Pardon! The Many Ways to Say Sorry in Spanish - Excuse Me? Excuse You!
There are plenty of daily situations where you may need to express the sentiment that you're sorry to someone. Depending on the particular reason at hand, the simple 'Lo Siento' might not cut it.
There are many different ways to say you're sorry in Spanish. However, each way carries its particular nuance, which should be taken into consideration. Let’s take a closer look at the many expressive ways to apologize in Spanish.
Knowing how to say “sorry” in Spanish is a must for any learner of this language. If you want to know more useful vocabulary, take a look at our unique Spanish Frequency Dictionary series. You’ll find 10,000 most common Spanish words listed by the frequency of their occurrence. Moreover, each entry also contains a translation, pronunciation, basic grammar context, and an example sentence translated into English.
When to Use “Lo Siento” – I’m Sorry
This phrase literally means 'I feel it' which conveys a deep sense of empathy towards the person's issue. It also happens to be the most popular among those learning Spanish. However, it might not be the most accurate way to express yourself.
For example, this wouldn’t be the most appropriate response to give if you were the cause of the person’s issue in the first place. This phrase implies a certain amount of distance between you and the person’s woes.
The more correct usage of the phrase would include hearing upon the passing of relatives, news of an impending divorce, negative outcomes in business dealings, or other unforeseen misfortunes.
When to Use “Perdón” – Sorry/ Excuse Me
Here is a quick, catch-all term for most scenarios requiring a quick apology in the context of a rather minor offense. This phrase can also be loosely translated as ‘apologies.’ It can be interchangeably used as ‘sorry’ but also as ‘excuse me’ if you are walking through a crowded area.
If you want to avoid all the headache of memorizing all of the different ways to say sorry in Spanish, then just stick to 'Perdón,' which is one of the more practical ways to apologize for minor slip-ups and gaffs.
- Perdóname. – Forgive me.
The addition of the suffix 'me' significantly changes the meaning in this word. For those new to Spanish, the suffix 'me' in a word is typically a first-person singular reflexive, which can add a possessive or more personal meaning to someone's sentence.
This phrase easily translates into an admission of guilt and a plea for forgiveness. In this scenario, you have personally wronged the person in question and seek to make amends.
This isn't the most suitable phrase for more casual, minor grievances that don't require such a bold outcry of forgiveness. This could include infidelity in a committed relationship, disrespecting a close friend, or failing to fulfill your obligations at work. This phrase should be reserved to address only serious grievances.
Disculpa – Sorry/ Excuse Me
This is a very versatile and all-encompassing way to say you're sorry, regardless of the context. On the one hand, it can be used similarly to saying 'excuse me,' and yet, it can also be used to apologize for minor grievances such as if you happen to bump into someone accidentally in a store.
An important note to keep in mind is that this word should typically be reserved for more casual settings and wouldn’t be quite suitable for more serious grievances.
- Disculpame – Sorry/ Forgive me
You might notice how similar our previous word appears to this phrase. The only difference appears in the form of the ending suffix ‘me’, which raises the intensity of the apology and adds a personal tone of forgiveness as well.
However, in certain settings with native speakers, you might notice the omission of the last syllable 'me,' which is just a colloquial characteristic and doesn't alter the meaning whatsoever.
Con Permiso – Excuse Me
This phrase literally translates into 'with permission' and is used similarly to how we say 'excuse me' while passing close to strangers. In casual conversations, many native speakers may simply say 'permiso' and omit 'con,' but it carries the same meaning regardless.
This would be the ideal phrase to use to excuse yourself from the dinner table at your in-law's place or the conference table with your Spanish speaking colleagues.
Other Ways to Express “Sorry” in Spanish
- Mis condolencias – My condolences
The following phrase can also be translated as ‘Sorry for your loss,’ and it is typically exclusively reserved for scenarios involving the passing of close family members, friends, or even pets.
This phrase is quite limited in its usage, and there aren’t any other situations where you may use this phrase without causing a bit of confusion. Don’t use this phrase lightly, as it connotes a deep sense of agony and anguish, which might not be suitable for the context. So be sure to choose your words carefully.
- Lo lamento – I’m very sorry
This phrase is similar enough to ‘lo siento.’ however, it differs in the magnitude of the apology. ‘Lo lamento’ literally translates into ‘I regret it,’ which expresses a great deal of grief over the particular issue.
This phrase should be reserved for a more formal register, perhaps upon hearing the news of your boss going through a messy divorce or other personal misfortunes from someone who you should show a higher form of respect towards, such as the first time meeting the in-laws.
- Disculpa, numero equivocado – Sorry, wrong number
This phrase should come in handy on a daily basis when dealing with pestering phone calls from unknown numbers. By simply answering ‘disculpa, numero equivocado,’ the person on the other end of the line will have nothing else to say aside from ‘Okay, que tengas un buen dia’ or ‘Okay, have a nice day.’
If only it were that easy to end a phone call with that overly eager family member or with that one friend who just doesn’t know when to call it quits.
Unlike in English, the Spanish language has many different expressive ways to apologize to someone. Each unique phrase carries its own nuance, which should be used in the right context.
However, if you're ever in a pinch and don't know which to say, just go with either 'disculpa' or 'perdón,' which serve as the most versatile ways to quickly apologize. Now we can't vouch that the person in question will forgive your wrongdoing, but at least, you'll be able to express your deepest apologies to them.