Ever found yourself wondering how to say ‘I apologize’, ‘excuse me’, or ‘I’m sorry’ in Portuguese? There are many ways to express regret, casually apologize, or simply get someone’s attention. But what’s important to know is that there isn’t a single word or expression that works for all scenarios, like in English.
This is why we’ve prepared a small class in form of an article. We might not be able to fix some mistakes, but we can, at the very least, own up to them. And hopefully, the receiver of your apology will find some solace.
Whatever predicament you find yourself in, we’ve compiled an extensive list of all the ways to say ‘I’m sorry’ in Portuguese. And I’ll tell you the first rule right now: say it like you mean it!
How to say “I’m sorry” in Portuguese
Before we dive into in-depth explanations, here are the most basic way to say ‘I’m sorry’ in Portuguese:
As minhas desculpas
These are the most basic ways to convey that you’re sorry. All three would work equally if you happened to bump into someone.
For the first one, you should use the form ‘Desculpe‘ in a formal situation, or when talking to someone older or that you don’t know. ‘Desculpa’ is less formal, and most commonly used among friends, family, or colleagues.
The first two, ‘desculpe’ and ‘perdão’ would also work if you were trying to get someone’s attention.
Now, unlike English and so many other languages, ‘sorry’ doesn’t exist in Portuguese as an adjective. The most commonly used form is an amalgamation of two words: Desculpa = des+culpa (un+guilt)
So, it’s perceived more as asking for forgiveness than expressing regret, per se. There are more literal expressions, of course, which we will see soon.
But still on this topic, as sorry is not an existing adjective in Portuguese, you can’t really refer to the feelings of a third person (as if saying ‘she’s/he’s sorry’). You can say someone’s regretful, or that they would like to apologize.
Let’s see a few alternative ways to say sorry in Portuguese:
I regret it. (male speaker/female speaker)
Gostaria de me desculpar
I would like to apologize.
As minhas mais sinceras desculpas
My deepest apologies
Estou profundamente arrependido/a
I deeply regret it. (male speaker/female speaker)
I’m sorry, as in ‘I feel for you’
How to say “Excuse me” in Portuguese
This is another one that doesn’t translate quite as literally to Portuguese. The expression ‘me escuse‘ could only be used as a way to excuse oneself, as in to announce we’re to leave the room.
When trying to apologize or grab someone’s attention, it wouldn’t really make much sense to announce our leave, right?
We’ve gone over the basic ways of apologizing, and we will see how to extend on that later on. But for clarity’s sake, here’s how you can say ‘excuse me’ with the same connotation it would have in English:
This is a very polite expression, and it works when you mean to ask someone to let you pass, to let you sit, or even to leave the room. The word ‘licença‘ actually means ‘permission‘, but it’s already implied. This means you don’t actually need the other person to vocally allow you to do something. It’s almost as if you ask permission and grant it to yourself simultaneously.
How to apologize in Portuguese
Now we’re getting to the nitty-gritty. When I say ‘how to’, it’s not like there’s a prepared routine or a traditional way to do so. Generally, there will be no need to bow or place your hands together. Simply stand tall, look the person in the face, and say what you need to say.
I’ll be showing you a few other expressions that will add to your apology. You can pick and choose according to what makes sense in your specific case.
I was selfish.
Now, these are the two most informal of the bunch. The first you should only use with close friends. Otherwise, it can come off as disrespectful. The second is not as nuanced, as it’s mostly safe to use on any occasion – provided it makes sense within the specific context, of course.
Não devia ter feito isso
I shouldn’t have done that.
Não voltarei a fazer isso
I will not do that again.
As for these two, they mean the same as they would in English. The first, you say when you realized you’ve done something wrong. The second, to let the other person know that you will not repeat the same mistake.
A culpa é minha
It’s my fault.
Assumo a responsabilidade
I take responsibility.
These two phrases are used to own up to something, whether we’ve done it or not. They’re both pretty clear, but the second one isn’t often used among close friends. You would hear it most frequently in professional environments or very serious situations.
Espero que me possa(s) perdoar
I hope you can forgive me.
Of course, we had to finish with the one that best wraps up an apology.
Other situational expressions
Even if you didn’t before, you should by now have realized that ‘sorry‘ is a very versatile word in English. We don’t always use it to apologize; sometimes it’s only a way to convey a feeling.
Below are a few other expressions that might come in handy in more specific circumstances:
Desculpe/a o atraso
I’m sorry I’m late. / Forgive my tardiness.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. You might have to say it when you show up late for work, school, or even a date.
I’m sorry to inform you…
The dreaded intro to any letter or e-mail. But at least you will know what’s coming, so you don’t fill yourself with false hopes.
Não se/te chateie(s) comigo
Don’t be mad at me.
It doesn’t always work, but it’s always worth asking.
Os meus sentimentos/ pêsames
Can also be said ‘as minhas condolências‘. This is obviously used in more grim circumstances and is sometimes the hardest to vocalize.
Now you know how to apologize in Portuguese, in every way possible. In case you’re not very settled on the basics of the language yet, we recommend you check out our pieces on how to say hello, how to thank someone, or wish a happy birthday in Portuguese.