How to Say “I am Sorry” in Russian

Written on:February 28, 2012
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If you remember from the previous post about Maslenitsa, Russian phrase просить прощения means “to ask forgiveness”. But how exactly do you ask forgiveness in Russian? There are actually quite a few phrases for the simple “I am sorry” and depending on the situation you are in, some will be more appropriate than others.

Извините and простите

These mean “excuse me” or “pardon me” and can be used with or without the меня (me) part. You can use both in a range of situations, from such light offenses as bumping into someone to something graver, such as spoiling a surprise. If you are interrupting someone with a question, as when you ask for directions, it is only polite to start with извините. If you are saying this to a person with whom you would use an informal ты (you), you would say прости or извини.

  • Извините, как пройти к Большому театру? (Pardon me, how do we get to the Bolshoy Theater?)
  • Простите за опоздание (Pardon my lateness)
  • Извините, но вы здесь не стояли (Excuse me, but you weren’t here before) – this is when someone is trying to cut the line
  • Сергей, прости за поздний звонок, но мне нужна твоя помощь (Sergey, sorry for calling this late, but I need your help)
  • Прошу прощения and приношу извинения

Yes, you can просить прощения (ask forgiveness) just by saying прошу прощения (I am asking for forgiveness). And you can certainly принести извинения (offer apologies). Прошу прощения is most appropriate when you are interrupting someone, similar to извините. These phrases also might sound a bit вычурно (pretentious), especially if you are addressing someone with whom you use an informal ты (you).

  • Прошу прощения, но не могли бы мы поменяться местами? (Excuse me, would it be possible for us to switch seats?)
  • Мы приносим извинения за неудобства, связанные с проведением дорожных работ на вашей улице (We apologize for the inconvenience caused by the road work on your street)

Finally, there are times when you use “I am sorry” to express sympathy, usually for a loss. In Russian, you would use a phrase выражаю свои соболезнования (I am expressing my condolences) or примите мои соболезнования (accept my condolences). You can further express the depth of your feelings by using an adjective in front of the word соболезнования (condolences), including глубокие (deep) or искренние (sincere) as in Примите мои искренние соболезнования (Accept my sincere condolences).

7 Comments add one

  1. Lucas says:

    I love your website. It would be EXTRA helpful if you provided sound clips for pronunciation. :D

  2. Steve says:

    This phrase has so many meanings. I’m trying to remember them all. Thanks for a great blog!

    • Yelena says:

      Steve, what helped me, when I was learning English, was this. At the end of the day, I’d sit down and think over some of the situations/conversations I was a part of that day and apply the word or phrase I was trying to learn that day to them.

  3. Ross says:

    Very much appreciate your website! Keep up the great work!

  4. Yelena says:

    Great to hear this, Anna! Let us know what are the topics you’d like to read about and that would help you the most in your studies.

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