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How do you say “sorry” in Spanish?
Saying sorry is difficult… even in your mother tongue. Haven’t we all been at least a little embarrassed to say we’re wrong at one time or another?
Aside from that, Spanish makes apologising a little harder. There isn’t a single Spanish translation for “sorry”.
That’s where I come in. Think of this post as a crash course in all you need to know about how to properly apologise in Spanish. Here’s what it covers:
Table of contents
- How To Say “Sorry” in Spanish
- How To Say “I’m sorry” in Spanish
- What Exactly is “Lo Siento” in English
- 3 Other Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Spanish
- Siento (mucho)…
- How To Say “Sorry for Your Loss” in Spanish
- How To Say “Excuse Me” in Spanish
- How To Say “Forgive Me” in Spanish
- 3 Other Ways to Apologize in Spanish
- How to Forgive in Spanish
- Say That You Are Sorry in Spanish
Even if it is a hard task, learning how to correctly say “sorry” in Spanish is important.
Imagine that you are taking folk dancing classes – be it tango in Argentina, flamenco in Spain, or bachata in the Dominican Republic. And because you’re a beginner, you step on your dance partner’s toes.
You panic. How can you apologise? Your dance partner doesn’t help. They look at you with a raised eyebrow and ask, “¿Y qué, no sabes cómo decir “sorry” en español?” (“So what, you don’t know how to say ‘sorry’ in Spanish?”)
That would be embarrassing.
But don’t worry, you’ve come to the right place! If there is something that dancing and learning a language have in common, it’s that they require a lot of practice.
So put on your dancing shoes and take out your notebook, we’re getting started!
How To Say “Sorry” in Spanish
So how do you say “sorry” in Spanish? First, let’s agree on what you mean by “sorry”.
“Sorry” as an Adjective in Spanish
If your dance partner wants to say that they are sorry for being rude to you, they might use the adjective arrepentido/a (literally, “repentant”).
Estoy arrepentido/a de haberte hablado así. – “I’m sorry I spoke like this to you.”
Or they might want to tell you that you have such a sorry dancing style. They will use the adjective lamentable – which, in this case, means “pathetic”. Quite the compliment.
“Sorry” in the sense of “grieving”, “saddened”, and “sorrowful” is translated as apenado/a.
“Sorry” as an Interjection in Spanish
If the “sorry” you want to know about is the short version of the interjection “I’m sorry,” then…
How To Say “I’m sorry” in Spanish
How do you say “I’m sorry” in Spanish? In this case too, the English phrase translates in various ways into Spanish. It depends on how you use the interjection.
Is it to express regret, sorrow, or empathy? It could be an answer to hearing that your friend is sick, for example. If so, the most common way is (yo) lo siento. It’s used all over the Hispanic world as both “I am sorry” and “I regret it”.
Is it to apologize for inconveniencing someone, as in “I’m sorry, could you repeat?” Then you can choose between perdón (“pardon”), perdona (“pardon me”), and disculpa (“forgive me”). You can use the same words to excuse yourself, as in “I’m sorry, I have to leave.”
Let’s go a little more in-depth with lo siento before talking more about perdón, perdona, and disculpa.
“I’m So Sorry” in Spanish
If you want to make your lo siento more powerful and heartfelt, you can complete the phrase with an emphasizing word.
Add tanto (“so much”) and you will get lo siento tanto (“I’m so sorry”). If you add mucho (“a lot”), you will get lo siento mucho (“I’m very sorry”).
You can also use de verdad (“truly”), which results in lo siento de verdad (“I’m truly sorry.”)
“How Sorry I Am!” in Spanish
Spanish speakers are fond of saying ¡Cuanto lo siento! (“How sorry I am!”). It’s less standard than the simple lo siento. It’s a good choice when the situation calls for a more invested concern.
You could also come across:
- No sabes cuánto lo siento. – “You don’t know how sorry I am” / “You don’t know how much I regret it.”
- No te imaginas cuánto lo siento. – “You can’t imagine how sorry I am.”
- No te imaginas lo arrepentido que estoy. – “You can’t imagine how much I regret it.”
