Which Sorry is it in Spanish?
There are quite a few ways to say you’re sorry in Spanish, depending on the situation! Since English speakers tend to apply “sorry” to so many situations, and they come to know the Spanish phrase lo siento first, it’s helpful to understand that this phrase is not applied to every single situation. (I kind of want to hashtag my fave Canadians on this one–I love you guys!–but I can’t because, honestly, I over apologize in English too!) So, in Spanish you have different “sorries” and “excuse me’s” and “pardon me’s,” so it is a good idea to know how each is applied in everyday language.
Culturally, the idea is not even exactly the same between languages, so it is important to know which sorry works in each situation. Correct me if I am wrong, anyone! This article is based on my experience on Roatan, all over the Caribbean, and in Spain.
Lo Siento–I am (really) sorry
Since this phrase translates quite literally to “I feel it,” it expresses your most sincere of apologies and empathies. Lo siento not to be applied to each and every situation in the world, especially if you are just trying to get someone’s attention. This phrase expresses sincere empathy. Let’s say you misspoke, blabbed a secret about someone, or said something cruel or hurtful. You are feeling truly apologetic. This would be the perfect application for lo siento.
In other instances, lo siento expresses empathy for something bad happening such as breakups, deaths, traumas, or misfortunes.
Disculpe or Disculpa–Excuse me!
This word is often used in situations in which you would like to grab the attention of someone. It is often used in restaurants when you would like to get the attention of a wait person, in stores when requesting help, and many other situations in which you’d like to get someone’s attention.
Disculpe is the formal for usted, and disculpa is the second informal form for tú.
- ¿Disculpe, usted puede mover el carro?–Excuse me, could you move the car?
- ¿Disculpe, permiso a hablar?–Excuse me, permission to speak?
- ¿Disculpa, me puedes traer otro tenedor? Se me cayó este al piso.–Excuse me, could you bring another fork. I dropped this one.
Another situation that could call for the use of disculpe/a, would be if you accidentally bumped into someone, or stepped on their toe, or committed a minor error such as interrupting someone. For added emphasis, one might add the reflexive me. *Reflexive pronouns always add an additional degree of self-reflection to mental and emotional statemnents.
- Discúlpeme, me equivoqué./Excuse me, I made a mistake. (formal singular usted)
- Discúlpame, te interrupí./Excuse me, I interrupted you. (informal tú)
If you were to want to use the infinitive (base form) of the verb with a modal verb, the following phrases would work:
- ¿Me puede disculpar? Fue una equivoción./Could you excuse me? It was a mistake.
- Ojalá que me pueda disculpar./Hopefully he/she/usted can forgive me.
Perdón can be applied in many similar situations to those of disculpe/a. I might use perdón if I had the hiccups or wanted to say sorry for stepping on someone’s toe. To ask forgiveness is pedir perdón, and is more formal and serious than a simple perdón. The verb perdonar can be manipulated in a variety of ways to issue a more serious apology.
Here are a few in order from less to more serious:
- ¡Ups!. . ¡Perdón!/Oops! Sorry!
- Perdóneme, porfavor./Excuse me, please.
- ¡Quiero que pidas perdón!/I want you to apologize!
- Espero que me perdones./I hope you forgive me.
Permiso. . . Propio–Excuse me, permission to pass. . . It’s all yours
Permiso functions as “Excuse me,” when asking for permission to pass someone, enter a home, borrow a pen, or reach across the table. Of course these are not the only situations to which permiso can be applied, but they are some very common ones. Students have called out to me in the classroom, Permiso Miss! when I am blocking important information on the board and they would like me to move. The most typical uses would be in situations when you are politely asking someone else to move or you would like permission to enter a home or a space. Culturally, this is very important in some places and is considered protocol for entering someone else’s space.
- Permiso, ¿Puedo pasar?/Excuse me, can I get through?
- Permiso, ¿Me puede pasar la sal?/Excuse me, could you pass the salt?
The typical response to permiso is propio, literally meaning “it’s yours, it’s your own”, granting permission to do something. This all translates a little oddly to English, but it is very well-mannered and polite in Spanish, and goes a long way to establishing rapport.
Metí la pata. . . Me equivoqué
Meter la pata, literally ‘to stick one’s hoof into something’, is often likened to the English idiomatic expression “to stick one’s foot in his mouth.’ In Spanish, the expression can be applied to more situations than simply speaking out of turn or saying something you shouldn’t have said. Metí la pata–I stuck my hoof in it can be applied to just about any situation in which you kind of messed up! I like this one because it adds a little humor to a cringy situation.
- Metí la pata con Carmen. . . le dije que parecía más gorda y no lo apreciaba./I messed up with Carmen. . . I told her she was looking fatter and she didn’t appreciate it.
- No estudié para el examen. Saqué una nota mala, así metí la pata con mi madre./I didn’t study for the exam. I got a bad grade, and that’s how I messed up with my mom.
- Él se metió la pata con su novia. No sé si le va a perdonar aunque le pidió perdón./He really stuck his foot in his mouth with his girlfriend. I don´t know if she will forgive him even though he asked her forgiveness.
Me equivoqué is an admission of having made a mistake, however minor or major. The verb equivocarse is always reflexive and shows a level of ownership to the mistake.
- Disculpe, me equivoqué del número./Excuse me, I mistook the number (wrong number!).
- Me equivoqué del camino./I went the wrong way.
- Uds. se equivocaron, la respuesta correct sería 108./You guys made a mistake, the correct answer is 108.