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How to Say “Sorry” in French in Every Situation

Sorry always seems to be the hardest word, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Anyone who’s learning French or visiting a French-speaking country needs to know how to say sorry in French. If you memorize a few key expressions then you’ll know how to apologize appropriately in different situations.

There are all kinds of different ways you can say sorry or excuse me in French, depending on the situation and who you’re speaking to. We’re going to look at all the options, from formal correspondence to casual slang and everything in between.

“Sorry” in French – Pardon

Although it’s not something we hear every day, pardon is a word that most people are familiar with. Pardon is one of the many words that were taken from the French language. It comes from the medieval Latin “perdonare” meaning to concede or remit.

The French verb “pardonner” literally means “to forgive”, so the word “pardon” is used to ask for forgiveness.

  • Je te demande pardon, je n’ai pas fait exprès de te blesser. – I beg your pardon, I didn’t mean to hurt you.

You can see French pop singer Louane asking for forgiveness in one of her latest songs Pardonne-moi.

“Pardon” has come to be used as a stand-alone word to say sorry:

  • Pardon, j’ai pris ton stylo en pensant que c’était le mien. – Sorry, I took your pen thinking it was mine.
  • Pardon, je peux passer, s’il vous plaît ? – Sorry, can I get through, please?

Just like in English, it can also be used to ask people to repeat what they said when you didn’t hear it the first time.

  • Pardon, je n’ai pas entendu, tu peux répéter ? – Sorry, I didn’t hear you, can you say that again?

French word for “sorry” – Désolé

Désolé is the go-to word for French students when they’re looking to say “sorry”, but most people don’t actually know what it means.

The verb “désoler” comes from the Latin word “desolare”, meaning depopulate or ravage. It was first used in this context in French in the XII century. For example:

  • La famine désolait le village. – Famine desolated the village.

By the XIV century, it was used to mean “to strike with great affliction”.

  • La mort de son ami le désole. – The death of his friend desolates him.

This has evolved to become standard when something causes an inconvenience.

  • Tous ces problèmes me désolent. – All these problems distress me.

The past participle and adjective form is “désolé”. This is now the most commonly used term to say sorry in French.

  • Je suis désolé de vous avoir fait attendre. – I’m sorry to have kept you waiting.
  • Il n’est même pas désolé pour ce qu’il a fait ! – He’s not even sorry for what he did!

The difference between désolé and désolée

The meaning of “désolée” is exactly the same as “désolé”, as is the pronunciation. The difference is that désolée is only used by feminine subjects. This means that if the speaker is a woman then they should add the second “e” to make the adjective feminine.

  • Il est désolé d’avoir déçu ses parents. – He is sorry to have disappointed his parents.
  • Elle est désolée pour son manque de bonnes manières à table. – She’s sorry for her lack of table manners.

The same applies to plural subjects. For example, if you are speaking on behalf of a group of both men and women, you would use “désolés”.

  • Nous sommes désolés pour toute offense causée. – We are sorry for any offense caused.

If the group is entirely female, you would instead use “désolées”.

  • Elles sont vraiment désolées de ne pas vous avoir invité. – They are really sorry for not inviting you.

Saying “sorry” in French to a girl

It’s vital to know that despite modifying adjectives to agree with the feminine or plural speaker, we do not change the sentences according to who we are addressing. Simply put, if you want to say sorry in French to a woman or a man, the words remain the same.

“Sorry” in French informal

The casual way to apologize in French is simply by shortening the phrase “je suis désolé” to one word: désolé. The meaning stays the same, and there is technically no difference in formality, but it may come across as less sincere than if you were to say the full sentence.

  • Désolé, je ne le ferai plus. – Sorry, I won’t do it again.
  • Je t’ai oublié, désolé. – I forgot about you, sorry.

“I’m very sorry” in French

If you want to sound more like a native French speaker or make your apology sound more sincere, then you can add a selection of adverbs before the word désolé.

The most common choice is “je suis vraiment désolé” meaning “I’m really sorry”. While English speakers typically prefer “I’m very sorry”, the French do not use “très désolé”. Très expresses a degree, so it can’t be used in this case in French as really you are either sorry or you’re not. Instead, here are some adjectives you could use:

  1. Je suis vraiment désolé – I’m very sorry
  2. Je suis profondément désolé – I’m deeply sorry
  3. Je suis tellement désolé – I’m so sorry
  4. Je suis sincèrement désolé – I’m sincerely sorry

How to say “excuse me” in French


This is another extremely common way to apologize in French, and is pretty well known worldwide. It is composed of the verb “excuser”, meaning to excuse, followed by the object pronoun “moi”, meaning me.

The verb excuser is conjugated in the second-person plural, vous, which is used for both politeness and for addressing more than one person. It can be translated as “excuse me” or simply “sorry”.

  • Mesdames, je ne vous ai pas vues, excusez-moi. Ladies, I didn’t see you, excuse me.
  • Excusez-moi Monsieur Leblanc, avez-vous 10 minutes pour m’accorder ? – Excuse me, Mr Leblanc, do you have 10 minutes to spare?


