Sorry, Not Sorry: Different Ways to Apologize in Korean

Grover Laughton10 min
Creado: Dec 27, 2023Última actualización: Apr 2, 2024
How To Say Sorry in Korean

The ability to apologize and accept the apology is vital for anyone, regardless of the language they speak. However, it is also important to know how to say sorry in Korean or any other language you’re learning, because this way, it will be much easier for you to communicate with locals and native speakers. 

In today’s article, you’ll explore the most common phrases you can use to apologize in Korean based on their formality level and other factors. So, without further ado, let’s dive into it!

I’m Sorry in Korean: Formal Phrases

Honorifics play a crucial role in Korean communication. They determine which word or phrase to choose, depending on the formality level and the relationship you have with the person you’re communicating with. These principles also affect the ways to say sorry in Korean. Here are a few ways to apologize in formal circumstances.

  • 죄송합니다 – [tɕwɛsoŋɑmnidɑ] – I’m sorry.

It is a highly formal phrase used in professional settings or when addressing superiors, expressing sincere regret or apology. It is one of the most commonly used expressions. For example:

죄송합니다, 오해하지 마세요. (I’m sorry; please don’t get me wrong.)

  • 죄송해요 – [tɕwɛsoŋɛjo] – I’m sorry.

This is a short, polite apology suitable for professional settings and communication with elders, expressing regret or acknowledging fault. It is a slightly less formal way to say sorry in the Korean language than the previous one, but it is still acceptable in most situations. For example:

제가 실수를 해서 죄송해요. (I made a mistake, I’m sorry.)

  • 미안합니다 – [miɑnɑmnidɑ] – I’m sorry.

It is another formal and respectful apology in Korean. It is used in various formal settings or when communicating with people you want to show respect to. For example:

제 잘못입니다. 미안합니다. (It’s my fault. I’m sorry.)

  • 잘못했습니다 – [tɕɑlmotɛttɯmnitɑ] – I was wrong/I made a mistake.

This phrase is a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing. It works for professional or any other formal situations where you need to accept your mistakes. For example:

이런 결정은 잘못했습니다. (I made a mistake with this decision.)

  • 실례합니다 – [silljɛɑmnidɑ] – Excuse me/I’m sorry.

This is another popular Korean word for sorry, used to apologize for an intrusion or inconvenience in formal or polite settings. For example:

실례합니다, 선생님 저 좀 도와주실래요? (Excuse me, sir, can you help me?)

  • 용서해 주세요 – [joŋsʌɛ dʑusɛjo] – Please forgive me.

This phrase is a formal request for forgiveness. It is also suitable in professional settings when talking to superiors, elders, or other people you respect. For example:

제 잘못입니다, 용서해 주세요. (It’s my fault, please forgive me.)

  • 진심으로 사과드립니다 – [tɕinsimɯɾo sɑɡwadɯɾimnidɑ] – I sincerely apologize.

The last one on this list is a very formal and sincere apology, often used in serious or grave situations. For example:

이 일로 인한 모든 불편에 대해 진심으로 사과드립니다. (I sincerely apologize for all the inconvenience caused by this issue.)

Sorry in Korean Informal Phrases

Informal apologies are much more relaxed, as they can be used casually. They are perfect to use among people of the same age, family members, close friends, peers, etc. However, it is still important to remain polite and respectful, even when saying sorry in casual settings. Here are some widespread informal Korean apologies you can use in your conversations.

  • 미안해 – [miɑnɛ] – Sorry.

This is a casual and simple apology used among friends, family, or in informal settings. For example:

미안해, 나 실수했어. (Sorry, my bad.)

  • 미안해요 – [miɑnɛjo] – I’m sorry.

This phrase is an informal but polite way to say sorry in Korea. You can use it when addressing someone slightly older or someone you want to show respect to but are still close to. For example:

그 일에 너무 미안해요. (I’m so sorry about what happened.)

  • 미안 – [miɑn] – Sorry.

It is a very casual and informal phrase, great to choose when apologizing to close friends or in casual settings. For example:

미안, 진짜 실수였어. (Sorry, it was a real mistake.)

