59 fitting ways to say sorry in German, depending on the situation

Marie Schmoll

When you’re learning German or any other language and interacting with native speakers, little mistakes and blunders come with the territory.

You might butcher someone’s name, use the wrong pronoun or do something that might be considered rude in the respective culture - but don’t worry. There’s a simple fix for all of these little faux pas.

Whether you need to say “I’m sorry” (Es tut mir Leid) or “Excuse me” (Entschuldigung), we’ll teach you all the ways you can apologize in German and give you some ideas on how to make up for your mistakes just in case a simple sorry isn’t enough.

How to say I’m sorry in German

How sorry you are depends on the gravity of the situation. Did you just step on someone’s foot, or do you have to lay off an employee? We’ll explain all the nuances of how to say sorry in German.

A simple sorry

It happens all the time: We bump into a stranger on the street or accidentally brush someone’s hand reaching for the sugar at the same time. A simple sorry is enough to acknowledge the mistake. In German, you can say “Entschuldigung” or use the more informal abbreviation “‘Tschuldigung”. The English word “Sorry” works, too. You’ll hear it a lot, especially among younger people.

Taking responsibility

If you actually did something wrong, like mailing the wrong documents at work or breaking your friend’s favorite vase, a cool “sorry” won’t do. You’ll need to make it a whole sentence and say “Das tut mir so Leid” (I’m so sorry) or “Entschuldige bitte” (Please excuse me). Maybe add “Das war keine Absicht” (That wasn’t on purpose) to stress that you meant no harm.

Offering sympathies

When someone receives bad news or is suffering because of some unforeseen circumstances, you can express your sympathy with an honest “Das tut mir wirklich Leid für dich” (I’m truly sorry for you).

To express your condolences after someone passed away, you say “Mein herzliches Beileid” (My deepest condolences).

How to say sorry to someone you have hurt

When you want to apologize, a language barrier can add some extra difficulty to the situation, but by going out of your way and saying it in the other person’s language, you’ll show that you’re making a real effort. That way, your apology is even more meaningful.

Woman saying sorry to her friend in German.

English German IPA
I’m truly sorry Es tut mir ehrlich Leid [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ e:ɐ̯lɪç laɪ̯t]
I’m really sorry Es tut mir wirklich Leid [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ vɪɐ̯klɪç laɪ̯t]
I’m very sorry Es tut mir sehr Leid [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ ze:ɐ laɪ̯t]
I feel terrible, I’m so sorry. Ich fühl mich furchtbar, es tut mir so Leid [ɪç fy:l mɪç fʊɐ̯çtba:ɐ̯ ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ zo: laɪ̯t]
I’m so sorry, that was thoughtless of me Es tut mir so Leid, ich habe nicht nachgedacht [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ zo: laɪ̯t ɪç ha:bə nɪçt na:xgədaxt]
I’m sorry that I hurt you Es tut mir Leid, dass ich dich verletzt habe [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das ɪç dɪç fɛɐ̯lɛt͡st ha:bə]
I’m very sorry for the way I behaved Es tut mir sehr Leid, wie ich mich verhalten habe [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ ze:ɐ laɪ̯t vi: ɪç mɪç fɛɐ̯haltən ha:bə]
That was wrong of me Das war falsch von mir [das va:ɐ̯ falʃ fɔn mi:ɐ̯]
I apologize Ich entschuldige mich [ɪç ɛntʃʊldɪgə mɪç]
I was out of line Das stand mir nicht zu [das ʃtant mi:ɐ̯ nɪçt t͡su:]

How to say you’re sorry when something bad has happened to someone you care about

It’s hard to find the right words when something bad happens, but sometimes it’s enough just to acknowledge someone’s hurt. In German, there’s a saying: “Geteiltes Leid ist halbes Leid”. It means “Shared pain is only half the pain.”

English German IPA
I’m so sorry to hear that Es tut mir sehr Leid, das zu hören [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ ze:ɐ laɪ̯t das t͡su: hø:ʁən]
I’m so sorry for you Das tut mir so Leid für dich [das tu:t mi:ɐ̯ zo: laɪ̯t fy:ɐ̯ dɪç]
My deepest sympathies Mein herzliches Beileid [maɪ̯n hɛɐ̯t͡slɪçəs baɪ̯laɪ̯t]
My sincerest condolences Mein aufrichtiges Beileid [maɪ̯n aʊ̯fʁɪçtɪgəs baɪ̯laɪ̯t]
I’m sorry that happened to you Es tut mir Leid, dass dir das passiert ist [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das di:ɐ̯ das pasi:ɐ̯t ɪst]
I’m sorry you’re going through this Es tut mir Leid, dass du das durchmachen musst [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das du: das dʊɐ̯çmaxən mʊst]
Let me know how I can help you through this Sag mir, wenn ich dir irgendwie da durch helfen kann [zak mi:ɐ̯ vɛn ɪç di:ɐ̯ ɪɐ̯gəntvi: da: dʊɐ̯ç hɛlfən kan]
I’m always here to listen Ich habe immer ein offenes Ohr für dich [ɪç ha:bə ɪmɐ aɪ̯n ɔfənəs o:ɐ̯ fy:ɐ̯ dɪç]

