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Supposing you’re going to a German-speaking country or just learning German, one of the first things you need to know is how to say “sorry” in German. Often overlooked in basic vocabulary lessons, “sorry” can come up in daily situations more often than you think. Besides, it’s as easy to learn as the simple “hello” and just as effective!
Let’s look at the most important ways to say “sorry” in German and when to use each of them.
When should you say you’re sorry?
What you need to remember is that learning how to say “sorry” in German also has a cultural component. It’s not enough to learn how to say you’re sorry; you also have to learn when to say you’re sorry. Unlike Americans and even Brits who apologize quite a lot, Germans tend to keep their sorrys to a minimum. In fact, they say sorry so rarely that they can come off as rude to people of other nationalities.
However, this is not strictly a German thing. It’s true Germans say sorry once in a blue moon, but there are some other countries like France or Russia where over-apologizing can be regarded as insincere as well.
How to apologize in German
Es tut mir leid is the standard sorry or the apologetic sorry. It’s the kind of sorry you say when you messed up and you want to apologize for what you did. The expression conveys a sense of responsibility it is kind of a formal apology.
If you want it to be more informal, you can say Tut mir leid which is more similar to “sorry” than “I’m sorry”.
Here are some practical examples of apologies in German:
- Es tut mir schrecklich leid! – I’m terribly sorry!
- Sie haben Recht, das tut mir leid. – You are right, I am sorry.
- Tut mir leid, ich mag die Suppe nicht. – Sorry, I don’t like the soup.
How to say sorry in German – the “Excuse me” sorry
If you bump into someone on the street or cause a mishap, the most common way to say “sorry” in German is Entschuldigung which literally means “apology!”. This is basically the “sorry” or the “excuse me” you say for a minor inconvenience. In other words, we’re talking about a slight bump or barely touching that person. If you knock them over, a cool Entschuldigung won’t do, so you should probably apologize sincerely.
In case you need a more formal sorry for someone you don’t know or someone older, you should say Entschuldigen Sie. For informal situations, Entschuldige works best or you can use the abbreviated ‘Tschuldigung.
Hear the formal Entschuldigen Sie in action in this basic conversation in German:
Other ways to say sorry in German
As you very well know, there can also be other situations where you need to say “sorry” in German. For example, the “can you repeat that?” sorry is quite common. Of course, you can always say “Entschuldigung?” together with the proper facial expression, but sometimes that might not be enough.
How to offer your sympathies
- Es tut mir sehr Leid, das zu hören. – I’m so sorry to hear that.
- Es tut mir Leid, dass dir das passiert ist. – I’m sorry that happened to you.
- Mein aufrichtiges Beileid. – My sincerest condolences.
The “can you repeat that?” sorry
- Entschuldigung? – Excuse me?
- Pardon? – Pardon? (very formal)
- Häh? – Huh? (colloquial)
- Wie meinen? – I beg your pardon?
- Entschuldigung, ich habe es immer noch nicht verstanden. – Sorry, I still didn’t get that.
How to say sorry in a business context
- Bitte entschuldigen Sie die Verzögerung. – Please forgive the delay.
- Bitte entschuldigen Sie die verspätete Antwort. – Sorry for the late reply
- Ich entschuldige mich für die Verwirrung. – I apologize for the confusion.
How to apologize for the “no-biggie” mistake that didn’t hurt anyone
- Hoppla! – Oops!
- Das war mein Fehler. – It was my bad.
Other useful examples
- Entschuldige, es wird nicht wieder vorkommen. – Sorry, it won’t happen again.
- Ich entschuldige mich. – I apologize.
- Ich fühl mich furchtbar, es tut mir so Leid. – I feel terrible, I’m so sorry.
- Schade! – Too bad!/Pity!)
- Entschuldigen Sie bitte, dass ich Sie störe. – Excuse me for disturbing you.
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