Everyone makes mistakes, so knowing how to say sorry in French is an important part of learning the language. Below are seventeen ways to say sorry in French and how to respond when someone apologises to you.
Saying Sorry in French
Knowing how to apologise for any and all mistakes you may make is essential for polite conversation.
The word “sorry” in English can be used in different ways: it can be used as an apology from either yourself or on behalf of a company, or it can be used to offer condolences and sympathise with someone.
In French, there are different ways to say sorry. Unfortunately, there is no single word you use for all situations in French, like in English.
There are ways to apologise that are used more in formal situations, while others are more colloquial and shouldn’t be used if you aren’t already familiar with someone. These are different from how you would offer your condolences, some of which are also listed in this article.
The Most Common Way to Say Sorry in French: Je Suis Désolé
So, let’s begin with the most common way that you can say sorry in French, because it is the one that you are most likely to come across.
Je suis désolé is the phrase that you will want to learn first.
It translates as “I am sorry” and can be adapted by changing the verb conjugation. For example, if you were to be apologising on behalf of a group of you, it would be nous sommes désolés. For more information on how to conjugate the verb “être,” take a look at this article.
This phrase can be used when you are talking to anyone, regardless of formality or familiarity. So, if you can’t remember which of the other phrases to use, this is the one for you to fall back on. It can also be used to express sympathy, when talking about what someone else is going through.
It is important to remember that as with most adjectives, the word désolé will change depending on the subject. So, for female speakers, désolé becomes désolée and if you are talking about multiple people being sorry, it becomes désolés.
Désolé is the shortened, more informal version of je suis désolé.
As mentioned earlier, this word is an adjective, so it will change spelling slightly depending on who is talking. If you want to learn more about how and why French adjectives change, check out this article.
Désolé can also be used if you are out and about and bump into someone accidentally in a crowded area. This is because it is a short phrase that can be exchanged without spending too much time talking.
How to Say I’m Extremely Sorry in French: Je Suis Navré
Je suis navré is primarily used in serious circumstances, so if you are extremely sorry, or are offering condolences about something very bad happening.
Navré comes from the Old French word nafrer, which means “to hurt by piercing or cutting.” Its evolution resulted in its present meaning “broken-hearted,” or “sorrowful,” which is why it is usually used when “je suis désolé'' doesn't seem to be enough.
It is also important to remember that just like désolé, navré is an adjective so the spelling may change depending on who’s using it.
How to Say Sorry When You Bump into Someone: Pardon
Pardon is generally used in a similar way to désolé due to its brevity. If you were to bump into someone in a crowded street or on public transport, this is one of the words that you could use to apologise.
This way of saying sorry can also be used when you are needing someone to repeat what they have said because you didn’t catch it.
Saying pardon when apologising should be fairly easy to remember for English-speakers as it is used in a similar way to “pardon” in English.
Excusez-moi: How to Get Someone’s Attention
Excusez-moi is another phrase that you can use to apologise for bumping into someone. However, it can also be used to get someone’s attention if you are needing to get past them or if you are in a restaurant and trying to attract the waiter to you.
In English, it is translated to “excuse me”, and excusez-moi is possibly the most well-known way to ask people to move aside for you to get past in French, at least amongst English speakers who are learning French.
If you were wanting to ask directions this would be a good way to start the conversation. For example, if you wanted to know how to get to the train station, you could say “Excusez-moi de vous déranger. Savez-vous où se trouve la gare?” which translates in English to “Excuse me/sorry for disturbing you. Do you know where I can find the train station?”
Try getting familiar with the phrase Excusez-moi de vous déranger, because it means, “Excuse me for bothering you..
How to Say It’s My Fault: C’est Ma Faute
Have you ever apologised and afterwards claimed responsibility for whatever you are apologising for?
The phrase c’est ma faute can be used to expand on an apology. For example, you would add it onto the sentence after saying je suis désolé. So, it becomes je suis désolé, c’est ma faute.
If you wish to expand the sentence after using c’est ma faute, it is generally followed by a verb in the conditional tense. For example, je suis désolé. C’est ma faute, j'aurais dû faire attention (I’m sorry. It’s my fault, I should have been paying attention).
The Formal Way to Say Sorry in French: Veuillez m’excuser
If you are in a very formal situation, in which even je suis désolé seems too informal, then it is time for you to use veuillez m’excuser. This phrase means “Please accept my apologies.”
Veuillez m’excuser is commonly used by companies if there is a delay on your public transport and is used to apologise for any inconveniences you may be facing as a result. For example, Veuillez nous excuser pour la gêne occasionnée (Please accept our apologies for the inconvenience caused.).
The Way to Say Sorry in French That Can Double as a Question: Je Vous Demande Pardon
In a similar way to veuillez m’excuser, je vous demande pardon is a more formal way of simply saying pardon.
Je vous demande pardon is rarely used in everyday French, but when it is, the phrase can be used as a question if you didn’t understand what someone had just said to you.
I Regret to Inform You in French: Je Suis Au Regret De Vous Informer
If you have a basic understanding of French, you will probably be able to guess what “je suis au regret de vous informer” means, as the word “regret” will stand out to you. The whole phrase translates to “I regret to inform you”.
Je suis au regret de vous informer is mainly used as a way to say sorry in French through the written word. It is usually seen at the beginning of a formal letter, followed by a rejection.
