“I’m sorry!” These were the only words that my friend Mark pronounced right after an embarrassing situation:
He accidentally opened the door of women’s restroom and saw someone peeing.
Poor Mark, every time I think about him, I picture that scene of him, suddenly closing his eyes, shutting the bathroom’s door and running away yelling the opening words of this post over and over.
Interestingly though, this lady didn’t speak English and when she went out of the bathroom she was like:
“¿Vieron a ese gringo que me abrió la puerta y me gritó como un loco?”
The most uncomfortable part of this story is that this happened during a family reunion, and the woman who Mark saw was his wife’s aunt.
I still remember his face looking at her during dinner time… Yes, good old and funny days, hahaha!
The good news are:
Mark is fine, he’s still sorry about that uncomfortable incident. Nonetheless, every time he recalls that day, he ends up laughing at the woman.
He is a very shy person, and he’s always thinking of what people think of him.
Imagine how frustrating and embarrassing it must’ have been for him, not being able to communicate and say sorry properly.
How do I say I’m sorry in Spanish?
During dinner, Mark asked me:
—”Pssstt… Diego, How do I say ‘I’m sorry’ in Spanish”.
—”Depends on how sorry you feel “— I reply, making a big effort not to laugh so the woman didn’t think we were making fun of her.
In English, there was only one option, all he could say was: I’m sorry for opening the door while you were peeing.
Now, in Spanish, we have more ways to express this idea.
Read the three different ways that we have in Spanish to say ‘sorry.’ Then, at the end of the article, make a comment telling me what the best option for my friend was.
Note: I don’t want you to be in Mark’s shoes, so read carefully the following ways of saying sorry in Spanish.
3 Different ways to say sorry in Spanish
1- Lo siento:
This is often taught as the Spanish equivalent for “I’m sorry”, but it doesn’t sound natural if you use it in every situation.
When I see people saying “lo siento” for everything they feel sorry about, it sounds like a robot repeating a pre-recorded audio, it just doesn’t sound natural!
In Spanish, we use “lo siento” to express condolences, this has to be something that you REALLY, REALLY feel bad about.
For instance, when there’s someone very sick you can say:
“Siento mucho que estés tan enfermo.
Perhaps, if you feel bad for not helping someone you can also say:
“Siento mucho no poder ayudarte“
Most of the time, people use it when someone dies, you go to a deceased’s relative and say:
“Lo siento mucho”
Bottom line is that “Lo siento” is just for situations that you feel empathy for the other person.
This is a very formal way to ask for an apology, it usually goes along with the pronoun “Usted”.
For example, if you are in a business meeting and you want to interrupt someone who is talking, you can say:
“Disculpe que lo interrumpa pero….”
Depending on how informal, or how close you feel to the person who you talk to, there’s a small variation: Disculpa, which goes along with the pronoun “Tú”.
Most Spanish countries use this informal talking with their family and friends. For instance:
“Mamá, disculpa por no lavarlos platos”
Sometimes, Spanish speakers like specific talking and that’s why you can add “me”, to the apology:
- Discúlpeme que lo interrumpa pero
- Mamá, discúlpame por no lavar los platos
Again, with this word, you are asking for an apology.
It’s basically the same meaning as “disculpe“, although “perdón” is a bit more meaningful than “disculpe“.
Just as we saw with the examples of “disculpe”, you can make it more formal or informal:
- Perdone: sounds formal and goes along with the pronoun “used”.
- Perdona: Sounds informal and goes along with the pronoun “tú”.
You can also add ‘me’ to specify that it’s you: perdoneme or perdoname.
How will you master these differences?
The difference between “lo siento”, “perdón” and “disculpe” is very simple:
- Lo siento: Something you really feel sorry about.
- Perdón: You ask for an apology.
- Disculpe: You ask for an apology, mostly a small apology.
Now, how can you master these differences?
What can you do to make them flow out of your mouth easily and spontaneously?
I ask these questions because, after getting a nice explanation about this topic, my students always get out of the classroom like:
“It’s pretty clear to me, thanks! Bye Diego!”
Days later, they talk to me in Spanish and every time they make a mistake, they say “Lo siento”. 😩
So, the question is: How can you master the context in which these words are used?
You will do it by training your brain to use and respond to Spanish automatically.
And how can you do that?… Using stories to learn Spanish!
I explain exactly everything you need to do to learn Spanish powerfully and effectively using stories in my free guide: 7 Steps To Understand Fast Speaking People In Spanish Through Compelling Listening Stories.
You may download it in the form at the end of this article.
Oh hey! and before you go… after considering these three different ways to say sorry in Spanish, I have a question for you:
What should Mark have said to express that he was sorry for interrupting the woman’s ritual in the W.C?
Leave your answer in the comments below!