How to say excuse me in German with these 9 expressions
Published on November 14, 2022 / Updated on January 3, 2024
Entschuldigung, do you know how to say excuse me in German? If not, read on for nine expressions that come in handy across a variety of situations. You might need to catch someone’s attention to ask them for a small favor. You might step on someone’s toes and need to apologize for the mishap. What about misunderstandings you might have or bad decisions you could make? In that case, you need to ask for forgiveness. There may even be occasions when you feel sorry for someone else.
Regardless of the situation, knowing how to say “excuse me” – or even “sorry” – can definitely come in handy. Let’s explore a few different ways to beg pardon in German.
When in doubt, use Entschuldigung! This helpful phrase can be used to get someone’s attention (e.g. to ask for directions), excuse a small mishap, and signal that you need someone to repeat something. Add a warning tone and a question mark and you can even use Entschuldigung to challenge someone’s rude behavior and warn them not to try it again.On the flip side, if you want to be especially polite, use Entschuldige bitte (informal you) or Entschuldigen Sie bitte (formal you). You can also add what you are sorry for: Entschuldige die Verspätung (Sorry I am late). The only thing Entschuldigung cannot do is express your sympathies.
Someone’s blocking your way or you bumped into them while trying to pass? Verzeihung is more formal and antiquated than Entschuldigung, but it is still used now and then.
How do you say sorry in German? In English! Sorry is the hip equivalent of Entschuldigung. It is used just the same to ask for attention or if you need someone to repeat what was said or to ask for forgiveness for minor accidents – or even big mistakes. As with Entschuldigung, the difference lies in the tone of voice.
Oops, you knocked someone over while running for the bus? A simple Entschuldigung won’t cut it. You need to stop and say I am sorry in German: Tut mir leid. You can show your regret by saying Das tut mir wirklich sehr leid (I am really terribly sorry). Tut mir leid or Es/Das tut mir leid (I am sorry for that) are also the most common way to ask for forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong.
Sometimes even I am sorry is not enough. After a major mistake, you want to take responsibility by formally offering your apologies. You can also add Mein Fehler! (my fault) or Das war allein meine Schuld (That was all my fault).
If a relationship seems at risk because of what you have done, you can ask for forgiveness directly. You could also say Bitte verzeih mir (Please forgive me).
How do you say sorry in German without actually saying you’re sorry in German? Add a quick Nicht so gemeint to what you’ve just said if you see the person you are talking to got it all wrong. Or explain what you actually meant starting with Das habe ich nicht so gemeint or Das war nicht so gemeint, all meaning “I didn’t mean it that way”.
With Schade you can express that you are sorry for something bad happening to someone else. Be careful of your tone of voice because just as “too bad”, an exaggerated Schade can also communicate that you are not sorry at all. You would use Schade generally for a missed opportunity, not for something serious like an accident or a loss.
If someone loses a loved one, we are always at a loss for words. Expressing your sympathies in a foreign language doesn’t make it easier. The go-to thing to say or write on a card in these situations is Mein Beileid (my condolences) or Mein aufrichtiges Beileid (my sincerest condolences). You could also add: Es tut mir so leid (I am so sorry).
There are many occasions to ask for forgiveness. Bothering someone with a request for their attention, needing someone to repeat what they’ve just said, causing minor inconveniences or committing a major mistake. Beginners can navigate all these situations with just two expressions: Entschuldigung can be used for everything but expressing your sympathies. Tut mir leid expresses regret for something you’ve done or something that happened to someone. For more advanced learners, there are a few more ways to communicate that you are neither rude nor insensitive. And with a decisive pardon me in German (Entschuldigung!?) you can even put someone offensive back in their place.