Difference Between Reason and Excuse

Key Difference – Reason vs Excuse

You may have faced situations where you have been told not to give excuses when in fact you were giving reasons for doing something or failing to do something. Such situations can be very confusing because we fail to see the difference that exists between the two words. Let us look at it in this manner. A reason simply refers to a cause or explanation. It explains why someone did something or why something happened. An excuse, on the other hand, is also a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault. In this sense, the key difference is that while a reason is merely an explanation, an excuse specifically focuses on justifying a fault. Through this article let us examine the differences between a reason and an excuse.

What Does Reason Mean?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a reason refers to a cause or an explanation. When giving a reason the person tries to explain why he/she did or did not do something. It can also be used when speaking of situations as well. A reason is usually logical, rational and objective. It is not given with the intention of saving one’s self but to explain a situation.

For an example, in an airport, the administrative personnel informs the passengers that there has been a delay in flights due to bad weather conditions. This is not an excuse but a statement through which the individual explains the situation to the passengers. It is a logical, rational, objective statement. Hence, it can be conceived of as a reason.

Key Difference - Reason vs Excuse

She explained the reason for her delay.

What Does Excuse Mean?

An excuse refers to an explanation put forward to justify or defend a fault. When giving an excuse, the individual makes an attempt to put the blame on another person or on circumstances rather than being accountable for his own actions. This is usually considered as a negative practice. Most excuses tend to be illogical, and irrational arguments put forward by a person to get away from a problem.

For an example, a student fails to submit an assignment to the lecturer before the deadline because he had sports practices. This is clearly an excuse where the student tries to shift his inability to complete a given task to circumstances (Sports practices).

As you can observe there is a clear difference between a reason and an excuse. This difference can be summarized as follows.

Difference Between Reason and Excuse

What is the difference between Reason and Excuse?

Definitions of Reason and Excuse:

Reason: A reason simply refers to a cause or explanation.

Excuse: An excuse is a type of reason that specifically justifies or defends a fault.

Characteristics of Reason and Excuse:


Reason: A reason merely explains something.

Excuse: An excuse justifies the fault.


Reason: The main function is not to justify, but to explain.

Excuse: The main function is to justify or defend a fault.


Reason: When you are giving reasons you explain and take accountability for your actions.

Excuse: When you are giving an excuse, you are not taking accountability for your actions but blame it on other factors.


Image Courtesy:

1. Bangkok Traffic By Gemma Longman [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Letters hand leave pen excuse me By Geralt [Public Domain] via Pixabay