How to apologize when you bump into someone by accident or you want to get past someone blocking the way

German trains can get very crowded and sometimes people don’t realize this is your stop and they’re blocking your way. Waving and pushing will get you out of there, too, but here are some more polite ways to get someone’s attention.

Woman saying sorry in German after bumping into someone.

English German IPA
Excuse me, please Entschuldigung, bitte [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ bɪtə]
‘Scuse me ‘Tschuldigung [tʃʊldɪgʊŋ]
Sorry, can I get by? Entschuldigung, darf ich mal durch? [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ daɐ̯f ɪç ma:l dʊɐ̯ç]
May I? Dürfte ich? [dʏɐ̯ftə ɪç]
Careful! Vorsicht! [fo:ɐ̯zɪçt]
Watch out! Achtung! [axtʊŋ]

How to apologize when you need to ask someone to repeat something

You probably already had to say “pardon me” in a German conversation. It happens all the time when you’re learning a new language. You can’t make out a word you don’t know, or the native speaker may pronounce it differently than you expected. Don’t be afraid to ask a third or fourth time!

Man saying sorry in German after having to ask for the person to repeat themselves.

English German IPA
Pardon? Entschuldigung? [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ]
Pardon? (very formal) Pardon? [paɐ̯dɑ̃]
Huh? (Colloquial) Häh? [hɛ:]
Excuse me? Wie bitte? [vi: bɪtə]
Sorry I didn’t hear that Entschuldigung, das habe ich nicht gehört [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ das ha:bə ɪç nɪçt gəhø:ɐ̯t]
Sorry I didn’t catch that Entschuldigung, das habe ich nicht verstanden [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ das ha:bə ɪç nɪçt fɛɐ̯ʃtandən]
Sorry, could you please repeat that? Entschuldigung, könntest du/könnten Sie das wiederholen? [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ kœntəst du / kœntən zi: das vi:dɐho:lən]
I’m sorry, I still didn’t get that Entschuldigung, ich habe es immer noch nicht verstanden [ɛntʃʊldɪgʊŋ ɪç ha:bə ɛs ɪmɐ nɔx nɪçt fɛɐ̯ʃtandən]
I beg your pardon Wie meinen? [vi: maɪ̯nən]

How to apologize when you have made a small mistake (that did not hurt anyone).

You butt-dialed your friend on the way to a party or wished your colleagues a good weekend when it’s only Wednesday? No biggie. Say “Hoppla” and move on.

English German IPA
It was my bad Das war mein Fehler [das va:ɐ̯ maɪ̯n fe:lɐ]
I was wrong Ich lag falsch [ɪç la:k falʃ]
I messed up Ich habe es verpatzt [ɪç ha:bə ɛs fɛɐ̯pat͡st]
I ruined it Ich habe es vermasselt [ɪç ha:bə ɛs fɛɐ̯ma:səlt]
I was wrong and I apologize Ich war im Unrecht und ich muss mich entschuldigen [ɪç va:ɐ̯ ɪm ʊnʁɛçt ʊnt ɪç mʊs mɪç ɛntʃʊldɪgən]
Sorry about that Das tut mir Leid [das tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t]
Whoops! Sorry! Ups! Sorry! [ʊps sɔʁi:]
Oops! Ups! [ʊps]
Yikes! Huch! [hu:x]
Upsadaisy! Hoppla! [hɔpla]

How to say sorry in a formal or business environment

At work you may need to formally apologize if you made a mistake. Here’s how you do it if your business partners or clients are German.

Woman apologizes to her colleague in German for the delay.

