English Phrases for Responding to Embarrassing Situations

 

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If you make a bodily noise:

For example, if you burp, fart, cough, or sneeze – say “Excuse me.”

When someone else does this and says “Excuse me,” no response is necessary. The most polite thing is simply to pretend it didn’t happen, and continue the conversation.

The only exception is when someone else sneezes, it’s polite to say “Bless you” or “God bless you” and then the person who sneezed would reply with “Thanks.”

If you drop, spill, or break something:

The common exclamation used for minor accidents is “Oops!” or “Whoops!”

You can also say “I’m so clumsy” – this means you tend to be physically uncoordinated.

Another possible phrase is, “I can’t believe I did that!”

If there’s a mess that needs to be cleaned up, or if you spilled something on someone else, you can say “Let me get some napkins / paper towels.” 

If you caused damage to or broke something that belongs to someone else, you can say “I’m so sorry!” and perhaps later offer to pay for it to be fixed or replaced: “I’d like to pay for it to be repaired/replaced.”

If you forget someone’s name:

If it’s someone you’ve very recently been introduced to, you can say “Sorry – what was your name again?”

If it’s someone you’ve known for a longer time, you can say “I’m so sorry, but I’ve forgotten your name” or “This is so embarrassing, but I can’t seem to remember your name.”

When the other person tells you their name, say “Thanks.” If you want, you can add, “I don’t know where my brain is” if you’re having an unfocused day/moment, or “I’m terrible with names” if you tend to forget people’s names in general. Then, continue the conversation by saying “Anyway…” and moving on by asking a question or making a comment.

If you forget some other information that you really should know:

You can say, “Sorry – I’m drawing a blank here.” This means that you normally know the information but you just can’t think of it at the moment.

One option is to ask for help – you could ask a coworker or friend who might know the information, “Could you help me out?” 

You could also say, “Let me check my notes” or “Let me get back to you on that” if you will find the information and deliver it later.

If you make any other embarrassing mistake:

The phrase, “I can’t believe I did that!” is a good general one for reacting to something you did that embarrassed yourself. You could also say “I don’t know what I was thinking” if you said/did something silly or made a thoughtless mistake.

If you say something wrong, you can correct it by saying “What I meant to say was __________.” 

Another way to react to a mistake or accident is by saying “Today is not my day” – meaning that things in general are going badly for you today.

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