Learn English Phrases for Admitting and Resolving Mistakes

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Everyday English Speaking Course

Hello, students. It’s Shayna from espressoenglish.net. Today, I want to answer a question from a student who asked about English phrases we can use for talking about making mistakes and then promising to resolve or fix those mistakes.

First, I want to remind you that with the word mistake, we use the verb, make, not do. Always say, “I made a mistake.” Don’t say, “I did a mistake.” Okay? Simple. You can remember it because it’s an M for make and an M for mistake. I made a mistake. Got it?

Before we jump into the lesson, I also wanted to invite you to join my Everyday English Speaking Courses so that you can learn phrases for lots of different situations in everyday life. And if you’d like to focus on correcting mistakes you might be making in English, then a good choice is my 200 Common Errors in English Course. I’ll put links to both these courses in the video description.

All right, now let’s learn some of these phrases that native English speakers use for admitting and resolving mistakes.

I messed up

One informal phrase is this one. I messed up. This is informal and so we use it usually when talking with friends or family members.

For example, if you’re inviting everybody to a party and the party is on Saturday but you sent out 50 emails saying the party was on Sunday by mistake, then you could say, “I messed up. I told everyone the party is on Sunday but it should be on Saturday.” Okay?

If you want to emphasize that you made a really big mistake then you can add the word, really in here. You can say, “I really messed up.” Another way is, “I messed up really bad or really badly.”

If I’m washing the clothes for my entire family and I make the mistake of adding bleach, bleach is a chemical that makes things white. If I accidentally add bleach when washing the clothes and I ruin everybody’s clothes, so all the colors are gone. All the clothes now have white spots, then I could say, “Oh, man. I messed up really bad when I added bleach to the laundry.”

Okay? Mess up is an informal way to talk about making mistakes.

I dropped the ball

We also have this expression, I dropped the ball. This comes from baseball where the players need to catch the ball and if they drop the ball, then it’s a mistake. It’s an error.

We usually use I dropped the ball when there’s some task or responsibility that you were supposed to do and you didn’t do it. For example, if you’re at work and you need to call an important client by the end of the day and you don’t do it, then your boss asks you, “How was the phone call?” Then you could say, “I’m so sorry. I dropped the ball and I didn’t call that client.” Okay?

If there’s a group project at school and you need to write a one page for the project and all of the other group members are asking you, “Hey. Where is your text?” And you didn’t write it, then you could say, “Ah, I dropped the ball.” Meaning, I didn’t do the text I was responsible for.

It was my fault

We also have, it was my fault. This phrase is used when you take responsibility that you were the one who made the mistake or caused the problem. Let’s say you’re at work and you try to use the office printer to print a really big document and the paper gets jammed in the printer. Everyone’s trying to figure out who did this, you could say, “I’m sorry. It was my fault.”

This is just a general phrase that can be used at work or outside of work for taking responsibility when there are many people involved but you are saying, “It was my fault. I’m the one who made the mistake or caused the problem.” All right?

It won’t happen again

Now let’s learn some phrases after you have admitted your mistake, what can you say after that? You can say, “I’m sorry,” or “Sorry about that,” but there are some other phrases you can use as well.

A good one to use at work is this. “It won’t happen again.” If your boss finds out you made a mistake, you dropped the ball and you want to promise your boss that you’re going to be more careful in the future, then you can say this. “It won’t happen again.”

This just shows that you are very determined to improve your work, improve your behavior and you are promising that you will do better in the future. Saying the mistake or the problem won’t happen again.

I’ll… (action to resolve the problem)

Another very common phrase we use is, “I’ll,” and we say what we’re going to do to fix the problem right away. You can say, “I’ll fix it right away or I’ll resolve this right away.” In the example I gave earlier, when there was an important client that you didn’t call, you could say, “I’ll call the client right away.” Right away means immediately or very soon in the future. This phrase shows that you are going to take action to resolve the problem immediately.

This can make other people feel better because you admitted you made a mistake but now, you’re taking action to resolve the problem. If you really want to show that you are going to invest a lot of effort in fixing this problem, you can use this expression. “I’ll do everything in my power to resolve the problem. I’ll do everything in my power to make the client happy.” This is just a way to give extra emphasis to the fact that you are going to do everything, make many efforts to fix this problem to make things right and to make up for or compensate for your mistake. Okay?

How can I make it up to you?

Another expression you can use, let’s say that you have a problem between you and your friend. For example, you promised to give your friend a ride somewhere and you forgot, you didn’t do it.

You’re not sure what you can do to fix it, the relationship between you and your friend, you can ask the question, “How can I make it up to you? What can I do to make it up to you?” This is asking what can I do to compensate for this problem or to repair the damage I’ve caused to our relationship?

That’s a good one to use between friends when you’ve made a mistake, you’ve caused a problem but you want to make things better. You can ask the person, “What can I do to make it up to you?” That means compensate you for this problem I have caused.

I hope this gives you a better idea of some phrases you can use for making mistakes and then making up for the mistakes or promising that the mistakes will be fixed or compensated for. I’d like to help you improve your English even further so that you don’t make many mistakes when you talk.

Inside my Everyday English Speaking Courses, not only will you learn practical phrases, but you can also get feedback on your speaking – there are speaking tasks where you can record yourself responding, and then a teacher on our team will listen to you and send comments on things you’re doing well, things you can improve, and correction of any mistakes. It’s a really valuable part of the course – make sure to check it out if you’d like to improve your speaking fast!

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