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While many poets and songwriters may say that “sorry” is the hardest word to say, learning how to say sorry in different languages is important.
One of the first things that you need to learn in a foreign language is basic phrases, such as how to say “hello” and goodbye and how to say “yes” and how to say “no”. How to say “sorry” is also important because, well, it’s only polite to take responsibility for your actions.
If you accidentally hurt or insulted someone, one way to make sure that it was only a momentary mistake and not an unforgivable error is to apologize properly. This is why learning to say sorry is so important.
In this post, we’ve gathered 31 words and phrases for sorry in different languages all over the world (we’ve also placed these words in a downloadable PDF). Take a look and maybe you’ll find that sorry isn’t that hard a word to learn.
What do you say? Lo siento
Another common way to say sorry in Spanish is to use either “perdona” or “perdone”, this translates to “forgive me”. “Perdona” is what you use among friends and family, while “perdone” is what you use when addressing a stranger or a superior.
What do you say? Mi dispiace
This is the formal way to say sorry in Italian, but you can also simply say “scusi”.
What do you say? Es tut mir leid
You might also hear a German-speaker say “entschuldigung” if they want to apologize for a minor offense like bumping into you in the street.
What do you say? Je suis désolé/désolée
In accordance with French word gender rules, f you are speaking to a man, use désolé. If you are speaking to a woman, use désolée. You can also skip adding “Je suis” which is a French phrase that translates to “I am”.
What do you say? Sinto muito
This phrase is understood to mean “I’m sorry” by Portuguese speakers all over the world; however, you can also simply say the word “desculpa” if you want to apologize for your actions.
What do you say? Izvinite
This is the word to use if you are in a formal situation or apologizing for a small fault. You can also use “prostit”.
Here is a body language tip for apologizing in Russian, look down as it makes your apology seem more sincere.
What do you say? Undskyld
This is the word for “sorry” in Danish, so you can say “undskyld” and add what you are sorry for like being late or spilling a drink. You can also say “Je er ked af det” which means “I’m sorry.”
What do you say? Het spijt me
The literal translation of this Dutch phase is something like “it spites me” and Dutch speakers use it to express regret for their actions or, sorry.
What do you say? Förlåt
If you need to say sorry to someone who is senior to you or an elder, you might want to try the more formal “Jag skulle vilja be om ursäkt” which translates to I would like to apologize.
What do you say? Anteeksi
This Finnish word roughly translated to “I’m sorry” or “to apologize”. You can just say this to mean that you are sorry or you can also say “olen pahoillani” which is a phrase that means “I’m sorry.”
What do you say? Przepraszam
This is the literal equivalent of “sorry” in Polish and is used both to apologize and also as a sort of “excuse me” if you want to get someone’s attention.
If you want to apologize on behalf of a group, you can say “przepraszamy” which is “we are sorry”.
What do you say? Më fal
You can also say “Falni” which means “forgive me”.
What do you say? Žao mi je
You can say this if you want to say sorry to a Bosnian.
What do you say? Sajnálom
While just saying “Sajnálom” is an appropriate way to say sorry in Hungarian, you can also try the more formal “szeretnék bocsánatot kérni”. This longer, more formal phrase might be more appropriate if you want to apologize to a superior or an elder.
What do you say? Promiňte
Just saying “promiňte” is an acceptable way to say sorry in Czech, but you can also try using the more formal “chtěl bych se omluvit”.
What do you say? Fyrirgefðu
You can say this is you want to apologize in Icelandic, and it can also be used to say excuse me or pardon me.
What do you say? Unnskyld
This is the most basic way to say “I’m sorry” in Norwegian, but if you are looking for a more formal way to apologize in Norwegian, you can say “Jeg vil gjerne be om unnskyldning”.
What do you say? Signómi
If you want to say sorry in Greek, you can just use this phrase.
What do you say? Ana assif
Strictly speaking, this is how you say sorry to a male. If you are addressing a female, it’s “ana assifa” and if you want to apologize for a group say “aasifeen”.
What do you say? Jammer
Other words that you might hear for sorry aside from “jammer” would be “askies” or “verskoon my” but “jammer” is more common.
What do you say? Duì bu qǐ
If you feel a more formal apology is needed, you can say “bào qiàn”.
What do you say? Sumimasen
Another common way to say sorry in Japanese is “Gomen’nasai” but this is considered informal and mostly for use with those you are close to like family and friends.
What do you say? Joesonghamnida
This is the more formal and polite way to say sorry in Korean. You might hear another phrase, “mianhamnida” in more casual situations.
What do you say? Maaf
The word “maaf” is pronounced similar to “uh-oh”, so “MA-af”. While the word “maaf” is an acceptable way to apologize in all situations, there is a more formal phrase of apology in Indonesian which is “Saya minta maaf”.
What do you say? Patawad
While just saying “patawad” is usually enough to apologize in Filipino, if you want to be a little more polite, consider adding “po” or “ho” afterwards. Adding “po” or “ho” at the end of a sentence is a way of showing respect in Filipino, so saying “Patawad, po” or “Patawad, ho” sounds a little more sincere.
What do you say? Tôi xin lỗi
This is the basic Vietnamese phrase that you can use to apologize to someone. Take note that, if you are speaking to an elder or someone of a higher social status, you might want to use the more formal” Tôi muốn xin lỗi”.
What do you say? Khǎaw-thôot
This is the equivalent of the word “sorry” in Thai. You can use this for both formal or informal apologies. If you are hanging around with younger Thai-speakers, you might hear “thôot thii” or “saaw-rîI” which is are slang words for sorry.
What do you say? Main ksamaa caa haTaa huun
This Hindi phrase translates to “I apologize” and is the formal way to say “sorry”. Another informal way to say sorry in Hindi is “mujhe maaf kar Do”.
What do you say? Ami dukkhito
If you are speaking to a native Bengali speaker, you can say this if you want to say sorry.
What do you say? Samahani
This is the word for sorry that you can use when speaking in Swahili. There is a more formal phrase to use to say sorry in Swahili and this is “ningependa kuomba msamaha.”
What do you say? Özür dilerim
This is the most basic phrase that you can use to say that you are sorry in Turkish. In more formal situations, you might hear or want to use “Özür dilemek isterim”.
Every culture around the world has its own way of apologizing and expressing regret. One of the most basic ways to do so is to learn the word or phrase for sorry in the language that you are trying to learn.
The word for sorry is one of the first words and phrases that you need to learn in any language, however, sometimes a proper apology requires more than just a “sorry”.
Different cultures have different norms of behavior and there may be different cultural nuances to apologizing. Body language may play a part in an apology coming off as sincere. They may also be other more appropriate phrases to use to say sorry that depend on social status or even age.
To make sure that you know the proper way to say sorry in the language you are trying to learn, you should work with an online native-speaking tutor. They will be able to coach you on the specific ways to say sorry that are inherent to the culture and make sure that your “sorry” really does earn forgiveness.
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