They say that sorry seems to be the hardest word. But is it, really?
For some of us, apologizing can be a little bit of a punch to our egos.
But have you ever considered it is not about us, but the other person?
When we are in an environment where people talk our native language, we tend to be more open and more polite. If we feel that we have done something wrong, we apologize right away.
However, when we are in a foreign country or having a conversation in Spanish, we may feel blocked or embarrassed and decide to stay silent.
Do not stay silent! Just say sorry… in Spanish!
Apologizing not only makes you feel better about yourself, but can also make the other person feel good.
Besides, if you say it in Spanish, you will also be practicing your language skills.
And every situation is a good one to practice a language, don’t you think?
You might think that learning how to say sorry in Spanish is too easy to devote a whole post to it.
You are right. But you are also wrong.
Granted, the art of saying sorry in Spanish does not take a lot of time to learn. However, there may be a couple of details here and there that will make you go crazy, especially when dealing with the subjunctive.
Surprise! Yes, I said subjunctive. Everyone’s favorite Spanish tense!
This post will make it easy to say sorry in Spanish, in many different ways and situations.
But before we get down to brass tacks, let’s first see if there are any differences between the way Americans and Spanish people apologize.
How American and Spanish People Say Sorry
Despite what you might think, American and Spanish people apologize in very similar ways.
Both cultures apologize if they think they have done something wrong, and they both offer their condolences in sorrowful times like the death of a loved one.
There is a main difference, though, but it is not related to the reasons we apologize but to the way we use our words. English has different ways of apologizing, but there is one expression that seems like the perfect joker and can be used in almost any situation: “I’m sorry.”
As you will see later, Spanish has no such one-size-fits-all and uses different expressions depending on the context.
Besides that, Spanish likes to spice things up and dance between the indicative and the subjunctive when necessary. We may not have a super expression, but we know how to build tension and complicate the lives of foreigners (just kidding!).
This post covers the main ways of apologizing and saying sorry in Spanish. I have divided it into verbs and expressions. Each verb includes a translation, an explanation about how to conjugate it and the context in which you would use it. As usual, I have added examples so that you can clearly see how each verb works in context.
Have fun and remember never to be too proud to apologize (no ser nunca demasiado orgulloso para pedir disculpas).
How to Say Sorry in Spanish and Master the Art of Apologizing
3 Verbs for Saying Sorry in Spanish
1. Perdonar (To forgive)
Perdonar is probably the verb we use most often in Spanish to say sorry. It is conjugated depending on the person you are talking to, and it is part of different expressions.
How to use it:
Perdonar has different forms depending on the person who is talking and the person you are talking to. Here are its four main forms:
Perdona (lit. Forgive [me]) — Use this form when talking to friends or family. Even though it is the imperative form of tú, it is actually polite and is not a command at all.
Perdone (lit. Forgive [me]) — Use this when talking to a superior or to a person you do not know. Perdone is the imperative of usted (you [formal]), which, as you may remember, looks exactly like the third person of the present subjunctive.
Perdón (lit. Forgiveness) — A very neutral form that can be used in almost every context. It is actually a noun.
Perdón/a/e por… (Sorry for…) — Followed by an infinitive, this one is widely used when you want to give the reason for apologizing.
When to use it:
Use any of the variations of perdonar when you want to apologize for doing something that is wrong but not too bad.
Perdonar in this context is very neutral, and it is mainly used in everyday situations for minor things:
Perdona por llegar tarde. (Sorry for being late.)
Perdón. No lo había visto. (Sorry, I hadn’t seen you.)
Also use perdona, perdone and perdón when you want to get someone’s attention or need someone to repeat something:
Perdone, ¿sabe donde está la calle Málaga? (Excuse me, do you know where Málaga Street is?)
Perdona, ¿puedes repetir eso? (Sorry, can you repeat that?)
2. Sentir (To feel)
Sentir is a very common verb used to ask for forgiveness, express remorse or make other people feel we understand what they are going through.
How to use it:
There are different ways of using sentir, the most common ones being:
Lo siento (lit. I feel it) — Possibly the most common way of saying sorry in Spanish alongside perdón.
Lo siento mucho/muchísimo (lit. I feel it a lot) — This is used if you have a guilty conscience or something bad has happened to another person.
Siento (mucho)… (lit. I feel [a lot]…) — Normally followed by lo, que, a noun or an infinitive, this version is used if we want to add more information to the sentence.
When to use it:
Use lo siento when you want to apologize for something bad you have done. It does not have to be a big thing, but using lo siento over perdón/a makes the apology a bit stronger.
You can also use this expression when you are sorry that another person is going through something bad (for example, if a relative has died):
Lo siento. No lo volveré a hacer. (I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.)
Oí que se quemó tu casa. Lo siento. (I heard your house burned down. I’m sorry.)
Use lo siento mucho/muchísimo when you have done something really bad, or you are deeply, truly sorry about what you have done. You can also use it when you feel very sorry for someone or want to offer your condolences.
Lo siento mucho. Por favor, no te vayas. (I’m very sorry. Please, don’t go.)
