural in such situations. Am I right in my reasoning? Thanks again.

  5. #5
    tyrp is offline Junior Member
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    I came up with one more phrase to ask somebody to repeat what they've said. In an old book by Eckersley Mr Priestley advises his students against using 'Pardon', and opts for 'What did you say?' Does our discussion prove that the language pragmatic situation has changed over the years and now 'Pardon' is far better? Sorry for splitting hairs, but this stuff has been bothering me for some months already. Thank you for your help.

  6. #6
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    You should be careful with What did you say? as we also use it when we're annoyed or shocked by what the other person said. I'd suggest using Pardon.

    Shall is more used in British English than American English, where should has elbowed it out in many cases.

  7. #7
    HanibalII is offline Member
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    You should be careful with What did you say? as we also use it when we're annoyed or shocked by what the other person said. I'd suggest using Pardon.

    Shall is more used in British English than American English, where should has elbowed it out in many cases.

    I'd have to disagree with a few comments. From what I've witnessed, 'Sorry' is used more frequently. Usually followed by 'Could you please repeat that' or a similar variation such as 'what did you say'.

    I'd honestly consider either 'pardon' or 'sorry'. I also believe it's largely dependent on the type of demographic. IE, from what I've heard, younger people are more likely to say 'sorry' than 'pardon'.


    I also agree with 'Shall'. Its occurrence is growing less frequent.
    I'm not a teacher yet, but I am studying a Bachelor of Education with an English Literature major at Charles Sturt University, in NSW, Australia.

  8. #8
    Tdol is offline Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Sorry is fine- I was suggesting that What did you say? is not as good.

  9. #9
    HanibalII is offline Member
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Sorry is fine- I was suggesting that What did you say? is not as good.

    I still think 'what did you say' is perfectly fine. It all depends on the discourse used at the time. If you inflect any particular tone, anything may sound off.
    I'm not a teacher yet, but I am studying a Bachelor of Education with an English Literature major at Charles Sturt University, in NSW, Australia.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: sorry, pardon, I apologise

    Quote Originally Posted by HanibalII View Post
    I still think 'what did you say' is perfectly fine. It all depends on the discourse used at the time. If you inflect any particular tone, anything may sound off.
    In BrE, 'pardon' and 'sorry' are far more common and natural than 'what did you say?' Things may be different in Australia.
    Last edited by Rover_KE; 02-May-2013 at 11:44.

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