How to apologize in German

How to apologize in German

When studying a foreign language, it should be part of the necessary skills to know how to apologize correctly. This is especially important because when you just start to study a new language, you will often need to excuse yourself for not understanding what is spoken or not knowing a required word. This article offers you all the vocabulary required to apologize in German.


Apologize in German

Most of the languages which we speak today know several possibilities to apologize, and German is no exception here. Therefore, I will explain the meaning and usage of the most used options in the following.


The classic “Entschuldigung”!

The word “Entschuldigung” literally means to get rid of the “guilt,” and it is the German equivalent to the English “Excuse me”. One can use it when you wish to call somebody’s attention because you want to ask something or if you bump into somebody and want to have a little excuse.

There are three different versions:

Entschuldigung! – Excuse me! (unspecific and therefore seen more or less neutral)

Entschuldigen Sie! – Excuse me! (formal)

Entschuldige! – Excuse me! (casual)

In Addition, you can also use the according to the reflexive verb “sich entschuldigen für (Accusative)/ bei (Dative) as for instance: “Ich entschuldige mich bei dir dafür, dass ich zu spät gekommen bin.” (I apologize to you for being late.)


Excuse with “Verzeihung”

In German, we use the noun “Verzeihung”, to excuse quickly for something. For instance, if you want somebody to go by side so you can pass by or if you would like to ask something but need to draw attention to yourself first. The English translation is forgiveness or pardon. Often, you will also hear people say, “Verzeihung, bitte!”. In general, it is less used when we would like to ask for forgiveness because we misbehaved. If you want to do so, use versions with “Entschulding” above or the next possibility following this paragraph.

Besides, also this noun has a suitable verb, which is “(jemandem etwas) verzeihen” which means to forgive somebody for something. As well as in English, people use this verb not too often. However, if you would like to use it, you should do it like this: “Ich verzeihe dir für dein Verhalten.” (I forgive you for your behavior.)


 Apologize in German with “leid tun”

Another possibility to apologize in German is the construction with “leid tun” as in “Das / es tut mir leid”. Literally, “Leid” means misery or suffering, and tun is a verb with a similar meaning like “machen” (to do). However, do not use the verb “tun” as a synonym for “machen” because, in modern German, we barely use tun, but it instead is part of many phrases like in “leid tun”. This means that “das tut mir leid” literally means “that does suffering to me” and while this sounds very dramatic, one can simply translate it to the “I am sorry in English”.

There is a little difference between these two options. If you decide to excuse for something specific as the broken glass, you should use “das” (that). If you want to say sorry for a more significant problem and many aspects you should use “es” (it)


The usage of sorry

As languages develop and the globalization makes more and more people speak English, we also use the English “sorry” in German. However, it is more the younger people that like to use this possibility, and most likely, the older people will prefer if you use the original German versions above.


I hope that you understood how to apologize in German for the next time that you will need it correctly. If you have any suggestions for topics that you would like me to cover, simply drop me a message or write a comment.

Bis bald!



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