How can you tell whether any correspondence or discussion is about to go downhill?
Well, that ain’t rocket science.
One way to know that the information you are about to receive wouldn’t be in your favor is when you start reading or hearing the classic expression “I regret to inform you that.”
But, when exactly should we use this expression? And, are there any other ways to structure this apologetic remark? If so, how can we use also them in sentences?
Please feel free to scroll down to find out the most definitive answers to these questions.
What does it mean to say “I regret to inform you that”?
The formalistic introductory clause “I regret to inform you that” is an expression that can be equated to “I’m really, really sorry that…” in casual language use. It is used when we want to convey our deepest sympathy towards an addressee, such as in failed customer service and job applications.
Contextualizing “I regret to inform you that”
In any type of correspondence or actual discussion, expressing regret or apology can be a tough nut to crack and a frozen fish to fry.
Human as we are, we are hardwired to simply want to keep social harmony all the time and avoid any chaotic scenarios as much as possible.
For example, it wouldn’t be that easy to write an apology letter for not attending an event because we would need to think and explain things through, especially if the reason is prompted by our own carelessness.
Apparently, that would be effort and time-consuming, wouldn’t it?
Even more so, writing an apology letter for being disrespectful is a lot more demanding because it entails some form of conscience-checking.
In these dire situations, both our patience and linguistic competence are put to the test since the goal becomes to be as persuasive as possible in order to prevent the addressee from feeling offended.
This is where the expression “I regret to inform you that” serves its purpose best, which is a great conversation opener when we want to portray an apologetic tone towards our target addressee.
One of the most common scenarios in which we can observe the usage of the expression is in responding to failed job applications.
The use of such formalistic language is an attempt to control the reaction of the hearer or reader so as to soften the blow of the indubitably unfavorable situation.
Hence, if you are currently in a quest for a job opportunity, knowing how to respond to an apology email or letter should help you sort things out.
Grammatical background on “I regret to inform you that”
The use of the subject pronoun “I” implies that the writer or speaker wants to impart that the message or decision is directly coming from himself or herself.
Language users may shift the pronoun use into “we” if they want to displace or divide the responsibility among the members of the group or organization where they belong to.
The verb in “I regret to inform you that” is almost always inflected in the simple present form because the verb “to regret” does not describe an actual, dynamic action.
Instead, it describes being in a state of regret, guilt, or remorse which cannot be directly perceived by our physical senses.
“To adore,” “to repent,” “to symbolize,” “to desire,” “to imagine,” and “to forget” are only a few other examples of stative verbs that exist in the English lexicon.
The inflection among stative verbs may also be done in the simple past, future, and perfect tenses but avoided in the present progressive form.
The only time people may use stative verbs in their past or future continuous form is when they want to increase the statement’s degree of politeness even further to avoid unintentionally sounding offensive.
Synonyms for “I regret to inform you that”
The need to express regret or apology may have to be done repeatedly in some particular contexts, such as in customer service or people management-related activities.
When it comes to customer service, the use of the phrase “for your convenience” could strategically stress the benefit of a situation or activity a lot more than saying “sorry.”
In human resource management, recruitment specialists often use a writing framework when they are in undesirable situations like dealing with failed applications and responding to resignation letters.
As these types of jobs require emotional handling techniques, people in these job roles must get equipped with multivarious linguistic know-how to control any possible collateral damage.
So, here are several expressions synonymous with “I regret to inform you that” that should help you do away with “formulaic or robotic feelings.”
My deepest apologies
“My deepest apologies” contains an extremely formal and emotional connotation that is useful when the situation requires tactful interaction with the message recipient.
This can be used in situations like talking about a service or system failure or an unprecedented issue with a client or customer.
My deepest apologies for the inconvenience, sir. I will look into the problem right away and get back to you soon.
My humblest apologies
The formalistic tone of “my humblest apologies” is applicable in scenarios where you would want to avoid upsetting clients or customers due to a system or device failure that neither of you may have predicted happening.
My humblest apologies, Mr. Kirsch, but it seems like the credit card you gave me is not working.
My sincerest apologies…but
This expression also works effectively in situations where power imbalance occurs, such as when communicating with a person of higher authority.
The careful usage of an apologetic tone and facial expressions are also highly recommended in actual conversations to express empathy toward the addressee.
My sincerest apologies to you, Dr. O’conner, but I cannot seem to locate your daughter at the moment.
Please forgive me for saying this, but…
The addition of “please” in this expression increases the illocutionary force or the speaker or writer’s degree of intention in an utterance.
We may use this introductory statement when both interlocutors are incapable of changing the circumstances immediately or when the decision is firmly implemented by someone else.
Please forgive me for saying this, but you are not allowed to enter the premises, per your father’s instructions.
I apologize to tell you that…
The use of “apologize” instead of “sorry” evokes a more formal connotation, and hence, this expression is applicable in relatively more serious interactions instead of intimate ones.
I apologize to tell you that we have to charge you in full this time because your service warranty already expired last week.
I am sorry to inform you that
“I am sorry to have to inform you that…” works in less extreme cases due to its relatively neutral connotation and constant usage.
We may use this line when we want to inform in advance that we are unable to attend an event due to personal reasons or other less consequential circumstances.
