How to say sorry in French like a native.

It’s no secret that good manners are important in the French language and within French society.

Just as “please” and “thank you” are key in any conversation, so is saying “sorry”. Mistakes happen, things go wrong, hearts get broken, fur coats get stolen and apologizing is just part of life.

While we might say “pardon” in English if we haven’t heard something correctly or if we’re pretending to be fancy, in French, pardon is more commonly used to say excuse me” if you are in a busy place or a packed metro. In the right situation, the words je suis désolé show that you are sincerely contrite.

The common French phrases you’ve learned aren’t good enough to apologize? Fret not – there are many ways to apologize in French, despite the fact that the French don’t say “sorry” nearly as much as English speakers, and there’s no comparison with Canadians on this front! Deciding which version of “sorry” to use in conversation is a challenge. The following text may save you a faux pas or two.

Ways to say sorry in French

As you are learning French, and are a polite, curious person, you’ll surely want to brush up on your repertoire of polite expressions. Saying pardon comes instinctively on public transport, just as desolé(e) is a common word to express that you’re sorry and issue a more substantial apology. Just like French greetings, these words are a natural part of conversation for French speakers, so knowing them is essential. 

9 different ways to say “sorry” in French

French beginners may wonder which version of “sorry” to use as the French language is full of pitfalls and treacherous traps. You don’t want to be too familiar in your approach if you are apologizing for a serious mistake. Keep reading to  learn the various ways of saying sorry in French.


Meaning: “Sorry”

The literal translation of “sorry,” “desolé(e)” allows you to quickly and effectively show remorse for something. For example, if you cut the line in front of someone without meaning to. 


– Eh ! C’était mon tour ! 

– Désolé(e), je ne vous avez pas vu.


– Hey! It was my turn! 

– Sorry, I didn’t see you.

Je suis désolé (e)

Meaning:  I am sorry (formal)

Je suis désolé(e) is a common way to apologize and express regret. You can use it to express empathy for someone’s loss, (Je suis desolé(e) pour votre/ta perte).

Example: Je suis désolé(e) pour votre/ta perte.

Translation: I’m sorry for your loss.


Meaning: I’m sorry (formal). Literally: “excuse me”

This phrase is often used when asking someone you don’t know a question. For example, when asking for directions or an item in a shop. Just make sure that you say Bonjour before “Excusez-moi,” as it is seen as impolite if you do not start a conversation with Bonjour.

Example:  Excusez-moi, vous êtes assis(e) à ma place.

Translation: Sorry, you’re in my seat.

Je suis au regret de…

Meaning: I regret to… 

Mostly used in formal settings to express regret or to deliver unfortunate news or information, it can also be used to apologize for an action or for an inconvenience. 

Example: Je suis au regret de vous informer que nous avons rencontré des problèmes techniques lors de votre réservation.

Translation: I regret to inform you that we encountered technical issues with your booking.

C’est ma faute

Meaning: It’s my fault

C’est ma faute is a straightforward expression used to take responsibility or admit blame for a mistake or wrongdoing. It’s a way to take ownership of one’s actions and acknowledge responsibility for the consequences. It shows accountability and a willingness to accept the consequences of one’s mistakes.

Example: J’ai oublié notre rendez-vous. C’est ma faute. 

Translation: I forgot our appointment. It’s my fault.

Je vous présente mes excuses

Meaning: Please accept my apologies (formal)

A polite and respectful way to apologize to someone, particularly in formal or professional contexts.

Example: Je vous présente mes excuses pour toute confusion ou malentendu. 

Translation: Please accept my apologies for any confusion or misunderstanding.

Toutes mes excuses

Meaning: I apologize

Helps express a sense of sincere remorse and acknowledges responsibility for any mistakes or inconvenience caused, mostly commonly used in formal or professional settings to express genuine apologies.

Example:  Toutes mes excuses pour le retard. Je n’ai pas pu partir plus tôt.

Translation: I apologize for the delay. I couldn’t leave earlier.

Je vous présente mes condoléances

Meaning: I offer you my condolences (formal) / I’m sorry for your loss (informal)

A formal and respectful expression used to convey sympathy and offer condolences to someone who has experienced a loss or is grieving. 


Example: J’ai entendu que votre chat est décédé, je vous présente mes condoléances. 

