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Oops! How to Apologize in 12 Foreign Languages

Apologize in Foreign Languages
Written by Staff Writer

This blog post was updated on August 25, 2021.

Being a tourist has its benefits. You get to see and do things you might never have imagined. You wine and dine on some of the best cuisines in the world. And then again, being a traveler can have its downfalls, like when you offend someone in another language and have no idea how to apologize. To avoid offending those as you travel or to make up for a mistake, here’s how to properly say, “I’m sorry” in 12 different languages. Manners can go a long way in any language.

How to Say You’re Sorry in Italian

A proper way apology in Italian depends on the severity of the situation. If you are saying sorry for a small thing, like bumping into someone, the proper word is “scusi”. For bigger or more formal apologies, “Mi dispiace” is more appropriate.

How to Apologize in Spanish

Similar to Italian, the proper apology in Spanish depends on the situation. For most situations, the phrase “Perdonar” (directly translated as “to forgive”) is used. If the offense bigger, “Lo siento” can be used. The literal translation is “I feel it,” and helps the receiver understand the sincerity.

How to Apologize in Spanish

How to Say Sorry in French

In French, most apologies can be covered with the phrase “Je suis désolé” which translates directly to “I’m sorry.” A more casual apology can be covered with the shortened “Désolé”, or with “pardon” (the French equivalent to “excuse me”).

How to Beg Someone’s Pardon in German

The German formal apology “Es tut mir Leid “directly translates to “it causes me suffering” and is a way to empathize with the receiver, but isn’t meant to be quite as dramatic as the direct translation. The simple, more casual “sorry” can be said with “Entschuldigung.”

How to Say You’re Sorry in Icelandic

Anyone taking cheap flights to Iceland, need to understand that it is much less common to apologize for casual things than in some other western cultures. For a mild offense, like bumping into someone on the street, the Icelandic “Fyrirgefðu” will convey your apology. Adding the word “mér” to the end conveys more seriousness and translates to “forgive me.”

Say Sorry in Icelandic

How to Apologize in Japanese

Japanese has over 20 ways to apologize and they all hold different nuisance. To say “excuse me,” use “Sumimasen” for short, casual situations. For slightly more formal, but still suitable for every day use, the phrase “Mōshiwake nai” is acceptable.

RELATED: 18 Ways to Say ‘I Love You’ All Around the World

How to Say Sorry in Portuguese

Portguese has up to five different ways to apologize. The serious and heartfelt phrase to use for “I’m sorry” is “Es sinto muito.” This tells the receiver “I really feel.” For most situations the word “Desculpe” will suffice for saying “sorry” with the proper context.

How to Say Apologize in Portuguese

How to Beg Someone’s Pardon in Dutch

English speakers will have an easy time apologize in Dutch because the Dutch also use the word “sorry”. To be more specific or more heartfelt in an apology, the longer form “Het spijt me.” “Het spijt me” can convey condolences like, “I’m sorry for your loss,” for example.

How to Say Sorry in Chinese

Apology is important in Chinese culture. The phrase “Bù hǎo yì si” is for minor offenses like where a “sorry about that” in English would be appropriate. Slightly more serious offenses, but still common occurrences, the phrase “Duí bu qǐ” can be used to ask for forgiveness.

How to Say You’re Sorry in Greek

The Greek word for “sorry” is “Signómi”. It is a versatile word that can accompany other words to provide context for the apology. For example, you can say “Signómi pu áryisa” to convey “I’m sorry for being late.” Most casual apologies can be covered with “Signómi”.

Apologize in Greek

How to Apologize in Finnish

To say “I’m sorry”, the phrase is “Olen paihoillani.” This can be the start of any apology and followed with more context like “for being late” or “for being selfish.” The word “anteeksi” is used to say “sorry” or “excuse me” in polite, casual situations.

How to Beg Someone’s Pardon in Polish

The direct Polish to English translation is “Przepraszam”. This can both be a polite way to get someone’s attention or for a minor offense. To ask for forgiveness in more serious or heartfelt situations, “Wybacz” will help express remorse.

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