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How to say sorry in Chinese

Duì buqǐ may be the first phrase you think of. but There are some more ways to say “sorry” in Chinese, please follow me, let’s check it out.


     1.  对不起   duì bu qǐ—— sorry

“对不起” is the most common and standard way to say sorry in mandarin Chinese, “对 duì”,it means to face ,to treat, “不起 bùqǐ” means can’t,unable to,also a complement that normally indicates the potentiality。Sometime, if you want to emphasize your apology,you can add”真zhēn-really” and say”真对不起” to express”I am so/really sorry!”

BUT there is one thing we need to notice when you hear a sad or unfortunate happens to someone, you may say “I am sorry (to hear that)”in Chinese,but in Chinese, we seldom to say”对不起 Duìbuqǐ” for this situation,”对不起 Duìbuqǐ”  is ONLY  used in something mistake you make, or is your responsibility.

  2.  抱歉  bào qiàn — 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.

       3. 不好意思  bù hǎo yì si——sorry,excuse me

Compared to 对不起, 不好意思 is more commonly used in informal daily conversational. sometimes we add “啊ā” after phrase to express a soft or lovely tone, Also you can add 真 and say 真不好意思啊. When you say these phrase with a sweet smile, most of time, people will forgive you. “不好意思” is usually used in followed situation,such as,

  • When you want to say “Excuse me”,
  • Sorry for a minor or tiny mistake,
  • To express thankfulness and sorry(for the trouble of helping you etc.) at the same time.

Sometimes, you apologize and admit your fault,you can say:

  1. 我错了    wǒ cuò le    —— I was wrong

我错了 is more often used by children to their parents, between girlfriend/boyfriend or your spouse. 是我错了,“是” to emphasize.

     我真的错了。wǒ zhēn de cuò le 。

I was really wrong


    2. 是我不对  shì wǒ bú duì —— It is my bad, my bad.

If you want to admit that something is your fault, or that you regret doing something, say 是我不对.

   这件事是我的不对。 Zhè jiàn shì shì wǒ de bú duì 。

It is my bad on this thing


      3. 是我的错  shì wǒ cuò le —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 cuòIt’s all my fault!


4. 全是我的责任  quán shì wǒ de zé rèn ——I’m responsible for that

At workplace, here’s 是我的责任 to say soory. While the above 3 terms are for informal use, 是我的责任 is a better choice at workplace or any other formal situation,add “全 quán” ,means  you will take all the responsibility for that.


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