English German IPA
Sorry for the late reply Bitte entschuldigen Sie die verspätete Antwort [bɪtə ɛntʃʊldɪgən zi: di: fɛɐ̯ˈʃpɛːtətə ˈantvɔʁt]
Please forgive the delay Bitte entschuldigen Sie die Verzögerung [bɪtə ɛntʃʊldɪgən zi: di: fɛɐ̯t͡sø:gəʁʊŋ]
Please excuse our technical difficulties Bitte entschuldigen Sie unsere technischen Schwierigkeiten [bɪtə ɛntʃʊldɪgən zi: ʊnzəʁə tɛçnɪʃən ʃvi:ʁɪçkaɪ̯tən]
My apologies you didn’t receive the report you requested Es tut mir Leid, dass Sie den angeforderten Report noch nicht erhalten haben [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das zi: de:n angəfɔɐ̯dɐtən ʁɛpɔɐ̯t nɔx nɪçt ɛɐ̯haltən ha:bən]
I apologize for the confusion Ich entschuldige mich für die Verwirrung [ɪç ɛntʃʊldɪgə mɪç fy:ɐ̯ di: fɛɐ̯vɪʁʊŋ]
I’m sorry to bother you Tut mir Leid, dass ich störe [tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das ɪç ʃtø:ʁə]
Sorry I couldn’t attend the meeting Es tut mir Leid, dass ich nicht beim Meeting dabei sein konnte [ɛs tu:t mi:ɐ̯ laɪ̯t das ɪç nɪçt baɪ̯m me:tɪŋ dabaɪ̯ zaɪ̯n kɔntə]

How to ask for forgiveness

Asking for forgiveness is difficult even in your native language. If you need to ask for forgiveness in German, we’ll give you the right phrases. All you have to do is work up the courage to say them!

English German IPA
Can you forgive me? Kannst du mir vergeben? [kanst du: mi:ɐ̯ fərˈɡeːbən]
How can I make it up to you? Wie kann ich das wieder gut machen? [vi: kan ɪç das vi:dɐ gu:t maxən]
Sorry, I won’t do it again. Entschuldige, ich werd es nicht wieder tun [ɛntʃʊldɪgə ɪç ve:ɐ̯t ɛs nɪçt vi:dɐ tu:n]
Sorry, it won’t happen again Entschuldige, es wird nicht wieder vorkommen [ɛntʃʊldɪgə ɛs vɪɐ̯t nɪçt vi:dɐ fo:ɐ̯kɔmən]

How to express regret

You may not be able to take back what you said or did but you can always own up to it and offer an honest apology to the other person. That will make you both feel better.

English German IPA
I wish I could take it back Ich wünschte, ich könnte es zurücknehmen [ɪç vʏnʃtə ɪç kœntə ɛs t͡su:ʁʏkne:mən]
I wish I hadn’t done that Ich wünschte, ich hätte das nicht getan [ɪç vʏnʃtə ɪç hɛtə das nɪçt gəta:n]
I wish I could go back in time Ich wünschte, ich könnte die Zeit zurückdrehen [ɪç vʏnʃtə ɪç kœntə di: t͡saɪ̯t t͡su:ʁʏkdʁe:ɛ:ən]
Can we start all over again? Können wir nochmal von vorne anfangen? [kœnən vi:ɐ̯ nɔxma:l fɔn fo:ɐ̯nə anfaŋən]
Can we move on from this? Können wir das hinter uns lassen? [kœnən vi:ɐ̯ das hɪntɐ ʊns lasən]

How to make up for a mistake if sorry isn’t enough

Actions do speak louder than words. So if an honest apology isn’t enough, try a small gesture to emphasize your good intentions.

Man cooks pancakes for his partner to say sorry in German.

Cook for the person

Who can still be mad when they’re being surprised with their favorite meal? If you want to apologize to a friend or a loved one, grab or even cook a meal they’d enjoy and show them that you’re serious about making up for your mistake.

Keep in mind that Germans love veggies. Our delicious German veggie guide can offer some inspiration on what to make for them.

Write a letter

It can be hard to find the right words, especially in a foreign language. Sit down and take the time to say all the things you want to say. Explain your motives, and where you went wrong. Then take responsibility. This will show the other person that you’re serious about your apology.

The Feierabendbier

In many German offices, you’ll encounter the tradition of the “Feierabendbier” (post-work beer) - a beer you have with your colleagues after the workday is done. If you made a mistake at work that everyone suffered from, say you broke the printer or made everyone stay a little longer to help with your project, this is the right time to buy a round of Feierabendbierchen and make it up to your colleagues.

Sorry to see you go

Small mistakes are a part of life and especially common when you’re learning something new or finding yourself in a foreign culture, but now you know how to apologize and move on.

All that matters in the end is that you learn from your mistakes. In language learning as in life, the moment you realize what you did wrong, you can go find out how to make it right.

If you had had no regrets and aren’t sorry about learning free German vocabulary, keep up the fun ride on our learn German blog.

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