Sorry (used in German)


Senior Member
English - SE England
I have heard some German people use the English word "sorry" in conversation with other Germans.

In what context is "sorry" normally used in place of "Es tut mir Leid" and "Entschuldigung (Sie bitte)"? Is it very common?
  • twinklestar

    Senior Member
    I assume this is influenced by American/English movies/culture, and it is generally said in colloquial by younger people. :D

    The pronunciations of "Es tut mir Leid" and "Entschuldigung" are more complex than that of "sorry". (Edit:so they prefer "sorry".)

    This happens in Chinese too, but "sorry" is not as common as "bye" in English in Chinese conversation. Sometimes I heard Chinese white-collar workers would say "sorry" in English.

    Of course, I am just a beginner of German, so I am waiting along with you for the comments of gurus of German. Interesting question.
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    Senior Member
    You are right, twinklestar. I can confirm it.
    "Younger" is relative, however.
    And it depends on social groups, too.

    So it is rather common, but far away from "hallo", for example. "Hallo" (spoken English or German) is used a lot, even in shops by the sellers. Compared to that "Sorry" is very seldom.


    Senior Member
    If you bump into someone by accident (not in road traffic) you need a succinct expression that won't keep you from doing what you were going to do. So you mumble "sorry" or (as I often do) "pardon" (French pronunciation). The shortest German words have at least two syllables ('tschuldigung, 'zeihung – short for Entschuldigung and Verzeihung), so for lack of time and/or out of sheer laziness they're going out of fashion.


    Senior Member
    Thank you both, Hutschi and Frieder.:)

    Besides that, I feel "sorry" can downplay the formality of the apology for minor issue, and ""Es tut mir Leid" and "Entschuldigung" is formal comparing to "sorry".
    Yes, the two German phrases can be informal and formal as well, as that dpends on tones, situation, etc. But the load word-"sorry" seems hardly formal.

    If I make a tiny mistake, and no one get harmed, it is more appropriate to just say "sorry" for downplaying the issue. For example, I misread a word, but I correct it soon.

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    Senior Member
    English - SE England
    Being an English beginner I avoid anglicisms. But it's easy to fall in and out, and we use "sorry" for almost everything, from "I'm sorry to hear your Granny died" to "sorry I bumped into you". I imagine it would be very rude to use "sorry" to offer condolences for a death in German.


    Senior Member
    I notice that Hutschi mentioned the (German?) word "hallo".
    Being a German beginner myself, I was under the impression that it was a German word.
    Is this not so?

    le P

    Moderator note: The discussion about the word "Hallo" has been split off to this existing thread. In the present thread, please focus on the word "sorry" used in German. :)
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    Senior Member
    English Atlanta, GA USA
    @twinklestar, I think you are mistaken. We Americans don't say "sorry" nearly as much as Canadians or Brits. I think we would tend to say "Excuse me", "Come again?", among other expressions, in many instances when they say "sorry", depending on the context. "Sorry" to me implies more that you are at fault and are taking the blame for whatever happened. Here are two articles providing some insight into the stereotypes and cultural usages of the word:

    The use and abuse of 'sorry': Americans don't say it, the British don't mean it, and the Canadians overdo it.
    Why do the British say 'sorry' so much?


    Imperfect Mod
    US English/Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    If you say something to me but I don't quite make out what you said. It's a polite way to ask you to repeat what you just said.


    Forera und Moderatorin
    German, Northern Germany
    Moderator note:

    At this point, I'd like to remind you that the topic of this thread is the word "sorry" used in German. Thank you! :)


    Senior Member
    Besides that, I feel "sorry" can downplay the formality of the apology for minor issue, and ""Es tut mir Leid" and "Entschuldigung" is formal comparing to "sorry"
    :thumbsup: Very good. "Sorry" is a lot less formal, and often a lot less seriously meant. It takes "being sorry" quite light. As a real apology this does not work.

    "Sorry" is quite often used, in German (!), as interjection to express something between "sorry" and "what a pity".

    'tschuldigung -- Many Germans somehow contract "entschuldigen Sie" zu 'tschuldigung with quite the same meaning as "sorry": Being lighter, less serious, but nonetheless said.


    Senior Member
    Sorry can also be a kind of appeasement to attenuate a verbal attack.
    "Sorry, aber das musst du mir jetzt genauer erklären."
    "Sorry, aber da bin ich anderer Meinung."
    "Sorry, aber das ist Blödsinn."
    You could almost say that "sorry, aber" is an entity with a meaning of its own.
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