Apologizing and attracting someone’s attention in German

Most of us know when we have to say sorry, but when we’re not speaking our own language, it’s important to know how to do it.
In German, different circumstances call for different words and expressions for apologizing. The most common way of saying I’m sorry is Es tut mir leid or Es tut mir wirklich leid (I’m really sorry). More formally, especially if it’s something more serious, you can use Verzeihung, or Verzeihen Sie bitte.

If someone apologizes to you or tells you they’ve accidentally done something, you can reassure them by saying es macht nichts (it doesn’t matter) or kein Problem (no problem/worries). If you want to apologize for not being able to do something, you can use leider (unfortunately).

Entschuldigung, dass ich mich verspätet habe.
Sorry that I’m late.

Es tut mir wirklich leid, Karl. – Kein Problem!
I’m really sorry, Karl. – No worries!

Ich kann leider nicht kommen. – Macht nichts.
I’m sorry, I can’t come. – It doesn’t matter.

Another use of sorry in English is if you mishear someone and you want to ask them to repeat what they have said. In German, the easiest thing to say is wie bitte? (pardon? or sorry?).

If you need to get past someone, or if you bump into them, you can also say Entschuldigung or Entschuldigen Sie bitte (sorry or excuse me).


Entschuldigen Sie, darf ich bitte durch?
Excuse me, can I get through, please?

Entschuldigen Sie bitte, wie komme ich von hier aus zum Bahnhof?
Excuse me, how do I get to the station from here?

The phrases above also work for attracting someone’s attention in German, although more informally you might just want to shout Hallo! or Hey! If you are trying to attract the attention of one person in particular, use Herr xxx or Frau xxx.

Entschuldigen Sie, Herr Schumm!
Excuse me, Mr Schumm!

Don’t forget to come back for the next blog post to help you continue with the conversation.

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