If you are looking for another phrase involving the word “regret” when you are saying sorry in French, then you could use je regrette.
Je regrette isn’t commonly heard but is used in a similar way to je suis désolé. While its literal translation is “I regret,” it is loosely translated to mean “I am sorry.”
When using je regrette, the sentence usually continues with “de” or “que” as the next word as it would then read “I regret to” or “I regret that.” An example of using je regrette in a sentence would be je regrette de ne pas avoir pu le faire (I’m sorry that I couldn’t make it.).
Je M’Excuse: The Impolite Way to Say Sorry in French
Saying sorry in French by using je m’excuse is largely considered as being impolite. This is because it means that you excuse or forgive yourself. So, although it is intended to be a way of asking for forgiveness, it doesn’t always come across this way.
Je m’excuse is used in French as a way to say sorry, however if you are learning to speak French, it is best to avoid using the phrase because some people won’t be very happy if you choose to apologise this way.
Another Informal Way to Apologise in French: Toutes Mes Excuses
Toutes mes excuses is an informal way to say sorry in French. It is mainly used when talking to friends and family, so isn’t very widely accepted at work or with strangers.
The Confusing Way to Say Sorry in French: Je Suis Confus
This way of saying sorry in French, can be confusing for those who are learning to speak the language as native English speakers. This is because when you see “je suis confus”, your mind will automatically associate the word confus with “confuse”.
Instead, je suis confus or je suis confuse, is a fairly old-fashioned way of saying “I’m sorry” in French.
Another Formal Way to Apologise in French: Je Vous Prie De Bien Vouloir M’Excuser
So, we have discussed toutes mes excuses, je m’excuse and veuillez m’excusez, but another formal way to use the reflexive verb excuser when apologising is je vais prie de bien vouloir m’excuser.
Je vous prie de bien vouloir m’excuser is a very formal way to say “I will apologise” or “I will beg your pardon” in French.
A Third Way to Formally Say Sorry in French: Je Vous Présente Mes Excuses
Another way that you can say sorry in French in formal situations is to use the phrase je vous présente mes excuses. It isn’t very often that it is used, but it is slightly more formal than veuillez m’excuser and less formal than je vous prie de bien vouloir.
Je vous présente mes excuses simply means, “I apologise.”.
Adverbs That Can Be Used When Saying Sorry in French
When apologising, especially when saying sorry in French using the phrase je suis désolé, there are certain words that you can use to expand on your apology.
Remember that while “très” is a common adverb meaning “a lot,” it isn’t an appropriate way to say that you’re really sorry in French, instead use vraiment, sincèrement, or profondément.
If you want to say that you are really sorry, and could only remember the phrase je suis désolé, you can add the word “vraiment.”
When doing this, the sentence becomes je suis vraiment désolé, which means “I am truly sorry.”
Je suis sincèrement désolé is a phrase that can be used to say, “I am sincerely sorry.” The word sincèrement is easily recognised by native English speakers due to its similarity to “sincerely.”
If you are looking to say that you are deeply sorry for whatever has happened, then the adverb that you can use is profondément, so the statement becomes je suis profondément désolé.
How to Say Sorry When Giving Your Condolences
Finding the right words to offer your condolences is one of the toughest challenges that you can face in any language. When someone is grieving, there aren’t many, or any words that are strong enough to help them.
While you can use je suis désolé to say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” if you are looking for a different phrase to offer your sympathies, you can use mes condoléances or, if you are in Canada, mes sympathies.
Mes condoléances is fairly easy to translate into English. It means “my condolences”. This phrase is used in the same way as you would when saying “my condolences” in English as well.
If you wanted to add another phrase to your repertoire in case of this situation, you can say “sorry for your loss,” by saying “toutes mes condoléances” which means “all of my condolences” in English.
Or, if you were apologising on behalf of your family, you can swap “mes” for “nos,” so the phrase would become “toutes nos condoléances” which means “all of our condolences.”
If you are in Canada, you can also say “mes sympathies” when saying sorry for your loss in French.
Mes sympathies literally means “my sympathies.”
Accepting Apologies in French
Learning how to accept apologies and forgive people is almost as important as learning how to apologise and ask for forgiveness.
There are several different phrases that you can learn to show your acceptance when someone apologises to you. These include:
Ce n’est pas grave – This phrase is an informal way to accept an apology and means “it’s not dire.” It can also be taken to mean “it’s fine,” or “it’s not a big deal.”
N’en parlons plus – This means “let’s not talk about it anymore.”
Je l’accepte – It is fairly easy to take an educated guess at what this phrase means. It can only be used when someone verbally says sorry in French, because it means “I accept it.” Je l’accepte is commonly used for phrases like je vous demande pardon.
French Customs When Saying Sorry
In English, there is the habit to automatically apologise, even when there is nothing for you to apologise for in a given situation. In French, this isn’t always the case, particularly in customer service.
Saying sorry in French is usually reserved for when you are truly sorry, instead of being used for every inconvenience like the weather. So, while the French are polite and will apologise, it is not something that is done as regularly as you would in an English-speaking country.
Because there are such a wide variety of ways that you can say sorry in French, all with varying uses, the main thing to remember is not to become too overwhelmed. If you can only remember one, then let that one be je suis désolé, because it can be used in almost every situation.
If you are looking to learn more ways to be polite when learning French, make sure you look at this article on how to be polite in French.