4 ways to say “sorry” in Spanish

4 ways to say “sorry” in Spanish

by Alison Maciejewski Cortez

Updated November 4, 2022

So, you made a mistake and you want to say “sorry” to someone in Spanish? Learning how to say sorry in Spanish is one of the most useful Spanish phrases. It smooths out any conversation or situation after stepping on somebody’s toes.

Just like there are multiple ways to say “how are you” in Spanish, there are different ways of saying “sorry”. Some are appropriate for forgetting a work deadline. Others are better for when you ate your partner’s last slice of pizza (not cool). Here are our top four words and phrases to say “I’m sorry” in Spanish and navigate those embarrassing moments.

1. Perdón
2. Disculpe
3. Lo siento
4. Lo lamento

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1. Perdón

Perdón is the most common way to say “sorry” in Spanish. It translates to “forgiveness” or “forgive me”. It’s the kind of apology you use with friends and family when you feel bad about something…but not that bad.

You can use it in writing and also with strangers. For example, that lady you accidentally poked with your elbow in the fruit aisle. Here are some examples:

  • Perdón por ser tan dura, pero te equivocaste (Sorry for being so hard on you, but you made a mistake)
  • ¡Perdón! Le pisé el pie (Sorry! I stepped on your foot)
  • Perdón por no ser perfecto (Forgive me for not being perfect)
  • Perdón, se me olvidó que tu cumpleaños era hoy (Sorry, I forgot today was your birthday)
  • Perdón, no te escuché bien (Sorry, I didn’t hear you well)

While it’s okay to use perdón in formal settings (maybe you must leave a meeting early), you shouldn’t use this one when you make a mistake at work. Asking your boss for forgiveness is a bit much, no?

2. Disculpe

Disculpe or disculpa (formal vs. informal second-person singular) can be translated to “I’m sorry” or “excuse me”. This is the sort of “sorry” you use in less casual or more impersonal settings. For example, if you’re calling the doctor’s office:

  • Disculpe,¿me puede recordar la hora de mi cita? (Excuse me, would you please remind me what time my appointment is?)

It can also be used in more serious conversations with friends and family:

  • Disculpa, no quise lastimarte… (I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you…)

How to say sorry in Spanish at work

Disculpe(a) is perfectly acceptable for formal settings like the office. Use it to ask your colleague via email when they’ll have their part of the project ready:

  • Disculpa, ¿sabes cuándo podrás mandarme tu aportación? (Sorry, do you know when you’ll be able to send me your contribution?)

Since disculpe(a) can be a bit impersonal, it’s better to use it over text rather than on the phone or face-to-face if you actually know the person.

If you made a mistake at work (we’ve all been there), the best way of saying “sorry” in Spanish is to say una disculpa. This means “my apologies”. This is the right way to speak to your boss.

  • Una disculpa, no pude terminar el reporte a tiempo (my apologies, I couldn’t finish the report on time)

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3. Lo siento

Lo siento serves the same purpose as perdón. This one is slightly old-fashioned. It can be translated to ‘I feel sorry’ or ‘I regret it’. It can be used with friends and family if you feel really sorry about something. It is also appropriate in less casual settings:

  • Lo siento si te hice sentir mal (I’m sorry if I made you feel bad)
  • Lo siento, pero nuestra relación no está funcionando (I’m sorry, but our relationship isn’t working)
  • Lo siento, no tenemos citas disponibles este lunes (Sorry, we don’t have available appointments for this Monday)

4. Lo lamento

This is the most heartfelt way to say ‘sorry’ in Spanish. Lo lamento or lamento is used in dire situations, like the loss of a loved one. It can also be used when you truly hurt someone’s feelings, made a very big mistake or regret bearing bad news:

  • Lamento tu pérdida (sorry for your loss)
  • Lo lamento, no debiste haber confiado tanto en mí  (I’m sorry, you shouldn’t have trusted me this much)
  • Lamento informarle que no cumple con los requisitos (I regret to inform you that you don’t fulfill the requirements)

Now, if you want to strengthen your ‘sorry’, you can add mucho (so) or muchísimo (so very):

  • Lamento muchísimo no haber tenido tiempo para ti (I’m so very sorry I didn’t make time for you)

Is it too late now to say sorry?

Learning Spanish for “I’m sorry” will help you get out of an awkward situation. Did you forget your Spanish-speaking friend’s birthday? Did you miss a work call from Mexico? Don’t worry, just apologize. Saying sorry in Spanish is easy as long as you know which one to use. Now, disculpa while we play “Sorry” by Justin Bieber for the 100th time.

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Alison Maciejewski Cortez is Chilean-American, born and raised in California. She studied abroad in Spain, has lived in multiple countries, and now calls Mexico home. She believes that learning how to order a beer in a new language reveals a lot about local culture. Alison speaks English, Spanish, and Thai fluently and studies Czech and Turkish. Her consulting business takes her around the world and she is excited to share language tips as part of the Lingoda team. Follow her culinary and cultural experiences on Twitter.

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