“Better to be safe than sorry”, it’s said. And it’s true: the best advice is to be careful with others. But we’re human, and that means that we make mistakes. At least once a day —well, a few more if you’re a little bit clumsy—, we’re in a situation that requires us to ask for an apology.
In that case, in English, we usually say “I’m sorry”. But it can be more complicated in other languages. There are a few ways to say I’m sorry in Spanish, each one with its little twist. They may seem difficult to master, but don’t worry: you’ve come to the right place! In this article, you’re going to learn the 6 best ways to say sorry in Spanish.
Sorry in Spanish at a Glance
All the Ways to Say Sorry in Spanish
Among all the ways of saying sorry in Spanish, Lo siento may be the one that is the closest equivalent to the English expression. The word comes from the verb sentir, which means to feel. Lo siento literally means “I feel it”. So it is a way of showing someone you empathize with them.
But, the thing is, you can’t use lo siento in every situation. It’s a little bit format and a little uptight. You only use lo siento in very particular circumstances, like when you’re really, really sorry, or when something bad happened. So it’s not an expression you throw around like every time you bump into someone in the subway! It’s reserved for more important things.
Let’s see it in action:
María: Mi madre está internada en el hospital.
José: Lo siento mucho. Ojalá se recupere pronto.
María: My mother is in the hospital.
José: I’m really sorry. I hope she gets well soon
Perdón might sound a bit like pardon but doesn’t easily translate into English. It means both “Forgiveness” and “I’m sorry” at the same time. When you ask someone for forgiveness, in Spanish, you say Perdóname (literally, “Forgive me”). It translates to something like “Give me your pardon, please”. But for brevity, it is often shortened to simply perdón.
It’s often used if you’re walking on a busy street and bump into someone or even when you’re trying to get a waiter’s attention in a restaurant. In this sense, it’s similar to the way you use “excuse me” in English.
María: ¡Me pisaste el pie!
José: ¡Perdón! No me di cuenta.
María: You stepped on my foot!
José: I’m sorry! I didn’t realise.
Of course, Perdón is not always just to get out of fast, awkward situations. You can also use it in an important conversation, and it will work wonderfully. It’ll look something like this:
María: No me gustó nada lo que dijiste.
José: Perdón, realmente no quería ofenderte.
María: I didn’t like what you said.
José: I’m sorry. I didn’t want to hurt you.
PermítamePermítame has a very specific purpose. It is used in the same way you would use excuse me, allow me, or let me, in a very polite context. It announces something that you’re going to do immediately after saying it.
Permítame, señora, tengo que confirmar su pedido.
Excuse me, ma’am, I need to confirm your order
You should say Permítame in a formal context, and Permíteme in an informal one. It’s the difference between the formal second person (usted) and the informal one (tú/vos).
Mi más sentido pésame
In English, when someone is grieving, we usually say something like “My condolences” or “I’m sorry for your loss”. To express this in Spanish you could say mi más sentido pésame , which means “my deepest condolences”. In Spanish there are many ways of saying this. Here are a few other options:
- Mis sentidas condolencias.
- Lamento mucho esta gran pérdida.
- Te acompaño en el sentimiento.
- My deepest condolences.
- I’m deeply sorry for this great loss.
- My deepest sympathy.
Con permiso works a lot like “Excuse me”. This is a phrase is very important for proper etiquette and is one you’ll use often – especially those with strangers. It’s used to help get through a crowd without appearing rude or if you need to reach across someone to get some salt at the end of a table.
You can say con permiso, which is the full phrase, or you may use the short version: permiso. In the right context, they have exactly the same meaning and can be used interchangeably.
María: Permiso, voy a servirme más ensalada.
José: No hay problema.
María: Excuse me, I’m going to grab more salad.
José: No problem.
Disculpa is probably the softest, kindest way of saying “I’m sorry” in Spanish. It’s a very polite expression and has a lot of variants. It means something like “Sorry to bother you” or “Excuse me”, but in many scenarios is interchangeable with Perdón.
If you interrupt a conversation, you can say Disculpa; if you accidentally step on someone, you can say Disculpa; if you want to excuse yourself, you can also say Disculpa. As you can see, it’s a very useful expression and is very polyvalent.
Disculpas used in plural form can be used to mean regrets in Spanish in a formal context.
You might have embarrassed yourself and want to apologize. You may find our article about 5 ways to say embarrassed in Spanish useful!
Conjugating Disculpa to say Sorry
There are a lot of different ways of saying Disculpa. Disculpar is a verb, so you can conjugate it; and in Spanish, you can also add pronouns to verbs ( discúlpame ), making them longer and more flexible.
In this particular case, Disculpa will always be conjugated in the second person since you’ll be asking someone else for forgiveness. It should also be conjugated into singular or plural pronoun depending on whether you’re talking to one person or a group of people.
Note: vos and vostoros are only used in select regions and most Spanish-speaking countries only use tú, usted, and ustedes but we are including it here so you can get the complete picture.
Take a look at the table to see a full list of the conjugations.
|Tú = you (singular informal)||Disculpa or Discúlpame|
|Vos = you (singular informal – regional)||Disculpá or Disculpame|
|Usted = you (singular formal)||Disculpe or Discúlpeme|
|Vosotros = you (plural informal – regional)||Disculpad or Disculpadme|
|Ustedes = you (plural formal and informal)||Disculpen or Discúlpenme|
This may seem a little complicated, but after a few conversations, you’ll make it almost automatic. Believe us: we’ll show you a few examples and it will look easier. Here’s a small conversation with Disculpa:
María: Ayer fue el cumpleaños de Marian.
José: Disculpa, pero ¿quién es Mariana?
María: ¡Mi hermana!
María: Yesterday it was Mariana’s birthday.
José: I’m sorry, but… who is Mariana?
María: My sister!
And here you can see Disculpe in use:
María: Disculpe la interrupción, señor. Solo quería decirle que su trabajo me gusta muchísimo.
José: No se preocupe, joven. ¡Muchas gracias!¡
María: I’m sorry to interrupt, sir. I just wanted to say that I’m a big fan of your work.
José: Don’t worry, young man. Thank you!
So you now have what you needed: three different, basic ways of saying sorry in Spanish. The formal Lo siento; the fast and polyvalent Perdón; and the flexible, multiform Disculpa. You know your way around. With this article, and a few practice conversations, you’ll soon be ready to ask for forgiveness with ease! You’ll be able to excuse yourself in almost every situation, like a native speaker. Just hope you don’t need too!