Whether we’ve simply stepped top top someone’s toe, knocked over a glass that milk, arrived late for a conference or got heartbreaking news, we apologize much more than us think us do.

You are watching: How to say sorry in mandarin

As a result, it’s only herbal that learning how to say i m really sorry in Mandarin Chinese is a high priority top top a beginner’s checklist.

However, saying i m really sorry in Chinese isn’t constantly the same as in English.

And for that reason, there room six crucial phrases every student should save up your sleeve for as soon as the situation arises.

Keep analysis to discover out what this phrases are, once they must be used and also what specifically they mean. Then, uncover how to respond when you’re the receiver of the apology.

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When (and how Often) must You Say i m really sorry in Chinese?

Believe that or not, Chinese speakers don’t always say sorry for the very same things as English speaker do. While several of these situations make sense, others deserve to leave learner confused about why they call for one apology.

Apologizing theatre a vital role in Chinese culture. Not only are apologies used to refer regret and also sympathy, yet they’re additionally utilized to save face and keep relationship intact.

Here’s a list of cases where an apology is constantly needed when speaking Chinese:

When you’re embarrassed around something. sounds odd, right? Why would you need to say sorry if you’ve unpleasant yourself? believe it or not, native English speakers perform something similar.

In Chinese, saying sorry after one awkward or embarrassing instance is favor saying “excuse me” in English. Because that example, if you invited a coworker to your house yet didn’t have time come clean up, you’d say something along the lines of “please excuse the mess.”

When you’ve interrupted or bothered someone. It’s always wise to think prior to you speak, but in situation you let your tongue slip as soon as someone else to be talking, to speak sorry. Additionally, if you’ve taken time out of someone’s day for a favor or come ask them a question, it’s typical to to apologize for using their time.When you’ve make a failure (by accident or not). Finally, if girlfriend made a mistake, whether it’s through accident or top top purpose, speak you’re sorry. It’s as an easy as that!


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Use lasignoralaura.com’s annotated subtitles, interactive vocabulary lists, flashcards and more to gain a much better sense of these phrases and their use in genuine conversations!

6 ways to Say i m really sorry in Mandarin Chinese (and 4 means to Respond)

Now the you recognize when it’s appropriate to say i m really sorry in Mandarin, let’s dive into the six phrases friend should add to your an individual dictionary.

6 ways to Say i m really sorry in Chinese

不好意思 (bù hǎo yì si) — “Sorry about That”

The phrase 不好意思 literally method “not good meaning” and also historically was offered to average “embarrassing.” It’s much an ext casual than the other phrases and is supplied to apologize for minor offenses. In English, we can translate this phrase as “sorry around that!” or “my bad!”


我来晚了,不好意思 (wǒ lái wǎn le, bù hǎo yì si) — I came late, sorry around that! (To a friend or family members member)

对不起 (duì bù qǐ) — “Sorry”

The most popular phrase because that saying i m really sorry in Chinese is 对不起. However, that shouldn’t be offered as often as 不好意思 since it dead a bit much more weight.

对不起 is used largely in formal instances or for much more serious offenses and also mistakes. to understand just how much more serious this expression is, the literal translation in English is “unworthy.”

Thus, 对不起 must only be offered in cases where you’re important embarrassed or regretful and also want come ask because that forgiveness.


这个房间太乱了,对不起 (zhè ge fáng jiān tài luàn le, duì bù qǐ) — This room is as well messy, I’m sorry.

我忘了你的名字,真对不起 (wǒ wàng le nǐ de míng zi, zhēn duì bù qǐ) — i forgot her name, I’m for this reason sorry.

我约会迟到了,对不起 (wǒ yuē huì chí dào le, duì bù qǐ) — I’m late because that our date, I’m sorry.

抱歉 (bào qiàn) — “I sincerely Apologize”

Unlike 对不起 and also 不好意思, the indigenous 抱歉 is used much more like one adjective to define how friend feel. This is the word you use once expressing exactly how sorry you feeling for someone, or if you’re apologizing to an authority figure and are begging for your forgiveness. In English, the literal meaning of 抱歉 is “to hold regret.”

Typically, 抱歉 is used in formal situations.


我很抱歉听到这个消息 (wǒ hěn bào qiàn tīng dào zhè ge xiāo xi) — I’m so i m really sorry to hear this news!

