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How to apologize in Chinese

How to Apologize in Chinese.jpg

By Valeriya Nikulina (Russian)

Apologizing is one of the most important things to know how to do, in any language. Today we’ll learn how to apologize and make-up in Mandarin Chinese. There are several ways to say “sorry” in Chinese, let’s try to see the difference: 

1.If you want to apologize and take the blame for something big or small, use "duì bu qǐ (对不起)" or "bào qiàn (抱歉)". According to my experience, “Bào qiàn” will be more formal.

You can use either one for apologizing for screw-ups both big and small. For example:


Duìbùqǐ, wǒ chídàole shífēnzhōng.

Sorry, I'm ten minutes late.

-I said the wrong thing, I'm sorry.

Wǒ shuō cùo le, duì bu qǐ



Zhēn bàoqiàn, wǒ chídàole.

I apologize for my late arrival. 


Wǒ fēicháng bàoqiàn. 

I'm terribly sorry. 

2.If you want to express regret or pity, use “遗憾” (yí hàn) :

In everyday life, "yí hàn" is especially useful when you have to turn down an invitation, say you're sorry for missing some event, or deliver some bad news. Here are some examples: 

-很遗憾, 我不能参加星期五的晚餐。

Hěn yí hàn wǒ bù néng cān jiā xīng qī wǔ de wǎn cān.

I’m sorry/I regret I can't attend the dinner on Friday. 

-很遗憾地告诉你, 你考试不及格。

Hěn yí hàn de gào sù nǐ, nǐ kǎo shì bù jí gé.

I’m very sorry to tell you that you failed the test. 

3.If you want to say sorry for something that is a little embarrassing or create a socially awkward situation, use "不好意思 (bù hǎo yì si)":


Bùhǎoyìsi,máfan nín le.

Sorry to trouble you. 


Bùhǎoyìsī dǎrǎo nín le!

Sorry perhaps I'm disturbing you! 


Búhǎoyìsī,wǒ bú gēn shībàizhě yuēhuì .

Sorry, I don't date losers.

In everyday life in China, in order to avoid confusion, it’s best to know your various types of “sorry.”

So try to keep the three categories mentioned above separate in your mind. So in case when you really do have to apologize, you can say it like you mean it! 


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