Sorry in French: 16+ Sincere Ways to Apologize for All Types of Faux Pas

When it comes to learning a language, making mistakes is inevitable.

Thus, it’s helpful to know how to say “sorry” in French.

It may not always be pleasant, but being able to excuse yourself, apologize and accept responsibility will expand your French skills.

It will also enhance your ability to truly connect with native French speakers.

This post will show you 16 different ways to apologize in French, for any situation.


1. Je suis désolé/e  — I am sorry

Usage: The standard apology

Je suis désolé/e is by far the most common and one of the broadest ways to apologize. It’s essentially the equivalent of “I am sorry” in English.

It’s fully appropriate in several contexts including making a mistake, realizing you offended someone, using the wrong word, etc.

Grammatical gender won’t affect how this phrase is pronounced, but if you’re writing it out, you’ll need to add an “-e” for the female form.

Je suis désolée, mais je dois partir tôt. 
(I am sorry, but I have to leave early.)

To explain or confess what you’re apologizing for, you may employ de and an infinitive verb.

Je suis désolé de vous téléphoner si tard. 
(I am sorry to call you this late.)

You can also use que (that) and an independent clause (a phrase that could stand alone as its own sentence) with the verb in the subjunctive.

Je suis désolé que le poulet soit un peu brûlé. 
(I am sorry the chicken is a little burnt.)

2. Je suis vraiment désolé/e  — I am very sorry

Usage: To emphasize your sincerity

This is a more extreme apology to use if you want to express that you’re not just sorry, but you’re very sorry. 

Je suis vraiment désolée pour votre perte. 
(I am very sorry for your loss.)

3. Désolé/e  — Sorry

Usage: Informal

If you want to say sorry a little quicker, you can simply say desolé/e. This can be seen as a bit more informal or less of an intense apology, so just be careful when you use it. 

Désolé, j’ai oublié. 
(Sorry, I forgot.)

4. Je regrette — I am sorry

Usage: Another standard but less common apology

Je regrette is less common, but its use is similar to that of je suis désolé/e.

Just as it looks and sounds, je regrette literally means “I regret,” but is generally translated and used as “I am sorry.”

You may also employ de and an infinitive verb or que and an independent clause with a subjunctive verb, as with je suis désolé/e.

Je regrette de vous téléphoner si tard. 
(I am sorry to call you this late.)

Je regrette que le poulet soit un peu brûlé. 
(I am sorry that the chicken is a little burnt.)

5. Je suis au regret de vous informer  — I regret to inform you

Usage: Reserved for formal or professional settings

This one’s a bit more formal and you probably wouldn’t use it for something casual. You’d probably hear this more in a professional setting.

Je suis au regret de vous informer que je ne peux pas aller à la conférence. 
(I regret to inform you that I can’t go to the conference.)

6. Pardon  — Pardon

Usage: The quick apology

This one is quite similar to its English counterpart. It stands alone and is most commonly used to ask someone to repeat what they said or as a simple apology upon bumping into someone.

Pardon, j’ai trébuché. 
(Sorry, I tripped.)

7. Pardonnez-moi  — Forgive me

Informal version: Pardonne-moi
Alternative for standard apologies

You can issue a stronger apology by employing this phrase that’s closely related to pardon. The informal version uses the tu form while the formal version uses the vous form.

Pardonnez-moi. C’était un accident.
(Forgive me. It was an accident.)

8. Excusez-moi — Excuse me

Informal version: Excuse-moi
Getting someone’s attention

Excusez-moi also has a similar function as pardon: asking for clarification, getting onto a crowded métro train, etc.

Excusez-moi. Qu’est-ce que vous avez dit ? 
(Excuse me. What did you say?)

Although this term is more likely to come up in a formal situation, keep in mind that you can also use the informal version of this phrase (taken from the tu conjugated form of excuser).

9. Excusez-moi de vous déranger  — Excuse me for bothering you

Usage: Extra polite way of getting someone’s attention

French culture tends to be formal. Thus, opening a conversation with excusez-moi de vous déranger is a polite way to ask for help.

Starting with such a show of respect can make someone more willing to give you directions or answer a question.

Excusez-moi de vous déranger. Savez-vous où se trouve la boulangerie ? 
(Sorry to bother you. Do you know where the bakery is?)

10. Je m’excuse  — I apologize

Usage: To apologize for minor mistakes or offenses

This one is a bit funky as it literally means “I excuse myself.” For this reason, it’s not as commonly used as other ways to apologize, but it’s good to know. 

Je m’excuse d’être en retard. 
(I apologize for being late.)

11. C’est (de) ma faute — It’s my fault

Usage: To take responsibility

If you wish to emphasize your sincerity, you could go a step further than désolé/e and confess that you did indeed do something wrong with c’est ma faute or c’est de ma faute. The former version is technically correct but the latter is very common.

This could be a good component of a longer apology or explanation, the kind you might give upon offending a friend.

C’est (de) ma faute. C’était moi qui a pris ton parapluie. Je ne savais pas que c’était à toi. 
(It’s my fault. It was me who took your umbrella. I didn’t know it was yours.)

Similarly, you could use this phrase if you’re discussing a past offense:

C’était (de) ma faute.
(It was my fault.)

12. Veuillez nous excuser — Please excuse us

Usage: Text-based professional apology

This one is more for comprehension than for usage, as it’s very formal and rarely said aloud.

It’s most often used in a business or professional context, such as in a letter from a company or on a sign at a store.

Veuillez nous excuser pour cette erreur. 
(Please excuse us for this error.)

13. Mes condoléances  — My condolences

Usage: The somber apology

As with English, you would really only use this in somber situations, when someone has lost someone or something.

Mes condoléances pour la mort de votre père. 
(My condolences on your father’s death.)

14. Je voudrais m’excuser  — I would like to apologize

Usage: The unexpected apology

Use this if you need to tell someone that you want to apologize for something and they may not be expecting it.

Je voudrais m’excuser pour l’autre jour. 
(I would like to apologize for the other day.)

15. J’ai fait une erreur  — I made a mistake

Usage: Another phrase to show accountability

To acknowledge that you made a mistake and take responsibility for it, you can use this phrase.

Je suis désolé, j’ai fait une erreur. 
(I’m sorry, I made a mistake.)

16. Mes excuses  — My apologies

Usage: Various situations

Use this phrase as you would in English. 

Mes excuses, ça ne se reproduira plus. 
(My apologies, it won’t happen again.)


Now that you have 16 more ways to apologize in French, you’ll be on your way to building better relationships and fitting in with French manners!

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