In Spanish, there are several ways to apologize and show sorrow or regret. Being polite es muy importante (is very important) in Spanish-speaking cultures and, of course, they have different ways to express how sorry we are, including Disculpa (Excuse me) —if you are trying to get the restaurant’s menu from your mesero (waiter)— and Lo lamento mucho (I’m deeply sorry) —if it is a more serious matter. But let’s see some vocabulary first…
- Disculpa or Disculpe (Excuse me)
- Lo siento or Lo lamento (I’m sorry)
- Perdón or Perdóname (My apologies)
- Con permiso (Excuse me)
As you might have noticed by now, apologizing in English and Spanish is very similar: in both languages we apologize when being polite or if we did something wrong, and we also express sorrow in difficult times, like the loss of a beloved one.
Still, the biggest difference is that, in English, saying “I’m sorry” or “Sorry” seems to be used in almost every situation, but in Spanish there is a broader selection of disculpas (apologies). Veamos cómo usarlas (let’s see how to use them)…
Disculpa or Disculpe = Excuse me
Let’s say that you bump into someone while walking on the street, so you say “disculpe”. Similarly, if you need to know the time, you may say: “Disculpe, ¿qué hora es?” (Excuse me, what time is it?) — Remember the word changes if we are using tú (informal you) o usted (formal you).
Lo siento or Lo lamento = I’m sorry
These phrases allow us to express sadness regarding something that is not our fault, but about which we are sorry.
Por ejemplo (for example), if your sister asks you to bring tacos for dinner and you are on a strict diet, then you might say: “No hay tacos hoy, lo siento” (No tacos today, I’m sorry) — Los días sin tacos son días tristes (Days without tacos are sad days).
Perdón or perdóname = sorry
These words allow us to say that we are sorry for something that we might have done or that is wrong, but that is not that bad… Veamos (let’s see):
- Perdón, ¡se me olvidó comprar las tortillas! (Sorry! I forgot to buy the tortillas!) 😅
- Perdón por haber llegado tarde (Sorry for being late) 😅
Nota importante (importante note): if a Mexican mom replies “¿Perdón?” to something you are saying, stop right there and run as far as possible… that’s not a good sign…
Con permiso = Excuse me
If you are in a crowded place and you need to make your way, you may say: “Con permiso” (Excuse me).
You may also use it when interrupting a conversation: “Con permiso, ¿podría hablarte en privado?” (Excuse me, may we speak privately?)
Speaking about forgiveness
There will be times when we really need to be serious and ask for forgiveness or to grant it or not. Para estas ocasiones (for this occasions), Spanish-speakers would normally say: “¿Me perdonas? (Would you forgive me?), or “Perdóname, por favor” (Please forgive me).
Whether or not to forgive someone is definitely your call; if you do, the answer is: “Te perdono” (I forgive you) or “Acepto tu disculpa” (I accept your apology).
- ¿Me perdonas por haberte gritado? (Can you forgive me for yelling at you?)
- No debí haber usado tu coche. ¿Me perdonas? (I shouldn’t have used your car. Would you forgive me?)
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¡Muy bien! Now you know how apologize in Spanish! If you want to learn more, remember that we have a whole series of Spanish beginner videos, so feel free to check out the other videos on our channel!
Now, if you're ready to take it a step further and get serious about learning Spanish, we have a free Spanish training on our website where you'll discover the method we use in our Spring Spanish Academy to teach students to speak fluent Spanish. You also get some free sample Spanish lessons there that come straight from our Academy!