  • 저기요 – [tɕʌɡijo] – Excuse me/I’m sorry.

This phrase is an informal equivalent of the phrase 실례합니다 [silljɛɑmnidɑ], used to apologize or to get someone’s attention. For example:

저기요, 잠깐만요. (Excuse me, just a moment.)

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How to Apologize in Korean: Other Expressions

Korean, like English, has numerous phrases to apologize beyond simple “sorry.” Of course, they are typically appropriate only in specific contexts, so you need to be mindful when choosing what expression to say. Let’s take a look at a few more phrases you can use instead of saying sorry in Korean.

  • 다시는 안 그럴게요 – [tɑsinɯn ɑn ɡɯɾʌlɡɛjo] – I won’t do it again.

You can use this phrase to promise not to repeat the mistake or behavior. It is very polite, so you can say it in both formal and informal settings. For example:

미안해요, 제가 다시는 안 그럴게요. (I’m sorry; I won’t do it again.)

  • 그걸 의미한 게 아니에요 – [kɯɡʌɾ ɰimiɑn ɡɛ ɑniɛjo] – I didn’t mean that.

This phrase is great for clarifying intentions and expressing that something said or done wasn’t meant to cause harm. For example:

그걸 의미한 게 아니에요, 오해하지 마세요. (I didn’t mean that; please don’t get me wrong.)

  • 못되게 군 것 사과할게요 – [mott*wɛɡɛ ɡun ɡʌs sɑɡwaɑlɡɛjo] – I apologize for being mean to you.

We like Mean Girls so much, but only on the screen, not in real life. This phrase is a perfect way to apologize for being rude to someone (although we hope you won’t need it). For example:

제스, 못되게 군 것 사과할게요. (Jess, I apologize for being mean to you.)

  • 제발 화내지 마세요 – [tɕɛbɑɾ wanɛdʑi mɑsɛjo] – Please don’t be angry.

This is another great way to apologize for something you’re about to say or do, preventively requesting your interlocutor not to be mad at you. For example:

미안해요, 제발 화내지 마세요. (I’m sorry, please don’t be angry.)

  • 제가 그걸 하지 말았어야 했어요 – [tɕɛɡɑ ɡɯɡʌɾ ɑdʑi mɑɾɑs*ʌja ɛs*ʌjo] – I shouldn’t have done it.

You can use this phrase when apologizing for something you sincerely regret doing. For example:

정말 미안해 내가 그러지 말았어야 했어. (I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have done it.)

  • 늦어서 미안해요 – [nɯdʑʌsʌ miɑnɛjo] – I’m sorry for being late.

This expression is great when you need to apologize for being late or for any other kind of delay. For example:

늦어서 미안해요. 다시는 이런 일이 일어나지 않을 것입니다. (Sorry for the delay, it won’t happen again.)

What is Sorry in Korean: Accepting Apologies

When learning a foreign language, it is essential not only to know how to apologize but also how to respond to the apology. In Korean, there are numerous phrases that can be used in such circumstances. Here are some of the most common examples.

  • 괜찮습니다 – [kwɛntɕʰɑnsɯmnidɑ] – It's okay.

This phrase is a polite and respectful way to accept the apology. You can use it in both formal and casual settings. For example:

네, 괜찮습니다. 이제 더 이상 생각하지 마세요. (Yes, it’s okay. Don’t think about it anymore.)

  • 아니요, 괜찮습니다 – [ɑnijo ɡwɛntɕʰɑnsɯmnidɑ] – No, it’s okay.

This is another way to answer the apology, quite similar to the previous one. In this case, you just add the word 아니요 [ɑnijo], which means no, to emphasize that the issue is resolved. For example:

아니요, 괜찮습니다. 일어난 일은 이미 지나간 것이에요. (No, it’s okay. What happened is already in the past.)

  • 용서해 줄게요 – [joŋsʌɛ dʑulɡɛjo] – I forgive you.

This is also a great and polite acceptance of the apology, indicating a willingness to forgive the offender. For example:

괜찮아요, 용서해 줄게요. (It’s okay, I forgive you.)