”I’m sorry, but…” in Spanish
In English, we often use “I’m sorry, but…” It’s useful to apologise before saying something that probably won’t make the other person happy.
The Spanish equivalent is Lo siento, pero…
Example: Lo siento, pero no puedo venir mañana (“I’m sorry, but I can’t come tomorrow.”)
What Exactly is “Lo Siento” in English
What does lo siento mean? We’ve already seen that it means “I’m sorry”, but how is it literally translated into English?
Lo siento is Spanish for “I feel it”. While it is also defined as “to be sorry”, sentir is also used as “to feel”.
- Me siento mal – “I don’t feel well”, literally “I feel bad”
- No siento mis dedos – “I can’t feel my fingers”
- Siento que se acerca una tormenta – “I feel like a storm is coming”
It’s easy to tell the difference by the context of the conversation, though!
If you tell your dancing partner Siento que esta clase será productiva, (“I feel that this lesson will be productive”) and they tell you Sí, lo siento también, they’re not apologising, they’re agreeing with you: “Yes, I feel it too.”
On the other hand, if they tell you Me pisaste el pie (“You stepped on my foot”), your lo siento will mean “I’m sorry”.
The Verb Sentir
The verb sentir belongs to the third group of Spanish verbs, those ending in -ir. It is an irregular verb: its root changes when it’s conjugated.
(Here’s a great post if you need a refresher on Spanish irregular verbs.)
Whether it is used as “to be sorry” or “to feel”, this is the conjugation of sentir:
|Sentir (present tense)|
|él, ella, usted||siente|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||sienten|
3 Other Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Spanish
Lo siento is standard. But after some time of hearing you use the same apology over and over, your dance partner will regret wishing that you knew how to say sorry in Spanish!
You can surprise them by choosing one of the following ways to say “sorry”.
In lo siento, lo is the direct object pronoun. It replaces the entire explanation of what you are sorry for.
If your dance partner tells you Me pisaste el pie (“You stepped on my foot”), you can answer lo siento. What you are apologizing for is already implied in the conversation.
If you are going to mention what you’re sorry for, there’s usually no need to use lo before siento. If your apology brings up stepping on your partner’s foot, then you’d say Siento haberte pisado el pie (“I’m sorry for stepping on your foot.”)
There’s an exception to this rule. When the phrase starts with lo siento por…, the lo can remain even if you explain what you are sorry for. For example, Lo siento por la confusión (“I’m sorry for the confusion.”)
General Guidelines and Examples to Use Siento…
Siento has to be followed by a group of words explaining what you are sorry for, which often starts with lo, que, an infinitive, or a noun.
Even if the only real way to master the use of siento… is through practice and conversation, there are a few guidelines to help you.
Examples of siento followed by lo:
- Siento lo que ha pasado – “I’m sorry for what happened.”
- Siento lo que dijo – “I’m sorry for what he/she said.”
- Siento lo de tu tía – “I’m sorry about [what happened to] your aunt.”
Note: When siento is followed by lo de + the name or mention of a person (‘your friend’, ‘your father’, etc.), it often refers to a death or accident, but it can be about any sad situation/event.
Examples of siento followed by que (+ usually a subjunctive):
- Siento que tengan que irse – “I'm sorry they have to go.”
- Siento que se haya acabado la clase – “I’m sorry the lesson is over.”
- Siento que Ana no pueda venir – “I’m sorry that Ana can’t come.”
A few notes:
- If you use siento que + indicative present, siento will become “I feel”: Siento que tienen que irse – “I feel like they have to go.”
- In siento que + indicative past, siento que can mean “I’m sorry”: Siento que no ha podido venir (“I’m sorry he couldn’t come”)
This type of construction is rare and using the subjunctive instead sounds more correct.
- When siento is followed by the subjunctive, the tense can’t be first-person singular: Siento que (yo) me vaya is not the correct way to say “I’m sorry to leave.”
The proper way is to use *siento* + infinitive*: “Siento irme.”
Examples of siento followed by an infinitive:
- Siento escuchar eso – “I’m sorry to hear that.”
- Siento no poder abrazarte – “I’m sorry I can’t hug you.”
- Siento llegar tarde – “I’m sorry to be late.”