我开会迟到了,真抱歉 (wǒ kāi huì chí dào le, zhēn bào qiàn) — ns was late because that the meeting, thank you apologies!

是我的错 (shì wǒ de cuò) — “It’s my Fault”

If girlfriend really want to impress indigenous speakers v your Chinese skills, whip the end the phrase 是我的错 the following time you need to admit come a mistake. The expression literally means “it’s my fault” or “it’s mine mistake” and also is supplied to admit one’s faults. In other words, use this expression to take it the blame for something that’s unable to do wrong.

But that’s not the only way 是我的错 is used. The expression can additionally express empathy, and it’s used among friends and also family.


这个饭太难吃了,是我的错 (zhè ge fàn tài nán chī le, shì wǒ de cuò) — This food tastes so gross, it’s mine fault!

你的椅子坏了,是我的错 (nǐ de yǐ zi huài le, shì wǒ de cuò) — your chair is broken, it’s my fault!

我错了 (wǒ cuò le) — “I was Wrong”

The word 错 (cuò) means “to it is in wrong” or “to do a mistake,” for this reason this expression literally way “I to be wrong” or “I was mistaken.” In Chinese, 我错了 is commonly used by youngsters when apologizing come parents, a girlfriend or friend apologizing come their partner or a spouse apologizing to their spouse. Comparable to 是我的错, use the expression 我错了 come take property of doing something wrong.

It can also be provided to admit being wrong in an argument.


妈妈,今天我错了(mā ma, jīn tiān wǒ cuò le) — Mom, i was not correct today/I make a wrong today.

我偷了你的钱包,我错了 (wǒ tōu le nǐ de qián bāo, wǒ cuò le) — ns stole your wallet, i did wrong.

是我不对 (shì wǒ bù duì) — “It’s my Bad”

The expression 是我不对 literally means “I was not correct” and also is used in similar situations together 我错了 and also 是我的错. It’s comparable to saying “it’s mine bad” or “that’s mine fault” in English, and is supplied to express feeling regretful or guilty because that making a mistake large or small.


那时候是我不对 (nà shí hou shì wǒ bù duì) — that time to be my bad.

4 methods to Respond as soon as Someone states Sorry in Chinese

Now girlfriend know how to say i m really sorry in Chinese. However what around when someone states sorry to you?

Imagine if someone were to action on her foot, take it up her time or pour out orange juice on girlfriend in a cafe. They say i m really sorry in Chinese, and you totally understand them!

…But you have actually no idea what to say back. Awkward!

Luckily, we’re right here to save you native that tragic situation. Learning just how to respond come an apology is as easy as learning just how to do one. Plus, each of these responses deserve to be provided interchangeably, as they don’t rely on formality.

没关系 (méi guān xi) — “It’s Okay”

This is the many common an answer to one apology in Chinese and also translates as “it’s okay.” the literally way “don’t lose face” and also is most commonly paired v 对不起.

别担心 (bié dān xīn) — “Don’t Worry around It”

Just prefer in English, a common an answer to one apology is to tell someone not to worry around it. The phrase literally means “don’t worry” and also is used as a response to any type of of the 6 apologies.

没事 (méi shì) — “It’s Nothing”

Another means we deserve to translate this is “it’s no a large deal.”

没事 is a advantageous phrase to learn because it can also serve together a an answer to 怎么了 (zěnme le)? — “What’s wrong?” 你今天做什么 (nǐ jīn tiān zuò shénme)? — “What go you carry out today?” and also 你没事吧 (nǐ méi shì ba)? — “Are girlfriend alright?”

算了吧 (suàn le ba) — “Forget about It”

If it’s no a huge deal, permit the person know they deserve to forget about it with the expression 算了吧.


You currently know how to confidently say sorry in Chinese and respond come apologies provided to you.

You’re also well on your method to impressing native speakers through a few colloquial yet systematic apology phrases! us hope you won’t have to use them really often, but when the moment comes, think about yourself well equipped.

Brooke Bagley is a freelance writer and passionate language learner. She’s learned Mandarin Chinese for 7 years, Spanish for three and also Indonesian because that one. Aside from languages, Brooke runs she freelance creating business, Writing & Thriving, and specializes in B2B copywriting, content marketing and also holistic health and wellness.

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