Translation: I heard that your cat passed away. I’m sorry for your loss.

Oups !

Meaning: Oops (informal)

A casual and lighthearted interjection used to express surprise, mild embarrassment, or a small mistake. Commonly used in informal conversations or in situations where a minor error or surprise occurs.

Example: Oups ! J’ai renversé mon café sur la table. 

Translation: Oops! I spilled my coffee on the table

The uses of the word pardon in French

One of the most versatile ways to quickly apologize in daily life, pardon is often used to get past someone or to get their attention. An English translation would be “excuse me” or “pardon me”.  

Je vous demande pardon ? 

Meaning: I beg your pardon? (formal)

If you wish to express surprise, feel free to use this question in the event that someone has said something shocking or rude.

Example: Pardon ? Vous m’avez parlé ? 

Translation: I beg your pardon? Did you talk to me? 

Pardon ?

Meaning: Pardon? / Sorry?

Just as in English, pardon can be used when asking someone to repeat what they have said. In a less formal environment, you are more likely to hear people say comment ?, a polite alternative to quoi ? or hein ?  Which is a somewhat blunt “what?”, and also sometimes an incentive to start a fight


  • Vous avez fait tomber vos clés.
  • Pardon ? 


  • You dropped your keys.
  • Sorry?


Meaning: Sorry

A way to ask for forgiveness whilst showing courtesy or politeness.

Example: Pardon, je ne voulais pas te déranger. 

Translation: Excuse me, I didn’t mean to disturb you.

Pardon !

Meaning: Excuse me! / Sorry!

Seeking someone’s attention or politely interrupting

Example: Pardon ! Pouvez-vous m’aider s’il vous plaît ? 

Translation: Excuse me! Could you please help me?

Je suis navré(e)

Meaning: I am sorry (formal), I am deeply sorry

Je suis navré(e) is a more serious way of saying je suis desolé(e), and is likely to be used in writing rather than in spoken French. For example, it might be used in a customer service context to apologize to a client.


  • Je n’ai pas reçu mon colis !
  • Je suis navré pour ce retard


-I haven’t received my package!

– I am sorry for the delay.

How to say you are feeling sorry in French

If someone gets into an unfortunate situation, you may want to express to them that you feel sorry for them in French. You could say:

Ça me fait de la peine / Tu me fais de la peine

Meaning: That saddens me / I feel sorry for you (Literally: “This gives me pain”)

Expression meaning you feel sorry/bad for somebody.


  • Je pars faire un road trip de six semaines et la compagnie aérienne a perdu tous mes bagages.
  • Ça me fait de la peine pour toi.


– I’m going on a 6-week road trip and the plane company lost all my luggage.

– I feel for you

Je dois avoir pitié de toi ?

Meaning: Should I feel sorry for you?

If you get into a situation where someone is trying to make you feel bad for them, you might ask them if you should take pity on them. Note that you should use this phrase with caution, depending on the context.


  • J’ai dépensé tout mon argent en bijoux sur le marché, je suis ruiné(e)
  • Et, je dois avoir pitié de toi ? 

Translation :

I spent all my money on jewelry in the market, I’m broke. 

– Should I feel sorry for you?

Apologie in French is a false friend

In English, an “apology” is asking somebody tto forgive you and telling somebody you are sorry for something. In French une apologie is a false friend, as it describes a “speech” writing or praising of an idea, a person, a doctrine. 

The correct translation of “apology” is excuse

Asking for forgiveness in French

How to say “excuse me” in French

As mentioned above, pardon is an appropriate way to say “excuse me” when on the train, or in a crowded place. Excusez-moi is a more formal request (a demand, even) to be excused, often used in the hopes of getting past someone. Note that excusez-moi is the form used when asking questions of someone you do not know or have a formal relationship with. Excuse-moi is the tu form (informal) of “excuse me”, and would be used around friends, family and colleagues depending on how close you are.

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4 different ways to say “excuse me” in French

Even though “excuse me” is the most common way of apologizing in French (it can be used in formal and informal settings, with friends, family, and colleagues). Here is a list of other ways to say “excuse me” in French and how to ask for forgiveness.

Excusez-moi, pouvez-vous répéter la question s’il vous plaît ? 

Meaning: I’m sorry, could you repeat the question please?

