If you’ve made a mistake or hurt someone’s feelings abroad in a Spanish speaking country, you’re going to need a Spanish word or phrase specifically to make amends for your wrongdoing.
Or you may wish to say sorry as a way of expressing condolences.
Are you unsure which expressions to use?
And, if so, did you know that you have so many options when it comes to making an apology in Spanish?
There’s the standard lo siento, which I’ve covered in more detail further on in this article. But even though it might be the most frequently used phrase used during the early stages of your Spanish learning experience, there are many other ways to say ‘sorry’.
That’s what this article is for.
So, if you’re a little confused or want a few more examples to add to your vocabulary, continue on to discover a variety of ways to make an apology in Spanish.
‘I’m sorry’ in Spanish: Essential ways to apologise
I’m going to start by clarifying the definition of four critical phrases you might hear in Spanish speaking countries.
These are all used in different contexts but all have connotations of the word ‘sorry’ and are used for making an apology in Spanish.
As promised, first on the list is lo siento.
Lo siento - ‘I’m sorry’
As we’ve mentioned, lo siento is the typical phrase you’ll hear used in various Spanish speaking countries, and you’ll learn it early in a course from your Spanish teacher.
The literal translation of lo siento is ‘I feel it’, with the impersonal lo referring to the situation that has offended, for which you are apologising.
If you need to apologise for accidentally spilling someone’s drink, for instance, you would use lo siento to convey how sorry you are.
The phrase is used to emphasise that you understand, empathise or feel the discomfort you have caused the other person, and to make an apology in Spanish.
¡Lo siento! Te compro otra bebida.
Perdón - ‘Excuse me’
How many times have you needed to politely ask someone to move out of your way when exiting a bus or train? In cases like these, you are going to need the word perdón.
Yes, perdón is used for situations where you’re on a packed autobus and you need people to make space so you can exit and avoid missing your stop.
Or what if you need to grab your hand luggage from the overhead storage compartment and need to ask the crowd of people to move out of your way? Perdón is the phrase you’re looking for.
Perdón means ‘excuse me’.
You can remember it as it is similar to the English word ‘pardon’, and is used in similar contexts too.
Perdón. Esta es mi parada.
Disculpe - ‘I’m sorry’ (formal)
Disculpe can be used in a couple of different contexts. You might hear it being used where someone needs to walk around someone in a supermarket and there’s not enough space.
In contexts like these, disculpe can mean ‘excuse me’.
In other situations, someone might say disculpe when they want to make an apology in Spanish in a formal situation. Here is an example of this.
Disculpe las molestias, hay obras de carretera.
Lo lamento - ‘I’m really sorry’ (I lament)
You might find yourself needing to make an apology in Spanish for a more serious error or to emphasise how sorry you feel about a situation that can’t be changed.
If you’re in a situation like this, this will call for the phrase lo lamento or lo lamento mucho, with the verb lamento translating to the first-person singular phrase ‘I regret (it)‘.
Lo lamento mucho, pero estás despedida. La decisión es final.
Apologetic phrases that don’t feature the word ‘sorry’
As in English, you’ll find that there are many ways to convey how sorry you are about a situation without actually saying the word ‘sorry’, and make an apology in Spanish.
The most common reason you might want to avoid the actual word ‘sorry’ is when you’re empathising with someone but bear no fault or blame.
There are also synonyms of the phrase ‘I’m sorry’, which is another reason why you might not hear the standard lo siento in every single situation. Keep reading for some of these examples.
Que pena - ‘What a pity’
If someone suffers an unhappy event, you can use the phrase que pena to convey how sad that event must have been.
In these situations, you might not be to blame for the misdeed or wrongdoing, but you might want to make an apology in Spanish because something unfortunate has occurred.
This helps you emphasise that you understand how difficult or challenging the event must have been.
Que pena means ‘what a pity’. Take a look at our usage example just below to understand how to use it.
Suspendió sus exámenes de inglés. Que pena.
Fue mi culpa - ‘It was my fault’
In cases where you’re building up to an apology in Spanish — or are about to use the standard lo siento — you’ll probably use the phrase fue mi culpa, or la culpa fue mía, which mean ‘it was my fault’, or ‘the fault was mine’ respectively.
You might hear this in dramatic movies (think Antena 3 movies in Spain, which usually feature dramatic events and sad situations within families or between friends).
In situations like these, the protagonist might say fue mi culpa when they are to blame for the unfortunate event that has happened.
Fue mi culpa. No era una buena madre.
Quería disculparme por… - ‘I would like to apologise for…’
If you have made a mistake, perhaps at work, you’ll find this phrase useful.
Instead of saying lo siento, you can say quería disculparme por. This phrase means ‘I would like to apologise for…’
Combine this with fue mi culpa, and you can start to emphasise how sorry you are and make your apology in Spanish in a formal context while being honest and forthright.
El otro día, cometí un gran error. Fue mi culpa. Quería disculparme por este error.
Espero que me perdones - ‘I hope you forgive me’
Once you’ve made that all-important apology in Spanish, you’re going to need a way to reconcile the issue. To make a good start, you might use the phrase espero que me perdones.
This phrase means ‘I hope you forgive me’, and is used to show that you would like to resolve the issue amicably.
Take note that, in this example, we use the subjunctive verb and not the indicative.
Instead of the verb perdonas we use the verb *perdones* and the verb conjugation is different. This is because the sentence expresses a wish or hope, and also features two subjects within one sentence.
Ayer, estaba un poco enfadada. Pero ahora, entiendo tu punto de vista. Espero que me perdones.
Make your apology and show your regret with the right phrase
Though you might not have known the right word to make your apology in Spanish, nothing is stopping you now. 😊
You have all the right words and phrases required to pedir perdón when you’ve upset someone.
Manners and etiquette mean a lot, so always own up when you’ve made a mistake and choose the right phrase to emphasise your regret. You don’t need to stick to lo siento. As we’ve mentioned, there are plenty of variations to help you.
Would you like to see any phrases added to this list?
Make your comment with the phrase below!