I am sorry to inform you that I cannot join our manager’s farewell party tonight.
I am sorry to tell you that…
“I am sorry to tell you that” also contains a neutrally formal connotation that can be applied in less critical situations.
You may freely use this when communicating with colleagues, classmates, friends, or family members who wouldn’t be easily disappointed with a more casual tone.
I am sorry to tell you that I cannot arrive on time because of the heavy traffic.
This may disappoint you, but…
Apart from expressing regret, we can also politely predict the possible reaction of an addressee toward an unfavorable scenario.
We may use “This may disappoint you, but…” when we want to lessen the magnitude of the message recipient’s reaction in a given situation.
This may disappoint you, but I’m afraid he already left the office thirty minutes ago.
Alternatives for “I regret to inform you that”
Although “I regret to inform you that” already works pretty well in any scenario, there are also other alternative ways to express the same sentiment.
In the same vein, the expressions below are applicable in neutrally demanding situations that entail a polite expression of regret or apology.
The adverb “regrettably” can be used as a single introductory word in conveying a neutrally formal tone both in speaking and writing.
Because of its conciseness and simplicity, the use of such adverb (more technically known as a disjunct) is less likely going be misinterpreted as pretentious.
Regrettably, I will not be able to continue my application anymore due to serious health issues that would impede my duties and responsibilities.
“Unfortunately” is also another short and sweet disjunctive word that elucidates an apologetic attitude towards a circumstance.
Unfortunately, I have to inform you that your flight has been delayed for one hour.
If your relationship with the target message receiver is intimate enough, then it is a lot easier to do away with strict formalities in your language use.
In cases like this, you may simply use “sorry, but…” without the likelihood of getting a beating from the other party.
Sorry, but I can’t come to your dinner party on time.
Pardon me but…
This expression is both formal and concise that meanwhile contains an eloquent connotation due to the first word’s French and Latin origins.
Therefore, you may use “pardon me, but…” when you may have said or done something unintentionally during the conversation, but you also want to avoid being wordy.
Pardon me, but I did not completely understand what you just explained.
I’m afraid I have to tell you that…
“I’m afraid…” is a typical English phrase that can be used pretty much in all contexts that require an apologetic tone.
Bear in mind that being “afraid” in this particular expression must not be taken literally because it is simply an idiomatic way of conveying a polite regret.
I’m afraid I have to tell you that your files have been corrupted.
Variations of the expression “I regret to inform you that”
Lastly, we’ll also try to explore subtle variations of “I regret to inform you that” to cover every nook and cranny of our topic today.
We are doing so because these almost negligible nuances are sometimes the cause of confusion among non-native English users and new students alike.
A great example of this kind of language concern can be observed in the expression “give my regards” whose meaning shifts even at the slightest addition or removal of a word.
We regret to inform you that…
The use of the first-person plural subject pronoun “we” instead of “I” suggests that the speaker or writer attempts to highlight a collaborative effort rather than an individualistic one.
Doing so is also applicable in utterly distressful situations because it would imply that the act has been done in a collective effort even it failed after all.
We regret to inform you that your father passed away at 04:15 this morning.
I regret to tell you that…
The use of the verb “to tell” as the direct object in this expression works better in formalistic spoken conversations as opposed to written ones.
But of course, “telling” a piece of information does only entail “literally speaking” to another person because it could also generally mean “to communicate” or “to notify.”
I regret to tell you that I cannot attend my scheduled interview today due to a family emergency.
We regret to tell you that…
In explaining a failed application to a job seeker, it is also better to use “we” instead of “I” because, most of the time, the final decision comes from the hiring manager.
Recruitment staff and specialists are often the ones who communicate with applicants, thereby prompting the use of the first-person plural subject pronoun.
We regret to tell you that you are not considered for the position you have applied for.
I regret to inform you, but…
The use of “but” entails a contrastive argument to be constructed in an independent clause. And, note the use of a comma before “but” to make your writing more grammatically precise.
I regret to inform you, but we have found a malignant tumor in your uterus.
I would like to express my deepest regrets for…
Finally, the quite lengthy structure of “I would like to express my deepest regrets for…” suggests an attempt to make the expression extremely polite.
Hence, it is best to use this variation when you want to express an exceptionally remorseful tone towards the addressee and make amends for a wrongdoing
I would like to express my deepest regrets for being unreasonable and impatient the last time we had an argument.
Frequently Asked Questions on “I regret to inform you that”
How can we use “I regret to inform you” in a sentence?
We can use it as an introductory clause to express a politely apologetic tone to the addressee such as in the following: “I regret to inform you that you have not passed the entrance exam.”
When should we use “I regret to inform you that”?
We should use this expression when we want to formally and politely convey apology or guilt towards an addressee who would likely feel disappointed about the piece of information that we are going to impart.
Is it correct to say “I regret to inform you that”?
The expression “I regret to inform you that” is a grammatically correct introductory clause, but it still needs to be followed by another explanatory clause afterward. For example, “I regret to inform you that you have failed the blood screening.”
The need to appropriately and politely express regret or apology is as equally vital as the need to express gratitude or appreciation.
Without the sincerest expressions in the English lexicon, as well as in other languages, we would not be able to maintain harmonious relationships in society.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.