If you need to say you’re sorry, it helps to know whether you’re sending your apology or apologies.The phrase my apologies is an idiom, while the phrase my apology literally means my act of apologizing. As an idiom, my apologies means excuses or regrets. This phrase is a way of saying you’re sorry. The phrase my apology is not an idiom. It only has a literal meaning.
The word apology is a noun. It means an act of saying you’re sorry. For example, “Bobby owes Grant an apology for breaking his toy”. In this sentence, apology refers to Bobby telling Grant he’s sorry.
The phrase my apology uses this definition of apology. For example: “I hope he accepts my apology,” literally means, “I hope he accepts my expression of remorse.” If you had multiple apologies, you could use the plural phrase my apologies. For example, “I’ve apologized to many people for my mistakes. I hope that they accept my apologies.”
In the above example, my apologies is used literally to mean “my multiple expressions of remorse.” That’s not the only way to use the phrase my apologies. It also functions as an idiom. Idioms are phrases with figurative meanings that are different from their literal ones.
For example, to add insult to injury is an idiom. This phrase means to make a situation worse. It doesn’t necessarily mean to insult someone after they’ve been injured.
The idiom my apologies means something slightly different from my multiple acts of apologizing. For example, imagine you’re writing a letter that’s long overdue. You might start it with “My apologies for not writing you sooner.” In this sentence, you are not using the literal meaning of my apologies. Instead, you are using its idiomatic meaning, which is I’m sorry.
As another example, if you were invited to a party, but couldn’t attend, you could say to your friend who was going, “Please give my apologies to Joan, but I can’t make it to the party.” In this example, you mean to say “Please tell Joan I’m sorry that I can’t make it to the party.” You’re not literally asking your friend to give Joan multiple expressions of remorse from you.
My Apologies vs. My Apology
When you’re using my apologies as an idiomatic phrase, you can’t substitute the phrase my apology. My apology isn’t an idiom so it always retains its literal meaning. If you say, “Give my apology to Joan,” you’re literally referring to an apology. This would be more appropriate if you had a written apology to hand to her.