Relatively speaking, the rules for saying sorry in Norwegian are actually pretty simple and straightforward. While it’s common in other languages to have multiple words that can count as apologies (depending on the context and the nuance you’re trying to convey), Norwegian basically has two, and they have fairly clear-cut definitions and uses.
It’s not always easy to say you’re sorry, emotionally speaking. But if you’re a student of Norwegian, you’ll probably get the hang of it pretty quickly.
How To Say Sorry In Norwegian
There are two main words you’ll need to commit to memory: unnskyld (excuse me) and beklager (sorry).
These words are rarely interchangeable, because they generally mean different things and are used in different situations. The basic rule of thumb is that you use beklager in statements (“Sorry for running late.”), and unnskyld before you ask someone a question (“Excuse me, do you have the time?”).
However, there is an exception. If you want to utter a quick “Sorry!” because you bumped into someone (or something of that nature), you can either say “Beklager!” or “Unnskyld!”
Here is how the two words might look together in a sentence:
Nei, jeg beklager. Men kanskje vi kan spørre den damen der. Unnskyld… — No, sorry. But perhaps we can ask that woman there. Excuse me…
The ‘Sorry’ Sorry
Generally speaking, beklager is the word that conveys actual remorse, sympathy or regret. But it doesn’t always have to be that deep. Remember: it’s used when you’re making a statement of apology. Here are some examples of what that might look like.
- Åh, beklager. — Oh, sorry.
- Beklager, jeg har ikke tid. — Sorry, I have no time.
- Beklager at jeg kommer for sent igjen. — Sorry that I came too late again.
- Beklager, jeg er ikke kjent her. — Sorry, I am not familiar with this area.
- Beklager, det visste jeg ikke. — Sorry, I didn’t know that.
- Nei, beklager, det er opptatt. — No, sorry, it’s occupied.
- Beklager, ingen reker i dag. — I’m sorry, no shrimp today.
- Jeg beklager, kanskje kollegen min har tatt feil. — I’m sorry, maybe my colleague made a mistake.
- Nei, jeg beklager, det er ikke lov å fotografere. — No, I’m sorry, it is not allowed to take photos.
- Jeg beklager så mye. — I sincerely apologize.
The ‘Excuse Me’ Sorry
Unnskyld more closely translates to “excuse me” than “sorry.” If you want to politely ask for help, ask for something, or express your good manners in a crowded train station, then you use unnskyld. But another basic rule of thumb is that you use it before you pose a question to someone.
- Unnskyld, kan du hjelpe meg? — Excuse me, can you help me?
- Unnskyld, hva er klokka? — Excuse me, what is the time?
- Unnskyld, hva sa han? — Excuse me, what did he say?
- Unnskyld, snakker du tysk? — Excuse me, do you speak German?
- Unnskyld, kan du gjenta? — Excuse me, can you repeat that?
- Unnskyld, hvor ligger togstasjonen? — Excuse me, where is the train station?
- Unnskyld, når går den neste ferja til Kvitsøy? — Excuse me, when does the next ferry depart for Kvitsøy?