How should we apologize in German?

  • The most common phrase in german phrase book for apology would be es tut mir leid or tut mir leid to mean "it does me suffering".

    From the questions on the difference between "entschuldigen" or "Entschuldigung"

    it remains unclear when to use which.

    How do you use apology towards specific situations? e.g. "I am sorry for my late reply." in emails or "I am sorry, the person you've just asked for is not available"

  • chirlu

    chirlu Correct answer

    8 years ago

    Both Entschuldigung (which is a noun; it is an abbreviated form of ich bitte um Entschuldigung) and entschuldigen Sie can be used in a similar way to es tut mir leid; unlike it, they can also be used when interrupting someone:

    Excuse me, what time is it?

    Entschuldigung, wie spät ist es?

    (Es tut mir leid, wenn ich störe, aber ... is also possible.)

    I'd express your example sentences like this:

    Es tut mir leid, dass ich mich so spät melde.

    Bitte entschuldigen Sie, dass ich mich jetzt erst melde.

    Frau Meier ist derzeit leider nicht im Hause.

    Leider is another way to say that you are sorry. It is only suitable for a minor inconvenience.

    I'd add that `Es tut mir Leid` is more personal (i.e. used if someone passed away) and used to express your own grief over something (=> I'm sorry) while `Entschuldigen Sie bitte` is used if you seek the acknowledgment of the other (=> Please excuse my action).

    I'd group the German examples in three categories: a) when you are in some (even minor) way responsible. Then phrases involving the word "Entschuldigung" and its derivates are appropriate, along with "es tut mir leid". b) when you're not responsible (i.e. when you could substitute "I'm afraid" for "I'm sorry" in English). Then "es tut mir leid" and "leider" are appropriate. c) when you're interrupting someone or asking for something. Then you can only use "Entschuldigung" and its derivates.

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Content dated before 7/24/2021 11:53 AM