Probably a phrase you learned at school, it is a formal way to ask someone to repeat themselves in French. In real life, if a French language learner says this sentence, they are most likely to be met with a reply in English. In this case, it’s much better to say the word comment ?

Quoi ?  

Meaning: What? (Informal)

It is best to use quoi around friends and family, as it can be perceived as impolite in other settings.


  • Tu m’entends ? 
  • Quoi ?


– Can you hear me?

 – What?

Je vous prie de m’excuser

Meaning: Please excuse me / I apologize (very formal)

A formal expression to request forgiveness – used in writing or orally.

Example: Je vous prie de m’excuser pour mon retard, je n’avais plus de batterie.

Translation: Please excuse me, I ran out of battery.

Comment puis-je me faire pardonner ?

Meaning: How can I make it up to you? 

An expression used to show that you express deep regrets and are ready to change things – used in its oral form.


  • Tu as cassé mon mug préféré !
  • Comment puis-je me faire pardonner ? 


-You broke my favorite mug! 

– How can I make it up to you?

Je vous demande de m’excuser 

Meaning: Please excuse me (very formal)  

Literally: I ask you to forgive me, I beg your pardon

A formal expression to request forgiveness – used in writing or orally. 

Note that you should not say je m’excuse as it is literally translated as “I forgive myself” and can come across as rude or forward, although your therapist would encourage it. Still many native French speakers continue to make this mistake!

Example: Je vous demande de m’excuser pour ma réponse tardive.

Translation: Please excuse me for my late response.

How to express regret?

Je regrette

Meaning: I am sorry / I regret 

This expression is used to convey remorse or a feeling of regret about something. Je regrette is mostly used to talk about a past action, for not doing something or for a situation or circonstance, but it can also be used in a sentence to apologize to someone in a more formal context

Example: Je n’ai pas eu mon examen, je regrette de ne pas avoir travaillé plus. 

Translation: I failed to pass my exam, I regret not having studied more thoroughly.

C’est impardonnable

Meaning: It’s unforgivable

A strong expression used to convey a sense of wrongdoing or offense. C’est impardonnable can be used in the context of acknowledging a mistake, strong disapproval or condemnation, or in an offense or action.

This expression is most commonly used in a conversation, but it can also be employed when talking about oneself. 

Example: J’ai oublié ton anniversaire. C’est impardonnable !

Translation: I forgot your birthday. It’s unforgivable!

Je ne le referai plus

Meaning: I won’t do it again

Expression used to convey the idea that you have learned from a past mistake and will not repeat it. 

Example: J’ai mangé trop de gâteau. Je ne le referai plus. 

Translation: I ate too much cake. I won’t do it again.

How to forgive in French

Je te pardonne 

Meaning: I forgive you (formal)

A direct and straightforward expression used to convey forgiveness to someone

Example: Je sais que tu as commis une erreur, mais je te pardonne.

Translation: I know you made a mistake, but I forgive you.

Ça arrive 

Meaning: It happens (informal)

Common phrase used to express understanding and acceptance of a mistake, mishap, or unfortunate event.


  • Je suis désolé(e), j’ai glissé et en me rattrapant j’ai cassé ton vase. 
  • T’inquiète, ça arrive


– I’m sorry, I slipped and when I caught myself I broke your vase. 

– It’s okay, it happens.

Ne t’en fais pas 

Meaning: Don’t worry about it

Expression used to reassure someone and encourage them not to be concerned or anxious about a situation.


  • Je crois que je me suis trompé(e) de page à étudier pour le test.
  • Ne t’en fais pas, il a été reporté.


– I think I studied the wrong page for the test. 

– Don’t worry, it’s been postponed.

Ne t’inquiète pas / T’inquiète 

Meaning: Don’t worry (informal) 

Just like ne t’en fais pas, ne t’inquiète pas is an expression used to reassure someone and tell them not to be anxious or concerned about a situation.


  • J’ai oublié mon bonnet de bain.
  • T’inquiète, ils en vendent à la piscine.


– I forgot my swimming cap.

 – Don’t worry, they sell them at the pool.

C’est rien 

Meaning: Don’t worry (literally: it’s nothing) / No worries

Used to downplay the significance of a situation or minimize the importance of something that has happened.


  • Désolé(e) d’avoir fait tomber ton verre.
  • C’est rien.


– Sorry for knocking over your glass.