When speaking to people you know well, as well as to children or people significantly younger than you, you use the informal subject pronoun “tu”. The conjugation of “excuser” in the second-person singular form is “tu excuses”. However, in the imperative, conjugations of first-group verbs do not take an -s, hence “excuse-moi”.

  • Excuse-moi de te déranger, mais pourrais-tu me donner un coup de main ? – Sorry to bother you, but could you lend me a hand?
  • Je vais juste prendre cet appel, excuse-moi. – I’m just going to take this call, sorry.

Je m’excuse

This is often criticized by true French-language lovers, as it could be considered excusing yourself rather than asking to be excused. That’s because “je m’excuse” literally translates to “I excuse myself”. That said, it is frequently used as an apology and it is unlikely to cause offense if used to say excuse me in French.

  • Je ne voulais pas te rentrer dedans, je m’excuse. – I didn’t mean to bump into you, sorry.
  • Je m’excuse d’avoir répondu, maman. – I’m sorry for answering back, mom.

Je m’en excuse

If you want to apologize for a particular thing, then you can either state the action you are apologizing for, or you can replace it with the adverbial pronoun “en”.

  • Je m’excuse de vous avoir fait attendre → Je m’en excuse – I apologize for making you wait → I apologize for that
  • Il s’excuse de vous avoir menti → Il s’en excuse – He’s sorry he lied to you → He’s sorry for it

Saying “sorry” in French – formal

You may be aware that formal French correspondence usually requires writing long sentences, for example, in letter endings. Likewise, written French apologies can be very wordy, but are considered necessary in formal contexts so as not to come across as impolite.

Most formal ways of apologizing start with je vous prie, which means “I ask you”, but can be more literally translated to “I beg you”. We can follow this with a variety of apologies:

  1. Je vous prie de m’excuser.
  2. Je vous prie de bien vouloir accepter mes excuses.
  3. Je vous prie de pardonner…
  4. Je vous prie de me pardonner
  5. Je vous prie de bien vouloir accepter mes excuses les plus sincères.
  6. Je vous prie d’accepter mes excuses

We can also “present” our apologies using “je vous présente mes excuses”.

  • Je vous prie de m’excuser, messieurs dames, pour la gêne occasionnée. – I apologize, ladies and gentlemen, for the inconvenience.
  • Je vous présente toutes mes excuses pour cette négligence. – I apologize for this oversight.
  • Je vous prie de pardonner mon erreur. – I apologize for my mistake.

Formal French apology – Je regrette

In English, “regret” is a noun or a verb that expresses a feeling of sadness, disappointment, or remorse about something that has happened or something that you have done or failed to do. It’s often associated with wishing that a different choice had been made. This is not always the case in French, as it can also carry a connotation of missing something or feeling sorry about something’s absence or loss.

Language often has nuances and cultural influences that shape its usage. In French, “je regrette” is a common way to convey an apology or express regret, even though it directly translates to “I regret.” It’s a cultural convention that has become a standard way of saying “I’m sorry” in French. The idea behind it is simple: acknowledging a mistake or expressing sorrow for causing inconvenience or hurt.

  • Elle regrette son comportement déplacé lors de la réunion des partenaires. – She regrets her inappropriate behavior at the partners’ meeting.
  • Je regrette d’avoir oublié notre anniversaire de mariage pour la troisième année d’affilée. – I’m sorry I forgot our wedding anniversary for the third year in a row.

Formal “sorry” in French – Navré

Another way to express sadness about something is “je suis navré”. This is very similar to being “désolé” but slightly more formal, and we hear it less often. As navré is an adjective, we must use adjective agreement depending on who is speaking.

  • Nous sommes navrés du décès de votre grand-père. – We’re sorry about the death of your grandfather.
  • Je suis navré d’apprendre cette nouvelle. – I’m sorry to hear this news.

How to respond to “I’m sorry” in French

The best way to respond to an apology in French is by saying “no problem” or “don’t worry about it”. You can do this with a simple phrase: C’est pas grave !

This is technically written ce n’est pas grave, but is often said so quickly that the “n” is dropped. Here are few alternatives:

  1. Pas de souci – No worries
  2. Je vous pardonne – I forgive you
  3. Tout va bien – It’s alright
  4. Ça arrive à tout le monde – It happens to everyone
  5. Oublions ça – Let’s just forget it
  6. Ne vous inquiétez pas – Don’t worry about it (formal/plural)
  7. Ne t’inquiéte pas – Don’t worry about it (informal/singular)
  8. Merci pour vos excuses – Thank you for your apology
  9. Je suis touché(e) par vos excuses – I’m touched by your apology
  10. Vous êtes pardonné(e) – You are forgiven
  11. Je suis reconnaissant(e) de votre sincérité – I’m grateful for your sincerity

As we have seen, there are many different ways to say sorry and excuse me in French. Apologies are an essential part of communication, so it’s important to learn a couple before engaging in conversation with Francophones. Before traveling to a French-speaking country, make sure to learn all the basic vocabulary including please, thank you, and “you’re welcome” in French. These will help you befriend the locals and show off your language skills.

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