Examples of siento followed by a noun:
- Siento lo ocurrido – “I’m sorry for what happened” (or, “I regret what happened.”)
- Siento el ruido – “I’m sorry for the noise.”
- Siento la tardanza – “I’m sorry for the delay.”
Siento… can be strengthened with mucho (“a lot”) resulting in Siento mucho… (“I’m very sorry…”)
Example: Siento mucho haberte pisado el pie. (“I’m very sorry for stepping on your foot.”)
Lamentar (“to be sorry” or “to regret”) is another verb to express empathy in Spanish.
Example: Lamento lo ocurrido (“I’m sorry for what happened.”)
Lamentar belongs to the first group of Spanish verbs, those ending in -ar, and (yay!) it is regular.
Here’s the present tense of lamentar:
|Lamentar (present tense)|
|él, ella, usted||lamenta|
|ellos, ellas, ustedes||lamentan|
Depending on region, lamentar and sentir can be interchangeable.
Even though lamentar sounds a little more formal than sentir and it carries a deeper regret or sadness, both verbs can be used in the same expressions.
Example: Siento lo de tu padre and Lamento lo de tu padre are both correct ways to say “I’m sorry about [what happened to] your father.”
Tip: If you are just getting started with Spanish, use sentir in less serious situations and lamentar when dealing with heavily sad or regretful events. With time and active conversation, you will be able to understand which is used more often locally.
As with lo siento, lamento sometimes comes after lo.
You can then build phrases such as:
- Lo lamento mucho – “I am very sorry.”
- Lo lamento sinceramente – “I am sincerely sorry.”
- Lo lamento profundamente – “I am deeply sorry” (quite formal and heavy)
Que tonto/a soy
Que tonto/a soy (“How dumb I am”) doesn’t translate to “sorry” in any way, but Spanish speakers can use it in place of other apologies.
It’s a playful way to admit that you’ve done something wrong. It needs to be about something with no severe consequence.
How To Say “Sorry for Your Loss” in Spanish
Fallecimientos (“demises”, “deaths”) are a very delicate topic, so it is important to know how to say “sorry for your loss” in the right way.
Here are the main phrases to express sorrow for a loss:
- Lamento tu pérdida. – “I’m sorry for your loss.”
- Lamento la pérdida de [tu abuela]. – “I’m sorry for/I regret the loss of [your grandmother].”
- Mi más sentido pésame – “My deepest condolences.”
- Te acompaño en tus sentimientos – “I share your pain” (literally “I accompany you in your feelings.”)
How To Say “Excuse Me” in Spanish
Imagine that you arrive late at your dancing class. You need to squeeze in the line of dance students to get to your spot.
There are a few ways to excuse yourself in this scenario.
One way you can say “excuse me” is (con) permiso.
Con permiso means “with permission”, so you’re saying: “With your permission, [I’ll squeeze in the line].”
The con can be left off, leaving only permiso. That can come across as less polite depending on the Spanish-speaking region you’re in though. My advice is that you use the full expression until you get used to any local variations.
Permítame… (“allow me”) is more formal, since the verb permitir (“to allow”) is conjugated at the singular formal third-person (usted) of imperative mood.
Permítame… can come before what you are asking to be allowed to do: Permítame pasar (“Allow me to pass,” – the “please” is implied in the formal tone) or Permítame decirle (“Allow me to tell you,” if you are interrupting someone who is speaking).
Permíteme is the second-person singular (tú), permitidme is the informal second-person plural (vosotros, only used in Spain), and permítanme formal second-person plural (ustedes, used outside Spain as both formal and informal).
Disculpe or Perdone
In certain cases, it is fine to use disculpa/e and perdona/e to say “excuse me”. Generally, you should follow these words with the thing you’re excusing yourself for.
- Disculpa, tengo una pregunta (“Excuse me, I have a question.”)
- Perdone, necesito pasar (“Excuse me, I have to pass.”)
Use disculpa and perdona with people that you’re on familiar terms with. Disculpe and perdone are formal.
How To Say “Forgive Me” in Spanish
The two verbs used to ask for forgiveness in Spanish are disculpar and perdonar. Perdonar is the strongest.