– No worries.

Ce n’est pas ta faute 

Meaning: It’s not your fault

Expression used to tell somebody they didn’t do anything wrong and shouldn’t be apologizing. 


  • Désolé(e), le train était en panne entre deux gares.
  • T’inquiète, ce n’est pas ta faute !


– I’m sorry, the train broke down between two stops. 

– Don’t worry, it’s not your fault!

C’est pardonné 

Meaning: It’s forgiven

This expression is used to indicate that you have forgiven someone for their actions or mistakes.


  • Excuse-moi, c’était une dispute idiote
  • C’est pardonné !


-I apologize, it was a stupid argument. 

-It’s forgiven!

Sans rancune 

Meaning: No hard feelings

It is used to indicate that you have forgiven someone and that there are no lingering negative feelings or grudges toward them. 


  • Sans rancune? 
  • Sans rancune !


– No hard feelings?

 – No hard feelings!

Ce n’est pas grave 

Meaning: It’s no big deal

Ce n’est pas grave is used to minimize the importance or impact of the situation, indicating that it is not a significant issue or cause for worry. It helps to reassure the other person and maintain a positive outlook.


  • Désolé, mon salon est en bazar 
  • Ce n’est pas grave 


– I’m sorry, mu living room is a bit of a mess. 

– It’s no big deal.

Ce n’est pas si grave 

Meaning: It’s not that bad

Expression used to acknowledge that a situation may have some degree of significance or impact, but it is not excessively serious or detrimental.


  • J’ai fait une petite erreur dans le rapport.
  • Ce n’est pas si grave, on peut la corriger facilement.


-I made a minor mistake in the report. 

– It’s not that bad, we can fix it easily.

Tu n’as pas fait exprès 

Meaning: You didn’t mean it

A statement used to acknowledge that someone’s actions or mistakes were unintentional and not done with malicious intent. 


  • J’ai effacé ton message par erreur.
  • Ne t’inquiètes pas tu n’as pas fait exprès, je peux le retrouver. 


– I accidentally deleted your message.

– Don’t worry, you didn’t mean to do it, I can retrieve it.

Going further with apologies in French culture

If you have made a serious mistake but don’t feel like words are enough to say sorry, you could show your remorse through actions.

Writing a letter for example might be an effective gesture to get your feelings across. Similarly, a token such as flowers or chocolates could also help you apologize to someone you have hurt.

So there you have it, the different ways of saying sorry in French. Our apologies if there is a lot to learn, but they will be very useful in your French interactions. Sorry, not sorry.

Vocabulary table

Je suis désolé(e)I am sorry
Excusez-moiExcuse me
Je suis au regret de…I regret to…
c’est ma fauteIt’s my fault
Je vous présente mes excusesPlease accept my apologies
Toute mes excuses I apologize
Je vous présente mes condoléancesI offer you my condolences / I’m sorry for your loss 
Je vous demande pardonI beg your pardon?
Pardon ?Pardon? / Sorry 
Pardon !Sorry / Excuse me
Je suis navré(e)I am sorry / I’m deeply sorry
ça me fait de la peine / tu me fais de la peineThat saddens me / I feel sorry for you
Je dois avoir pitié de toiShould I feel sorry for you
Excusez-moi, pouvez vous répéter I’m sorry, could you repeat the question please?
Je vous prie de m’excuserPlease, excuse me / I apologize
Comment puis-je me faire pardonnerHow can I make it up to you? 
Je vous demande de m’excuserPlease, excuse me 
Je regretteI’m sorry / I regret
C’est impardonnableIt’s unforgivable
Je ne le referai plusI won’t do it again
Je te pardonneI forgive you 
ça arriveIt happens
Ne t’en fais pasDon’t worry about it
Ne t’inquiète pas / T’inquièteDon’t worry 
C’est rienIt’s nothing / don’t worry / no worries
Ce n’est pas ta fauteIt’s not your fault
C’est pardonnéit’s forgiven 
Sans rancuneno hard feelings
Ce n’est pas graveit’s no big deal
Ce n’est pas si graveit’s not that bad 
Tu n’as pas fait exprèsyou didn’t mean it

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For further help with greetings in French, read our blog on How to say Goodbye in French. And don’t forget to learn some basic words and phrases beforehand so as to avoid any misunderstanding!

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