How to say sorry in Chinese? Duibuqi is probably the first phrase you think of. Do you know there are also more than 10 different ways to apologize in Chinese, appropriate for different situations? Next time you need to make an apology, give one of these expressions a shot and fix the problem immediately!
duì bu qǐ – literal. sorry liberal. sorry
Duibuqi is the universal and standard way to say sorry in Chinese. 对 duì literally means to treat, 不起 bù qǐ is an complement that normally indicates potentiality, but 对不起 as a whole has already become an idiomatic expression to apologize in Chinese. If your really want to emphasize, add 真 zhēn really and say 真对不起, to express "I’m so sorry!" But let's not stop here and stuck with duibuqi as our only word of apology in Chinese. There are so many more.
One thing to notice: when something unfortunate happens to someone, you can say "I'm sorry(to hear that)" in English, but in Chinese you cannot use 对不起 for these kind of situations. Generally, 对不起 is only used when something is your mistake or is your responsibility.
bù hǎo yì si ‘a – literal. I to you apologize liberal. my bad
Compared to 对不起, 不好意思 is more commonly used in informal daily conversational. 啊 is here for a more stressed tone. Also you can add 真 and say 真不好意思啊. 不好意思 is appropriate in the following situations:
shì wǒ de cuò – literal. (it) is my fault liberal. it's my fault
How to say sorry in Chinese cannot be easier if one knows how to admit their fault in the language. 是我的错 is a good choice to use among friends and families. If you want to emphasize it even more, say 都是我的错 dōu shì wǒ de cuò "It’s all my fault!"
shì wǒ bú duì – literal. (it) is my bad liberal. it's my bad
If you want to admit that something is your fault, or that you regret doing something, say 是我不对. Add 那天 nā tiān that day at the beginning to be specific about the incident and say 那天是我不对, "It was my fault that day."
wǒ cuò le – literal. I was wrong liberal. I was wrong
我错了 is more often used by children to their parents, between girlfriend/boyfriend or your spouse. Put 这次 zhè cì this time or 今天 jīn tiān today at the beginning to say 这次我错了, "This time I was wrong" or 今天我错了, "Today I was wrong".
shì wǒ de zé rèn – literal. (it) is my responsibility liberal. I'm responsible for that
If you're wondering how to say sorry in Chinese at workplace, here's 是我的责任. While the above 3 terms are for informal use, 是我的责任 is a better choice at workplace or any other formal situations.
zé rèn quán zài wǒ – literal. the responsibility all lies in me liberal. I'm completely responsible for this
责任全在我 is a great choice if you're willing to take complete responsibility for something. It makes you sound very professional at workplace - a perfect example expression of how to apologize in Chinese for relatively serious issues.
wǒ bú shì gù yì de – literal. I am not on purpose liberal.I didn't mean that; I didn't do it on purpose
Use this one if you accidentally did something wrong or accidentally hurt someone or their feelings. But sometimes people might question your sincerity. If people say 我不是故意的 and you just don't buy it, you can say 你就是故意的 nǐ jiù shì gù yì de I think you did do it on purpose!
nǐ bié guài wǒ ‘a – literal. you do not blame me liberal. please don’t blame me
Use this for someone you know well, friends, families, or spouse. Often followed by your explanations.
nǐ bié sheng qi ‘a– literal. you do not blame me liberal. please don’t blame me
Is there anytime you feel that the person is going to be, or already is mad at you? Use this one to say 你别生气啊.
bào qiàn – literal. to bear sorry liberal. sorry
抱歉 is more likely to be used in formal situations such as in the workplace or used for someone that you don't know very well and want to be polite with. 抱 bào usually means to hug; here it means to bear(feelings or emotions). 歉 qiàn means the feeling of sorry or regret. Generally 抱歉 is a more polite and formal way of how to say sorry in Chinese compared with 对不起 duibuqi.
wǒ gēn nǐ péi lǐ dào qiàne – literal. I to you apologize liberal. let me apologize to you
赔礼道歉 is a very formal and very sincere term of apology in Chinese. 赔礼 and 道歉 both mean to apologize, only 赔礼 is even more formal. So you can also just say 我跟你道歉 for short. But sometimes people use 我跟你赔礼道歉 sarcastically when they don't really want to apologize but have to.