As you saw above, disculpar can mean “to excuse”. However, it also means “to forgive” in light, not-too-serious situations.
To say “forgive me”, you have to choose the right form of disculpar depending on the Spanish “you” (formal, informal, plural, singular). After that, add me:
- second-person singular (tú / vos): disculpa / disculpá → discúlpame
- formal second-person singular (usted): disculpe → discúlpeme
- second-person plural (vosotros, only used in Spain): disculpad → disculpadme
- formal second-person plural (ustedes, used outside Spain as both formal and informal): disculpen → discúlpenme
Example: Discúlpame por haberte ignorado (“Forgive me for ignoring you.”)
Perdonar means “to forgive” or “to pardon”. It has a stronger meaning than disculpar. You should use it if you have done something serious or want to give more weight to your apology.
Like with disculpar, choose the right form of perdonar and add me:
- second-person singular (tú / vos): perdona / perdoná → perdóname
- formal second-person singular (usted): perdone → perdóneme
- second-person plural (vosotros, only used in Spain): perdonad → perdonadme
- formal second-person plural (ustedes, used outside Spain both formally and informally): perdonen → perdónenme
Perdonar can be used in many Spanish apology phrases:
- Por favor, perdóname – “Please, forgive me.”
- Lo siento, perdóname – “I’m sorry, forgive me.”
- Perdoname, (mi) amor – “Forgive me, my love.”
- ¿Me perdonas? – “Do you forgive me?”
- ¿Me perdonarás alguna vez? – “Will you ever forgive me?”
- No sé si podrás perdonarme – “I don’t know if you’ll be able to forgive me.”
After stepping on your dance partner’s foot for the tenth time in a row, you can stop saying lo siento and instead say perdón.
When used as a noun, perdón is literally translated as “forgiveness” in English. When used alone as its own expression, it means “I’m sorry” in the sense of “I ask for forgiveness.”
There are a couple of ways to say sorry in Spanish slang, but they’re only used when texting. In text messages, you can abbreviate perdón as xdon or prdn.
3 Other Ways to Apologize in Spanish
“My Apologies” in Spanish
Just like in English, “my apologies” in Spanish is a slightly more formal way to say “I’m sorry”.
There are two main ways to say it in Spanish: mis disculpas (literally “my apologies”) and mil disculpas (literally “a thousand apologies”).
“I Owe You an Apology” in Spanish
I’ve always found “I owe you an apology” to be a quite funny expression. It explicitly states that you have to apologize, but you’re not exactly apologizing, just saying that you have to.
The Spanish equivalent is Te debo una disculpa.
Te Pido Disculpas and Te Pido Perdón
Pedir disculpas and pedir perdón can mean “to apologize” or “to ask for forgiveness” depending on the context. Pedir disculpas is less strong than pedir perdón, and should be used when the blame is less heavy.
To make your apology even more heartfelt, you can add de corazón (“from the heart”) after te pido disculpas: Te pido disculpas de corazón por haberte ofendido (“I sincerely apologize for offending you.”)
How to Forgive in Spanish
This post wouldn’t be complete without a list of ways to reply to an apology.
Here are some of the most used:
- No pasa nada – “It’s okay” (literally “Nothing happens.”)
- Está bien – “It’s okay.”
- No te preocupes – “Don’t worry.” (No se preocupe is the formal version.)
- No hay problema – “No worries” (literally “There is no problem.”)
- Estás perdonado – “You’re forgiven.”
- Te perdono – “I forgive you.”
- No importa – “It doesn’t matter.”
- Estás disculpado – “You’re excused.”
- No te tienes que disculpar – “You don’t have to apologize.”
Say That You Are Sorry in Spanish
Now that you know how to say “I’m sorry” in Spanish, you can stop being worried about going to folk dancing classes!
You’ll have the chance to improve your dancing style and profusely apologize when stepping on your partner’s toes. (Oh, and don’t worry. Spanish-speaking dance partners aren’t usually this grumpy 😉)
As a pro at saying “sorry” in Spanish, will you use lo siento or perdón?
Maybe you could practise these with your italki tutor during your next session!