  • 알았어요. 이번 한 번만 용서해 줄게요 – [ɑɾɑs*ʌjo ibʌn ɑn bʌmmɑn joŋsʌɛ dʑulɡɛjo] – Okay, I’ll forgive you this one time.

The last phrase on this list is a bit sassy, but it is still a good and polite way to respond to an apology. It showcases, however, that this is a one-time offer, and you won’t react the same if they do what they did again. For example:

알았어요. 이번 한 번만 용서해 줄게요. 하지만 다음번에는 조심하세요! (I understand. I’ll forgive you this once. But be careful the next time!)

Master Korean with the Promova App

Learning how to say sorry in Korean, alongside other essential phrases and expressions, definitely requires some effort. But fear not; with the Promova application, mastering Korean and many other languages becomes a pleasant and rewarding journey. Here are the most common reasons why the Promova app is your one-stop solution for fluency.

  1. It’s suitable for anyone. If you are just starting your studying, the Promova app provides you with all the necessary information to begin learning Korean. You master the alphabet, vowels and consonants, syllables, and other rudimentary information. And if your level is quite high, you can enjoy more profound lessons focusing on expanding your vocabulary, learning more about the culture, etc.
  2. It’s fun! Forget about tedious lessons and long hours of boredom. You can spend only a few minutes a day focusing on things that actually matter. Moreover, all the lessons contain interactive elements, making them suitable for various learning styles.
  3. It’s convenient. The Promova app allows you to study anywhere, anytime you want. And the user-friendly interface helps you easily navigate the application.

With the Promova, you can learn not only Korean but also French, Spanish, English, German, and many other tongues. The application is available for both iOS and Android devices. So what are you waiting for? Get the Promova app and enjoy convenient and effective learning!

Conclusion

Understanding how to express regret and seek forgiveness in Korean illuminates not just linguistic proficiency but also cultural empathy and respect. Therefore, it is vital to memorize the way to say sorry in Korean formal or informal way, and also learn how to choose the appropriate phrase for particular settings. 

In today’s article, we’ve provided you with the most common apology expressions suitable for various circumstances. We hope that it will help you easily navigate through the intricacies of the Korean language. And, of course, we are looking forward to seeing you in our next article!

FAQ

What is the difference between saying sorry in Korean and English?

The first thing you need to know is that almost every Korean word for sorry is a verb meaning “to be sorry.” In English, on the other hand, it is primarily an adjective or an interjection. Also, the fundamental difference lies in the depth of formality used to convey an apology. In English, we can say “sorry” to everyone and their mother, while Koreans choose different words for various circumstances.

Could using the wrong level of formality in an apology be considered disrespectful in Korean culture?

Absolutely. In Korean culture, the level of formality used in speech is crucial and reflects one’s respect for the other person, especially in formal or hierarchical settings. Using an incorrect phrase or being overly casual with someone of higher status can be deemed disrespectful or rude. Conversely, being too formal with someone of equal or lower status might create unnecessary distance or awkwardness.

Are there non-verbal cues or gestures that accompany apologies in Korean culture?

Yes, non-verbal cues play a significant role in Korean apologies. Bowing, a traditional gesture of respect, is commonly used when saying sorry, with the depth of the bow often reflecting the sincerity of the apology. Maintaining eye contact to show genuine regret or humility, nodding to convey understanding or agreement, and using softer, apologetic tones are also common non-verbal cues that complement verbal expressions of regret in Korean culture.

Can I use informal apologies in professional settings in Korean?

Generally, it’s advisable to avoid using purely informal apologies in professional settings in Korean. While some mild casual phrases might be acceptable among colleagues in relatively relaxed workplaces, using highly casual language with superiors, clients, or in formal business contexts could be perceived as unprofessional or disrespectful.

Comentarios

PromovaJan 9th, 2024
Honorifics are crucial in Korean communication as they dictate the level of formality and respect used when addressing others. When apologizing, the appropriate honorifics show respect and consideration for the relationship between speakers, impacting the choice of apology phrases used in different situations.
Alicia-MariaJan 9th, 2024
why are honorifics important in Korean communication, particularly when expressing apologies?