In any language, it’s important to know how to say ‘sorry‘ or ‘excuse me‘. Knowing these words in German means that you can apologize when you’ve done something wrong and it protects you from being viewed as rude.
Saying ‘sorry’ in German
The German phrase used to say sorry is “Entschuldigung“. This word can be used as a stand-alone phrase or at the beginning of a sentence:
Entschuldigung, das war keine Absicht.
I’m sorry, this was not done on purpose.
Another way to say ‘sorry’ is “Das tut mir Leid“. Translated, it means ‘This causes me suffering’.
These are some other variations of “Das tut mir Leid“:
Das tut mir so Leid!
I’m so sorry about this!
Das tut mir total Leid!
I’m very sorry about this!
Das tut mir wirklich Leid!
I’m really sorry about this!
You can also use “Entschuldigung” and “Das tut mir Leid” in the same sentence, to emphasize how sorry you are:
Entschuldigung, das tut mir Leid!
Saying ‘excuse me’ in German
If you need to push past someone on a crowded pathway, or if you’d like to ask a stranger for directions, it is polite to say ‘excuse me‘.
The word for ‘excuse me’ is also “Entschuldigung“.
Depending on where you are in Germany, other phrases can be used to say ‘excuse me’, although using “Entschuldigung” is understood wherever you are in the country.
Those phrases are:
Please excuse me!
“Sorry” is usually used among young people or close friends. Don’t use it with people over the age of 30 or those you don’t know well!
“Verzeihung” is quite an old-fashioned expression. It means ‘forgiveness’ and is usually used among elderly citizens.
Politeness in Germany
Politeness and friendliness are very important in Germany. Although Germans are often stereotyped as rude, everyone appreciates some friendliness when it comes their way. That said, don’t worry if you’re in Germany and you’ve forgotten some of the polite vocabulary – a friendly facial expression and body language will get the message across!