The severity of offense refers to how big the mistake really was and the impact it will have on the relationship.

It is probably not surprising that a different type of apology is needed for stepping on someone's foot and ruining their brand new laptop. However, in some language varieties, stepping on someone's foot could be more offensive than ruining the laptop. Therefore, it is important to pay special attention to mistakes that occur as well as the different ranks of offense they carry.

In this section, we will examine rank of offense as related to apologies in Spanish.

Looking at the Severity of the Offense More Closely

Think about different situations that warrant an apology. Can you think of one that might be low offense and one that might be high offense in Spanish?

Based on what you have learned so far about communicative acts, how do you predict that your apology in Spanish would change based on the severity of the offense. Give an example of an apology in Spanish for both of the offenses you listed above.

Some Example Situations


Now, play each of the conversations below and determine if they are low or high offense. Explain why you ranked each apology situation the way you did.

Situation 1-El trabajo final

Carlos and Nelly are close friends from Peru. Carlos accidentally erased Nelly's final project one hour before she was supposed to turn it in.

Severity of Offense

Why did you choose the ranking you did?


Situation 2-Te invito a un café

Laura and Deya (two close friends from Venezuela) are meeting for coffee, but Deya is late. She apologizes to Laura.

Severity of Offense

Why did you choose the ranking you did?

Situation 3- Llegada al aeropuerto

Evelyn and Hebert are neighbors. Hebert's wife is arriving at the airport and Evelyn is supposed to pick her up. She doesn't go and apologizes to Hebert.


Severity of Offense

Why did you choose the ranking you did?


Based on what you saw in each of the model conversations, what can you conclude about the effect of severity of imposition on apologies in Spanish?

Do you notice any other patterns in these conversations?