Just as it always helps to know various ways to say “thank you” or “you’re welcome,” you’ll find it useful to know how to say “Excuse me” or “sorry to bother you” in French. After all, it never hurts to be polite. As a beginner in French, you’ll likely find many occasions to practice your apologies — such as when you ask your tutor to repeat or explain something, or when you ask directions from a stranger in the streets of Paris. Here are five of the most common ways to say “Excuse me” in French.
As a direct translation, excusez-moi is more or less exactly how to say “Excuse me” in French. It’s an exceedingly common phrase that can be used in just about any situation, whether you want to apologize for walking on somebody’s foot or to politely ask for directions. For example:
- Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous me dire où est la station de métro ? (Excuse-me, can you tell me where the underground station is?)
Excusez-moi can be used on its own, or it can be followed by the preposition de and a verb in the infinitive form:
|Excusez-moi de vous déranger||Excuse me for disturbing you|
|Excusez-moi de vous embêter||Excuse me for bothering you|
|Excusez-moi de vous interrompre||Excuse me for interrupting you|
It’s also worth noting that excusez-moi uses the imperative form of the vous pronoun. This basically means that you should use it with somebody you don’t know or are not very close to. If you’re not on a first-name basis with someone, excusez-moi is generally the right expression to use.
On the other hand, when you are talking to family members or friends, you can use the tu form, excuse-moi:
- Excuse-moi Paul, peux-tu me passer les clés ? (Excuse-moi Paul, can you hand me the keys?)
Like excusez-moi, this is a very common phrase that you may hear in pretty much any situation. Even though it has the exact same spelling as the English “pardon,” the pronunciation of the French word is slightly different. In fact, a better translation of pardon might be “apologies”:
- Pardon, pouvez-vous parler plus lentement ? (Apologies, could you speak more slowly?)
Since this is a noun and not a verb, you do not have to choose between the pronouns tu and vous. Whatever your degree of acquaintance with the person you’re talking to, pardon is a safe choice in French.
As with excusez-moi, you may also use pardon within a longer phrase:
|Pardon d’insister||My apologies for insisting|
|Pardon de vous le demander||My apologies for asking you this|
|Pardon de vous importuner||My apologies for inconveniencing you|
Halfway between the first two expressions, this phrase uses the -er verb pardonner from the same lexical family as pardon and displays the same structure in the imperative tense as excusez-moi. It is, however, a somewhat more formal and less frequent way to say “pardon me” in French:
- Pardonnez-moi, pourriez-vous répondre à ma question ? (Pardon me, could you answer my question?)
Like its counterpart excusez-moi, pardonnez-moi may also be used on its own or with the preposition de and a verb in the infinitive form:
- Pardonnez-moi de vous poser la question… (Pardon me for asking you the question…)
4. Je m’excuse…
No, the title of this section is not for you to complete. However, we’ve left it unfinished to point out that it would be rare to use je m’excuse on its own. You’re more likely to find it followed by, once again, the preposition de and a verb in the infinitive form:
- Je m’excuse de prendre un peu de votre temps. (I apologize for taking a little of your time.)
5. Je vous demande pardon
Contrary to je m’excuse, je vous demande pardon is pretty much always used on its own. You may consider it as a longer version of pardon. Note the vous pronoun, which makes it appropriate for more formal situations:
- Je vous demande pardon, pourriez-vous épeler votre nom? (I beg your pardon, could you spell your name?)
Pardon my French…
With these five easy ways to say “excuse me” in French, you can now easily make polite requests in various situations, be it with your tutor or fellow students or with complete strangers while traveling in France. You’ll never be sorry for knowing and using those common expressions!