The first thing you need to understand about saying sorry in Russian is that if you’re American, your internal gauge of “how often it’s appropriate to apologize” will probably require a bit of dialing back in Russian. It’s no secret that Americans apologize a lot, and this might not translate that well in a language like Russian, where brief apologies usually suffice and aren’t usually belabored more than necessary.
More often than not, a quick “excuse me” is the polite and expected choice, but as with most things, it all depends on the context. Here are a couple of the most common ways to say sorry in Russian.
How To Say Sorry In Russian
To Express Compassion Or Remorse
You’ll hear this one less often than the other words below, and that’s because it’s used to express genuine feelings of remorse or sympathy (in the sense of “I’m sorry something bad happened to you.”). In other words, save this one for when you really mean it.
Мне жаль. — I’m sorry.
Мне очень жаль. — I’m so sorry.
The More Common ‘Excuse Me’
More often than not, you’ll hear some form of this word, which in its noun form translates to “apology”: извинение
However, when expressed in the following forms, it can also be more directly translated as “excuse me” as well as just “sorry.”
To make it sound a little more formal or sincere, you can also say Я извиняюсь, or “I apologize.”
Some etymological insight: this comes from the word вина, which means “fault” — so you’re basically saying “remove my fault.”
Here are some example phrases to give you a better sense for the types of situations you might use it in.
- Ой, извини. Как он сейчас? — Oh, I’m sorry. How is he now?
- Ой, извини, мне пора! — Oh, sorry, I have to go!
- Что, извините? Я не понял. — Pardon? I didn’t understand.
- Извините, но нет. — I’m afraid not (lit. Sorry, but no).
- Извини, дорогая! Дайте нам, пожалуйста, салфетку! — Sorry, dear! Give us a napkin, please!
- Миша, извини, но мы опаздываем! — Misha, sorry, but we’re running late!
- Извините, это Ваша сумка? — Excuse me, is that your bag?
For Apologies That May Require Forgiveness
While извини or извините might make more sense in a situation where you made a small mistake or the other person doesn’t actually seem that offended, there’s another word you can use when you wish to acknowledge that you made a mistake and you feel bad about the way it’s impacted someone.
This word means something closer to “forgive me.”