Ana me dijo que tu padre ha muerto. Lo siento muchísimo. (Ana told me your father has died. I’m deeply sorry.)
Finally, use siento (mucho) in the following situations:
Siento (mucho) lo… — This expression will normally be followed by something along the lines of …de + relative. The expression lo de is quite difficult to translate, but it means something like “that (thing) about.”
Adding a relative (brother, sister, mother, father, etc…) normally means a death or an accident:
Siento mucho lo de tu padre. (I’m very sorry about your father[‘s death/accident].)
It can also be used when you feel sorry about what has happened in general:
Siento mucho lo ocurrido. (I’m very sorry about what’s happened.)
Siento (mucho) que… — Use this expression when you are sorry about a general situation. Que is normally followed by a second subject, so the subjunctive is needed:
Siento mucho que tengas que irte. (I’m very sorry you have to go.)
Siento que hayáis llegado tan tarde. (I’m sorry you’ve arrived so late.)
Siento (mucho) + noun — Use this in order to apologize for something specific:
Siento mucho el retraso. (I’m very sorry for being late.)
Siento el ruido. (Sorry for the noise.)
If you use the noun pérdida (loss), you are offering your condolences:
Siento mucho la pérdida de tu madre. (I’m so sorry for the loss of your mother.)
Siento (mucho) + infinitive — Use this when you want to apologize for something specific but you want to use a verb instead of a noun:
Siento llegar tarde. (Sorry for being late.)
Siento hacer tanto ruido. (Sorry for making so much noise.)
3. Disculpar (To excuse, to forgive)
This is the third most commonly used verb for apologizing. It is also used to attract someone’s attention and is conjugated depending on the person you are talking to.
All in all, it can be considered like a sibling of perdonar.
How to use it:
Disculpar has three main forms:
Disculpa (lit. Excuse/forgive [me]) — Use this form when talking to friends or family.
Disculpe (lit. Excuse/forgive [me]) — Use this one when speaking to a superior or to a person you do not know.
Disculpa/e + noun (Excuse me for… / sorry for…) — This is mainly used when you want to give the reason why you are apologizing.
When to use it:
Use any of the variations of disculpar when you want to apologize for doing something wrong. Disculpar is more formal than perdonar in this context:
Disculpa, no te había oído. (Sorry, I hadn’t heard you.)
Disculpe, no sabía que estaba esperando. (I’m sorry, I didn’t know you were waiting.)
Also use disculpa and disculpe when you want to get someone’s attention or need someone to repeat something:
Disculpe, ¿sabe donde está el banco? (Excuse me, do you know where the bank is?)
Disculpa, ¿puedes repetir eso? (Sorry, can you repeat that?)
Expressions to Say Sorry in Spanish
Apart from these three main verbs, there are other ways to apologize, say sorry and express your sympathies for another person. These expressions may not be used as often, but they can come in handy occasionally:
4. Arrepentirse (To regret)
This is a very straightforward verb that is used to say that you regret what you have done. It is a reflexive verb and you usually use it in the first person singular and plural:
Me arrepiento de lo que he hecho. (I regret what I’ve done.)
Nos arrepentimos de decir eso. (We regret saying that.)
5. Lamentar (To regret / To mourn)
This is a very formal verb used only when you are deeply sorry for having done something or you want to offer your condolences:
Lamento muchísimo lo ocurrido. (I’m deeply sorry for what’s happened.)
Lamento la pérdida de tu hermana. (I’m very sorry for the loss of your sister.)
6. Compadecer (To pity / To sympathize)
This very formal verb is used when you feel sorry about another person for whatever reason:
Te compadezco. (I sympathize with you / I feel sorry for you [informal].)
Lo compadezco. (I sympathize with you / I feel sorry for you [formal].)
7. Mi más sentido pésame (Lit. My most felt condolence) / Te/Le acompaño en el sentimiento (Lit. I accompany you in the feeling)
These two expressions are only used when offering our deepest condolences to someone, and they are invariable.
The only change we can observe is the te/le dichotomy: Use te with friends and family and le with superiors or less familiar people.
8. Permíteme / Permítame / Con permiso (Let me / With permission)
Translating these three expressions literally may leave us completely puzzled if we do not know Spanish.
We use them with the meaning of a simple “excuse me.”
For example, when we need to squeeze past someone on a crowded sidewalk, we ask for “permission” to do so. In other words, this is a way of saying “sorry for disturbing you”:
Permítame pasar. (Let me get through [formal].)
Con permiso. (Excuse me [I need to go through].)
And that is all for today, kids! As you can see, learning how to say sorry in Spanish is not a complicated task if you follow a couple of conjugation and formal/informal rules. You can learn these words and expressions in one sitting and be ready to apologize to the world if need be.
As I said at the beginning, sorry might be the hardest word, not because it is difficult to memorize but because of pride! So set your ego aside and be the best at the art of saying sorry in Spanish.
See you in the next one. Stay curious, and happy learning!
Francisco J. Vare loves teaching and writing about grammar. He’s a proud language nerd, and you’ll normally find him learning languages, teaching students or reading. He’s been writing for FluentU for many years and is one of their staff writers.