'Sorry for Bothering You' or 'Sorry to Bother You': Which is Correct?

By Shanea Patterson, updated on November 9, 2022

Should you tell someone, ‘sorry for bothering you’ or should you say, ‘sorry to bother you’? We’ll tackle the correct way to say it and teach you how to use it in a sentence.

The quick answer is that both ‘sorry for bothering you’ and ‘sorry to bother you’ are both correct. They might just be used somewhat differently.

‘I’m Sorry to Bother You’ or ‘I’m Sorry for Bothering You’?

So, should you say, ‘sorry to bother you’ or ‘I’m sorry for bothering you’? Well, it’s technically correct to say both – similar to phrases like ‘good to hear/glad to hear,’ ‘drive safe/drive safely,’ and ‘at the office/in the office.’

Before we go into detail about the meaning or both, let’s define the word.

Definition and Meaning

The Merriam-Webster definition of ‘bother’ is “to annoy especially by petty provocation: irk,” “to intrude upon: pester,” “to cause to be somewhat anxious or concerned,” “to become concerned,” and “to take pains: take the trouble.”

It’s also defined as “a state of petty discomfort, annoyance, or worry,” “something that causes petty annoyance or worry,” and “fuss, inconvenience.”

Some synonyms for the word are:

  • Bug
  • Disturb
  • Chivy
  • Intrude (upon)
  • Pester
  • Annoy
  • Vex
  • Irk
  • Bother

What’s the Difference?

There’s only a slight difference in how you’d use each term, which is kind of similar to phrases like ‘relate to/relate with,’ ‘associated to/associated with,’ and ‘in the summer/in summer.’

When someone says, ‘sorry to bother you,’ sometimes, they might be about to ask you for a favor (and they’re currently bothering you to ask for said favor).

When someone says, ‘sorry for bothering you,’ sometimes they’re apologizing for bothering you after they’ve already done it.

In other words, ‘sorry for bothering you’ is more like using it in the past tense, and ‘sorry to bother you’ is more like using it in the present tense.

Some sources believe using either phrase in emails has negative connotations, one of which is that it implies that you've done something wrong.

Let’s take a look at how to use each one in a sentence.

How to Use Both in a Sentence

Now that you know there’s a slight difference in how the terms are used let’s take a look at how to use them both in a sentence.

Here’s how to use ‘sorry to bother you’ in a sentence:

  • Sorry to bother you, but do you have twenty dollars I can borrow?
  • Sorry to bother you, but I’m about to leave, and you need to keep an eye on your brother.
  • Sorry to bother you, but can you move over a little bit?

Here’s how you’d use ‘sorry for bothering you’ in a sentence:

  • Sorry for bothering you while you were reading last night.
  • She said she was sorry for bothering you while you were in the shower this morning.
  • I’m sorry for bothering you during your lunch break earlier.

Concluding Thoughts on ‘Sorry for Bothering You’ and ‘Sorry to Bother You’

To recap, it’s okay to use both terms, and now that you’ve seen how to use them both in a sentence correctly, you can follow the examples above and do the same.

If you ever need to refresh your memory or you just want to learn more common idioms and figures of speech, check out our library of articles on that and confusing words.

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Written By:
Shanea Patterson
Shanea Patterson is a writer based in New York and loves writing for brands big and small. She has a master's degree in professional writing from New York University and a bachelor's degree in English from Mercy College.

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