If you’re American, you may be conditioned to apologize more than the average world citizen. But “I’m sorry” is never a superfluous phrase to learn. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made for why learning to say “sorry” in Spanish should be one of the first linguistic skills you tackle.
Apologies aren’t just for when you’ve betrayed someone’s trust. They’re most often used to simply smooth your way through polite society — to excuse yourself in a crowded area, or to sound more courteous when you’re asking someone to repeat something you didn’t understand.
With that said, “sorry” is kind of a catch-all term in English. But it can sound a little excessively apologetic to use lo siento in every context, even if that is the first direct translation you encounter in your studies. Below, you’ll learn four different ways to say “sorry” in Spanish so you can sound situationally appropriate — and dare we say natural — at all times.
How To Say Sorry In Spanish
When You Feel Bad About Something
The most direct translation for “sorry” in Spanish is lo siento, which literally means “I am sorry for it.” Lo siento is a form of the verb sentir (to be sorry), which can be conjugated as a reflexive verb or stated as is.
Sentir is typically used when you wish to offer your condolences or apologize for something you feel bad about. When you feel very bad about something, you can say lo siento mucho, or “I am very sorry.”
Lo siento is not as commonly used when you’re simply excusing yourself for a minor inconvenience, but you’ll occasionally hear people use it in those contexts as well. Here are a few examples of how it’s used in a sentence.
- Lo siento, hoy no me apetece salir. — Sorry, I don’t feel like going out today.
- Lo siento, tengo que colgar. — Sorry, I have to hang up.
- Siento que haya olvidado traer la leche. — I’m sorry that I forgot to bring the milk.
- Siento decirte que dejo el trabajo. — I’m sorry to tell you that I’m quitting the job.
- Lo siento, pero no estoy de acuerdo. — I’m sorry, but I disagree.
When You Really Mean ‘Excuse Me’
In Spanish, the word for “apology” is la disculpa. In verb form however, disculpar means something to the effect of “to excuse.” Its usage varies slightly depending on which Spanish-speaking country you’re in, but you can use disculpar in most situations where you might simply say “excuse me” in English — when you’re trying to pass someone in a crowded room, for instance. The idea is that you’re acknowledging that there’s a slight inconvenience, even if it’s not entirely your fault.
If you’re in a more formal setting (like in a work-related situation, for example), you would use disculpe, which corresponds to Usted. In informal situations where you would address someone as tú, you would say disculpa.
- Disculpe, hay mala conexión. ¿Puede hablar más alto, por favor? — Sorry, there’s a bad connection. Can you speak more loudly, please?
- Disculpa, no entiendo. ¿Hablas inglés? — Sorry, I don’t understand you. Do you speak English?
- Disculpa, ¿has dicho algo? — Sorry, did you say something?
- Disculpe la espera. — Sorry for the wait.
When It’s Kind Of Your Fault, Or You’re Interrupting Someone
Perdón sounds like “pardon” in English, but it doesn’t have quite as formal a connotation in Spanish. You could say perdón in many of the situations you’d use disculpe in. But in this case, you’re implying that you’re seeking the other person’s forgiveness in a small way. Essentially, you’re acknowledging that something is your fault.
Of course, you’ll often hear people use some version of this when they’re simply interrupting a stranger to ask a question. Again, the idea is that you’re acknowledging the imposition you’re making on someone else’s time. It’s just a way of being exceedingly polite.
- Perdón, me he equivocado de número. — Sorry, I’ve called the wrong number.
- Perdón, ayer no te pude ver, estaba en una reunión. — Sorry I missed you yesterday, I was in a meeting.
- Perdón, no entiendo. — Sorry, I don’t understand.
- ¡Hola! Perdón, ¿sabes dónde hay un banco cerca? — Hi! Sorry, do you know where there is a bank nearby?
- Perdón, ¿me dejaría pasar? — Excuse me, could you let me pass please?
- Perdóneme, ¿tiene un mechero? — Excuse me, do you have a lighter?
When You Truly Lament It
Though lo siento implies that you feel sympathy for someone (lit. “I feel it”), there are even more poetic ways to say “sorry” in Spanish. In some situations, you may feel moved to use lamentar, which means “to regret” or “to lament.”
- Lamentamos que no estés aquí con nosotros. — We’re sorry that you aren’t here with us.
- Lamento tu pérdida. — I’m sorry for your loss.