How to Say Sorry in Every Corner of the World

Team Pepper
Posted on 2/03/225 min read

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • How to Say Sorry in Ten Different Languages
  • Conclusion: Responding to Apologies
  • FAQS

Whether in business affairs or personal life, three words can make a big difference: “I am sorry”. It shows that we’re aware of our mistakes and willing to take responsibility for them. Simply using these words can repair relationships and create trust.

Of course, the words can be used for small interactions, too. For example, if you bump into someone on the road, saying sorry is a polite and civil way to acknowledge your slip.

Every language has unique ways to say sorry. In Hindi, as you probably know, “maaf karo” or “kshama karo” are common forms. In Bengali, it’s “aami dukhita”, in Marathi, it’s “mala mapha kara”, in Malayalam, it’s “enneat kshamikku”, and in Telugu, it is “nannu kshaminncu”. Before all of these, there was Sanskrit, in which “I am sorry” is “aham ksantavyah”.


In our global economy, it’s also important to know how to say sorry in different languages. Many things can go wrong in our actions and communication, so there are many ways to apologize. These range from a simple “excuse me” to a more serious “I’m very sorry”.

Saying sorry in the right way and at the right time can benefit an uncomfortable situation. It can be useful to know what to say during a face-to-face meeting, a trip overseas, or a Zoom call. Here is a primer on how to say sorry in multiple languages that are among the most spoken in the world.

How to Say Sorry in Ten Different Languages


1. French

In French, the most basic way of saying that you’re sorry is “je suis désolé”. This can be used with both friends and strangers. In a formal or business setting, you should say “je vous demande pardon,” which literally means, “I beg your pardon”. For everyday mistakes such as stepping on someone’s foot, you can simply say, “pardon”.

2. Italian

Italians often say “scusa” or “mi dispiace” in response to everyday mistakes. If the person you’re speaking to is older or professionally senior, you would say, “scusi”. If you want to emphasise how sorry you are, you should use, “Oh, mi dispiace!”, which means, “I’m so sorry!”

3. Spanish

When talking to friends and family, people in Spain often say “perdona”, which literally means “forgive me”. When addressing strangers or business superiors, they say “perdone”, which is more formal. If the situation calls for a strong and forceful apology, you should say, “lo siento” or “lo siento mucho”.

4. Japanese

The Japanese language is full of nuances. There are many ways to apologize, depending on the situation and the person involved. A casual and common way of saying sorry is “gomen”. It becomes more formal when you say “gomen nasai”, and more friendly when you use “gomen-ne”. Another informal expression is “warui warui”, which can be translated as “my bad”. Then, there is “sumimasen,” which is “excuse me”. Some people shorten this to “suman”.

5. Mandarin Chinese

Mandarin, too, has many shades and nuances. A common phrase for saying sorry is “duì bù qi”. This should be used in situations where there is a genuine need for forgiveness. A more casual expression is “bù hǎo yì si”, which literally means, “sorry about that”. To a figure of authority, one would say “bào qiàn”, or “I sincerely apologize”.

6. Arabic

The simplest way of saying that you’re sorry in Arabic is with the word “aasif”. In more formal settings, they say “anā ʾaʿtaḏir”, or “I apologise”. When accepting responsibility for an error, you would say “laqad kānat ġalṭatī”, or “it was my mistake”. On the other hand, when you need to say “excuse me”, you would use the word, “afwan”.

7. Portuguese

In Portuguese, saying “desculpa” or “desculpe” is acceptable in almost every situation. However, if you think you have hurt someone’s feelings, you should say “me perdõe”, which means “do forgive me”. Another expression of apology for serious situations is “Eu sinto muito”. If you need to spell out that something was an accident, you can add “foi sem querer”.

8. Russian

There are many common ways to say sorry in Russian. “Izvinite”, which means “fault”, is used in situations when a mistake is recognised, especially in a formal scenario. “Prostit” is used when there is a need for a genuine and heartfelt apology. The tone becomes more polite when you add “pozhaluysta”, which means “please”.

9. German

In German, when you need to say “excuse me”, you would say “entschuldigung”. For example, if you’re passing by a crowded street. If you’re saying sorry for a mishap, the words are “dich um Entschuldigung”. When asking for forgiveness, people say “ich bitte Sie” or “dich um Verzeihung”. A literal way of saying “I am sorry” in German is “Es tut mir Leid”.

10. Indonesian

According to Berlitz, Indonesian is among the ten most spoken languages in the world. A simple and polite way of saying “sorry” in Indonesian is “maaf”. To indicate that you’re truly sorry, you should say “saya benar-benar minta maaf”. To apologise for a misunderstanding, the expression is, “saya mohon maaf atas kesalahpahaman hari ini”.

Conclusion: Responding to Apologies

As we’ve seen, there are various ways of saying sorry in different languages. The right usage depends on the context and the depth of feeling. The other side of the coin is to know how to respond to an apology. If you see that the person is genuine, it is best to convey that the apology is accepted and to move on.

Most often, people say, “It’s OK”. This has the advantage of being understood in almost every language. Of course, people also say “I accept your apology”, or “I appreciate it”. Whatever way you choose to respond, it’s a good idea to smile. That needs no translation in any language.


1. How do you politely say sorry?

It’s best to own responsibility, describe briefly what you meant, and show how you intend not to repeat the offense. That’s the best way to say sorry in multiple languages.

2. How do you say sorry without saying it?

There are situations when you can use other words that show empathy and understanding. If someone shares a difficult experience with you, for example, you can say “that’s sad”, or “I know how you must feel”.

3. What is “mea culpa”?

 “Mea culpa” is Latin for “it’s through my fault”. It’s used to mean “I’m sorry”, or as a formal apology.

4. How do you apologize professionally in an email?

 Here is how you can apologize in an email in a professional manner:
– Start with sincerely admitting your mistake.
– Be crisp and concise.
– Explain the reason for the mistake, but do not deflect the action onto other people.
– End by apologizing, and laying out a plan to make amends.