A Handbook on Saying I’m Sorry in German

Grover Laughton8 min
Created: Jan 26, 2024Last updated: Mar 28, 2024
Sorry in German

Learning to say I’m sorry in German is integral to mastering the language. When you understand the differences between formal and informal apologies and how they are used in various settings, it becomes much easier to navigate through any social interactions, whether in personal or professional settings. Today, we’ll explore the most widespread ways to say sorry in German, different phrases for accepting apologies, and much more.

Saying Sorry in German: Common Expressions

German people are known for punctuality, strict adherence to the rules, and politeness. Therefore, when communicating with them, it is essential to understand the situation’s formality level and know which expressions to use. When apologizing to a German person, you must also follow these rules and choose phrases suitable for your situation.

How to Say Sorry in German: Formal Phrases

First, let’s explore popular apology expressions suitable for more official contexts. You can use them in professional settings, when communicating with strangers, older people, etc. Here is the list of formal ways to say sorry in German.

  • Entschuldigung – [ɛnt.ʃʊl.di.ɡʊŋ] – Excuse me / I’m sorry.

This is a versatile and common way to say I’m sorry in German. It is polite and suitable for various circumstances – when apologizing for something you did wrong, trying to get attention, etc. For example:

Entschuldigung, dass ich zu spät gekommen bin. (I’m sorry for being late.)

Entschuldigung, könnten Sie das wiederholen? (Excuse me, could you repeat that?)

  • Es tut mir ehrlich Leid – [ɛs tuːt miːʁ ˈeːr.lɪç laɪt] – I sincerely apologize.

This is a great phrase when formally expressing deep and sincere regret. It is suitable for formal situations, for example, when communicating with older people, someone higher in status, or someone you respect. For example:

Es tut mir ehrlich Leid, dass es zu Missverständnissen gekommen ist. (I sincerely apologize for the misunderstanding.)

Es tut mir ehrlich Leid, wenn meine Handlungen Sie verletzt haben. (I sincerely apologize if my actions have hurt you.)

  • Ich entschuldige mich – [ɪç ɛnt.ʃʊl.di.ɡə ɪç] – I apologize.

This is a formal way to say my apologies in German. It is also polite and suitable for different circumstances. For example:

Ich entschuldige mich für die Verzögerung. (I apologize for the delay.)

Ich entschuldige mich, falls meine Antwort nicht klar war. (I apologize if my response was unclear.)

  • Das war falsch von mir – [das vaʁ falʃ fɔn miːʁ] – That was wrong of me.

This expression is used when politely taking responsibility for a mistake or wrongdoing. For example:

Das war falsch von mir, und ich bitte um Verzeihung. (That was wrong of me, and I apologize.)

Es tut mir aufrichtig Leid; das war falsch von meiner Seite. (I sincerely apologize; that was wrong on my part.)

  • Das tut mir so Leid für dich – [das tuːt miːʁ zoː laɪt fyːʁ dɪç] – I’m so sorry for you.

This one is quite unusual, as it is not a way to apologize. You can use this phrase when expressing sympathy or empathy in a formal context. For example:

Das tut mir so Leid für dich, dass du diese Schwierigkeiten durchmachst. (I’m so sorry you’re going through these difficulties.)

Es tut mir so Leid für dich, dass du diese Belastung aushalten musst. (I’m so sorry for you that you have to endure this burden.)

How Do You Say Sorry in German: Informal Ways

Conversely, informal German apologies work great in relaxed settings when communicating with friends, peers, family members, or acquaintances. Here are the most common ways of saying sorry in German in casual conversations.

  • Tschuldigung – [ʧʊl.di.ɡʊŋ] – Sorry / Excuse me.

This phrase is the most widespread colloquial way to apologize. Just like “entschuldigung,” it is very versatile and can be used in various casual settings. For example:

Tschuldigung, ich habe vergessen, dich anzurufen. (Sorry, I forgot to call you.)

Tschuldigung, aber ich kann heute nicht kommen. (Sorry, but I can’t come today.)

  • Häh? – [hɛː] – Excuse me?

This is a very informal way to express confusion or seek clarification. It’s like a German way of saying “excuse me” in a very relaxed situation. For example:

Häh? Das habe ich nicht mitbekommen. (Excuse me? I missed that.)

Häh? Kannst du das bitte wiederholen? (Excuse me? Can you please repeat that?)

  • Ich habe es verpatzt – [ɪç ˈhaː.bə ɛs fɛɐ̯ˈpatst] – I messed up.

This is another casual way of saying sorry in German language, suitable for informal circumstances. It is a great way of admitting something you did wrong. For example:

Ich habe es total verpatzt, rechtzeitig anzurufen. (I completely messed up; I didn’t call on time.)

Entschuldige, ich habe es verpatzt, dich abzuholen. (Sorry, I messed up, I forgot to pick you up.)

  • Hoppla – [ˈhɔp.la] – Oops.

This phrase is a casual way to acknowledge a minor mistake or accident, like bumping into someone or stepping on one’s foot. For example:

Hoppla, das war nicht beabsichtigt. (Oops, that wasn’t intentional.)

Hoppla, das war wohl mein Fehler. (Oops, that was probably my fault.)

  • Mein Fehler – [maɪ̯n ˈfeː.lɐ] – My mistake.

The last expression in our list is a very common informal way to admit fault or responsibility. It’s like saying “my bad” in English. For example:

Mein Fehler, ich hätte besser aufpassen sollen. (My mistake, I should have been more careful.)

Sorry, mein Fehler, ich habe die falsche Datei geschickt. (Sorry, my mistake, I sent the wrong file.)


