The Difference between Regret and Remorse

Mary Smith
By Mary Smith. February 17, 2017
The Difference between Regret and Remorse

When one thinks of the past, whether near or far, it is not uncommon to experience regrets and remorse. But is it really the same? Although the meanings of these two words are close, there is a slight difference between these words. At oneHOWTO we'd like to explain the difference between regret and remorse.

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  1. The meaning of regret
  2. Remorse
  3. When to use remorse and regret

The meaning of regret

The word regret refers to a negative emotion that comes from a conscious reflection on past events. Regrets are often felt in parallel with other emotions like melancholy, depression, sadness, guilt etc ...

Regret can relate to a person, a situation, actions commitment or non commitment (regret not having done something). Regret is a way of desiring to return to the past, either because we regret things as they were before or because we would like to be able to modify our actions. There is some pain or frustration in having acted in a certain way or in the contrary of not acting.

For example: If you have been to a party, you may regret having gone, as going there meant you were late at work and felt bad all day because you had a hangover.


Remorse is a form of regret accompanied by a great deal of guilt, it is the most negative form of regret due to the fact that regret illustrates a certain form of nostalgia and a desire to return to the past; whilst remorse is a feeling in which one wishes to "erase" the past because something represents a heavy weight to carry which one needs to be unburdened from. It is a moral pain that one experiences after having committed a morally reprehensible action.

People experiencing remorse feel guilty and often need to apologize or make amends in order to get rid of this pain.

For example: You feel remorse if you went to the same party and had a drunken row with your friend. You will regret having gone, but will feel remorse as you behaved badly with your friend and will need to make amends.

When to use remorse and regret

From a strictly etymological point of view, regretting also implies the action of being sorry, such as when you regret having to inform someone of bad news. Therefore, you will use it when you have to inform someone about something you feel sorry about, whilst'remorse' cannot be used in this context.

For example:

'I regret to inform you that you have not been the chosen candidate for this job post'.

You can use both remorse and regret in a sentence, though remorse will be used as a noun and regret as a verb:

  • I feel remorse for having gone to that party
  • I regret having gone to that party

However, as we've already seen above, these two sentences have slightly different connotations, related to the feeling you are trying to express.

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The Difference between Regret and Remorse