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Excuse Me in Spanish — Nine Ways that Aren’t Boring

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How to say “Excuse Me” in Spanish in every situation — without sounding stuffy or boring.

One of the most common things you have to learn how to say in any language is “Excuse Me”.

But like any common expression, a 1:1 translation isn’t useful without context. The way you say “excuse me” to someone depends on the situation: do you need attention? Do you need to get past on the subway? Did you bump into them? And are they older or younger than you (or the same age)?

One of the first expressions we learn in any beginner’s Spanish textbook is “lo siento”. But that phrase has limited used, which we’ll cover below. Basically, it’s only one form of “excuse me” in Spanish out of many.

Excuse me in Spanish spoken in a classroom

All this is why we have this article explaining all the different situations when you might say “excuse me”, and the translations in Spanish.

You might also like our Spanish learning resources for more of an introduction into Spanish language.

Excuse Me in Spanish — A Quick Overview of Culture

Spanish language culture — in different regions of Spain as well as in Latin America — always skews a bit more formal than Western, British-derived colonial culture in general.

The cultural difference is similar to what you might expect in parts of British or American culture, for example in the parts of the US where you might expect people to say “sir” or “ma’am” more often. But it’s more universal in Spain and Latin America.

This tendency towards formality means that it’s almost never “wrong” to use an usted conjugation — unless you’re speaking to a toddler, in which case it’s funny but not impolite or anything. It’s also never “wrong” to use a polite expression. At worst, you’ll come off as very polite — never strange.

That’s why there are so many ways of saying excuse me in Spanish that would sound more formal than in English. For example, at the dinner table, speaking English, I would never say “with your permission” to excuse myself unless I were joking around, or were dining with the Queen of England. But it’s totally natural to do so in Spanish.

See below for all the ways you can say excuse me in Spanish in a variety of contexts.

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Getting past someone in the subway/bus/street

  • Permiso

This is the very first situation we ever have to use “excuse me” in any country!

The word permiso literally means “permission”. But of course, you never say “permission” in English.

Sometimes it’s beforehand — in a plane, on the way to the destination, trying to get past someone to go to the bathroom.

Saying permiso gets you past anyone. It’s slightly informal to just say it as a word, so you can add a bit of politeness by saying con permiso, con su permiso, or permiso, por favor. None of these are too formal in any situation — politeness always is OK.

View over Barcelona in Spain
A view over Barelona in Catalunya, Spain, at sunset.

Getting up from the table

  • Con su permiso

If you need to excuse yourself from the table, whether it’s to make an early exit or to go to the bathroom, you just say con su permiso or con permiso.

Getting attention from a server or attendant, or someone on the street

  • Disculpe/disculpa
  • Perdone/perdona
  • Señor/Señora

This is one of those phrases we use most often. I thought disculpe sounded stuffy and formal, but it works fine.

If it’s someone young (or your age, or you’re both young), you can use the tu conjugations: disculpa or perdona.

Don’t say oye, it’s super informal.

Apologising (e.g. for bumping into someone)

  • Perdón
  • Perdóneme

This is a great expression for all the many times you may bump into someone or accidentally touch them. Since we often apologise to strangers, we opt for the usted conjugation — perdóneme.

Add a little flavour with a good Spanish exclamation. ¡Uy, perdóneme!

I’m so sorry!

  • Lo siento (mucho)!

Lo siento is your standard way of saying “I’m sorry” in Spanish.

But you should know that saying lo siento is a little stronger than “I’m sorry” in terms of feeling. It literally means “I feel”, if that’s a guide. Saying lo siento roughly translates in intensity to “I apologise!” or “My apologies!” in English.

So you say lo siento in situations where you’ve offended someone, or maybe if someone’s dog has died or they’re having a hard time because a family member is sick.

May I?

  • Permítame

This is an expression someone would use to say “excuse me” in Spanish but meaning “let me have a look at that for a second”.

For example if someone wants to show you something on a map, on a phone, or in a book, they would say permítame before taking it from you.

This is the formal conjugation for permitir, with me on the end. It literally means “permit me” or “allow me”.

I don’t think that’s right…

  • Un momento…
  • Espere…

Use these phrases when someone is making a wild accusation and you want to politely tell them they’re wrong.

Literally un momento means “one moment” (if you didn’t guess that) and espere means “wait”. You can also say “espera” if it’s an informal conversation.

They’re the equivlent of in English saying “Excuse me a moment” when you’re going to follow on with “I don’t think that’s right…”

I beg your pardon? (if you didn’t hear/understand)

  • ¿Perdón?
  • ¿Cómo?
  • ¿Cómo fue?

Often in English we say “excuse me” to indicate we didn’t understand something and want the other person to repeat themselves.

We say excuse me in Spanish in this way by saying one of the three options above. Of the three, I have heard ¿cómo? the most, but that’s just my experience.

Sorry to bother you, but…

  • Me apena molestarte de nuevo pero …
  • Lamento incomodarte nuevamente pero …
  • Perdone, no quiero molestarte, pero…

Finally, one last way of saying excuse me in Spanish is to use the forms me apena or lamento.

These are roughly like “I regret” or “I’m sorry to”, as in “I’m sorry to bother you…”

I personally find these a little too intense for day-to-day use. I might use something more like “Perdone, no quiero molestarte, pero…”, which I included above.


Hope these were useful. If there’s something more you want to learn, contact us and let us know!

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