German Expressions for Accepting Apologies

The ability to accept an apology is as vital as the ability to apologize. Therefore, we’ve created a list of the most common and versatile phrases you can use when someone’s saying sorry to you.

  • Ich verzeihe Ihnen – [ɪç fɛɐ̯ˈtsaɪ̯.ə ˈɪnən] – I forgive you.

This phrase is a formal and polite expression you can use to convey forgiveness. For example:

Ich verzeihe Ihnen; lassen Sie uns von vorne anfangen. (I forgive you; let's start anew.)

Ich verzeihe Ihnen aufrichtig. (I sincerely forgive you.)

  • Natürlich, ich verstehe – [naˈtʏr.lɪç, ɪç fɛɐ̯ˈʃteːə] – Of course, I understand.

This is another great expression used as an answer to an apology. It is also polite and suitable for both formal and informal situations. For example:

Natürlich, ich verstehe, dass Fehler passieren können. (Of course, I understand that mistakes can happen.)

Natürlich, ich verstehe Ihre Perspektive. (Of course, I understand your perspective.)

  • Ich nehme die Entschuldigung an – [ɪç ˈneːmə diː ɛnt.ʃʊl.di.ɡʊŋ an] – I accept the apology.

This is a direct and formal way to communicate acceptance of an apology. It is mostly used in official settings or business environments. For example:

Ich nehme die Entschuldigung an; lassen Sie uns die Vergangenheit hinter uns lassen. (I accept the apology; let’s leave the past behind.)

Ich nehme die Entschuldigung aufrichtig an. (I sincerely accept the apology.)

  • Kein Ding – [kaɪ̯n dɪŋ] – No big deal.

This phrase is an informal and relaxed way to express that the apology is not a significant issue. For example:

Kein Ding, passiert jedem mal. (No big deal, it happens to everyone.)

Ach, kein Ding, wir sind alle nur Menschen. (Oh, no big deal, we’re all just human.)

  • Alles cool – [ˈaləs kuːl] – Everything’s cool.

You can use the last expression from this list to convey that there are no hard feelings and the situation is resolved. For example:

Alles cool, ich weiß, du hast es nicht absichtlich gemacht. (Everything’s cool, I know you didn’t do it on purpose.)

Alles cool, vergiss einfach das Ganze. (Everything’s cool, just forget about the whole thing.)

Learn How to Apologize in German with Promova

Some people believe that German is a tough language to learn, while others consider it much easier than other tongues. Nevertheless, having a convenient resource that can help you navigate through the intricacies of the language can be highly beneficial in both cases. And luckily, we have one just for you. The Promova application is your one-stop solution for mastering foreign languages.

The application is available for iOS and Android devices, allowing you to practice anywhere and anytime using a convenient gadget. After installing the application, you need to answer some simple questions – it will help us determine your fluency level and prepare materials suitable for your needs. When it’s done, you can access our interactive lessons created by language professionals.

In Promova, we use the principles of bite-sized learning. It means you can study only a few minutes daily, mastering essential skills and memorizing helpful vocabulary. This approach allows you to practice the language without learning overwhelming tons of unnecessary materials.

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When you know how to say I’m sorry in German, you can easily navigate various social interactions. Whether apologizing to your boss or accepting an apology from a friend, such skill allows you to showcase your genuine emotions and express your feelings easily. We hope today’s article has helped you memorize the most common expressions and ways of using them in various contexts. And we are excited to see you in the next one!


Are there any tips for mastering apologies in German?

Of course! The main thing to remember when apologizing in German, like in any other language, is to stay sincere and genuine. If you actually feel that something you’ve done was wrong, accept it and take responsibility. Always use polite and specific language – clearly state what you are apologizing for. Furthermore, you can convey your regret or, if applicable, express your commitment to avoid repeating the mistake.

What are some non-verbal ways to say sorry in German?

There are three main ways to express what is sorry in German: gestures, facial expressions, and body language. Appropriate movements, such as a slight bow of the head, can emphasize the depth of your apology. A sincere smile or look of concern can show genuine remorse. And, of course, maintaining eye contact and actively listening to the person you’re apologizing to will show them your true interest and regret for what you’ve done.

How to create a written apology in German?

When saying sorry in text, you need to follow almost the same tips as for verbal apologies. If you’re writing an email, start by addressing the person, using Sehr geehrter Herr/Frau [Last Name] for formal letters and Liebe [Name] for informal ones. After that, you can express your apology clearly and concisely, showing you take responsibility for the mistake.

Are there any differences between apologizing in personal and professional settings?

Yes, there are a few significant differences. In professional settings, maintaining a higher level of formality and using titles and last names are essential unless you have a more casual relationship with an interlocutor. It is also vital to address professional apologies promptly, as delays may have more significant consequences.


PromovaFeb 15th, 2024
In German, you can express gratitude in various ways. "Danke" is the standard way to say thank you. You can also use "Vielen Dank" for many thanks, "Herzlichen Dank" for heartfelt thanks, or "Dankeschön" for thanks a lot. For formal situations, you can say "Ich danke Ihnen" or "Ich bin Ihnen dankbar." "Danke schön" combines thanks with schön, meaning beautiful, to emphasize gratitude. "Ich möchte mich bedanken" is a polite way to express gratitude, and "Tausend Dank" is an exaggerated expression meaning "thousand thanks." Lastly, "Danke dir" or "Danke euch" are familiar ways to thank friends or family.
IsabelleFeb 15th, 2024
How can i say thank you in different ways in German?