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Sorry In French: 12 Expressions Beyond Désolé

How do you say I’m sorry in French?

The French word for sorry is désolé (pronounced dezɔle). The phrase I’m sorry is: “Je suis désolé”. Other common ways to say sorry include “Excusez-moi” (excuse me), “pardonnez moi” (pardon me) and “pardon” (pardon). This post will explore 12 common ways to say sorry in French.

Sorry In French

Désolé pronunciation explained

In French, “désolé” means sorry. The pronunciation of désolé is day-zoh-lay. The pronunciation of Je suis désolé (I’m sorry) is juh-swee-day-zoh-lay.

This page on Forvo gives three very good audio samples of Je suis désolé.

In this video from French with Vincent, you can also practice your pronunciation.

Désolé is an adjective

The French word désolé is an adjective. Given this fact, it must agree in gender and number with the subject of the sentence.

For example, if a man were writing, he’d write: “Je suis désolé”. But, if a female were writing she should write: “Je suis désolée”.

In spoken French both “Je suis désolé” and “Je suis désolée” sound the same.

Désole is formed with être

In French, désolé is formed with the verb être (to be). Thus, here are the six possible forms in the present tense.

Je suis désolé(e) I’m sorry
Tu es désolé(e) You’re sorry (singular informal)
Il, elle, on est désolé(e) He, she one is sorry
Nous sommes désolé(e)s We’re sorry
Vous êtes désolé(e)s You’re sorry (plural and formal)
Ils, elles sont désolé(e)s They’re sorry

Ways to say sorry beyond désolé

Just like in English where we have I’m sorry, I’m so sorry and I’m sorry to, etc., French has many ways and expressions for saying sorry.

I’m so sorry

In French, the phrase for I’m so sorry is “Je suis tellement désolé”. The adverb tellement translates to both so and so much.

For example:

  • Je suis encore en retard. Je suis désolé! I’m late again. I’m so sorry!
Je suis désolé

I’m really sorry

The French phrase for I’m really sorry is “Je suis vraiment désolé”. The adverb vraiment translates to really. For the following example sentence, the word “sincèrement” could be substituted for vraiment to mean sincerely.

For example:

  • Je suis vraiment désolé mais je ne peux pas venir. I’m really sorry but I can’t come.

I’m sorry to

To express I’m sorry to, as in “I’m sorry to inform you”, use the following grammatical construction:

Je suis désolé de + object pronoun + infinitive

For example:

  • Nous sommes désolés de vous informer que Marc ne vient pas. We’re sorry to inform you that Marc isn’t coming.


In French, the expression for “Sorry!” as if you bump into somebody on the street is simply, “Pardon!”. It’s a one-word expressions that doesn’t demand any other grammar or words around it.

You can also use pardon in situations where you think you might have interrupted somebody during conversation.

For example:

  • Ah, pardon! Je vous ai coupé la parole. Sorry, I cut you off.

Forgive me

The French verb pardonner translates to “to forgive”. Hence, the expressions “pardonnez-moi” and “pardonne-moi” both translate to pardon me, forgive me and I’m sorry.

For example:

  • Pardonnez-moi. J’ai encore oublié. I’m sorry. I forgot again.

Excuse me

Just as English has both sorry and excuse me, French has désolé and excusez-moi.

Actually, excusez-moi has a second form: excuse-moi. Excusez-moi is the formal form and is used to people who you’d address with vous (formal you).

Excuse-moi is the informal form and is used for people who you’d address with tu.

This page offers a complete explanation of the two forms of you in French (tu and vous).

Here are some examples:

  • Excuse-moi. Je n’ai pas compris. Sorry I didn’t understand.
  • Excusez-moi. Ou est la gare? Pardon, where’s the train station?

Formal ways of saying sorry

To regret to

A more formal way of saying sorry is “être au regret de + personal pronoun infinitive”, to mean I regret to.

For example:

  • Nous sommes au regret d’annoncer que tous les vols sont suspendus. We’re sorry to announce that all the flights are canceled.

Using the word “navré”

French has more formal word for sorry: “navré”. Both désolé and navré as synonyms. However, navré is much more formal.

For example:

  • Je suis navré. J’ai fait une erreur. I’m sorry. I made an error.

Translations of English expressions which contain the word “sorry”

English has a many expressions which contain the word sorry. The following is a list of their equivalents in French.

Better safe than sorry

Better safe than sorry is an English expression. The French equivalents are also idiomatic but do not contain the word désolé.

  • Deux précautions valent mieux qu’une. Two precautions are better than one.
  • Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir. Better to prevent than to cure.
  • On n’est jamais trop prudent. One can never be too careful.

To feel sorry

To express feeling sorry, the French use the verb regretter.

For example:

  • Je regrette de ne pas pouvoir aider. I feel sorry that I cannot help.

I’m sorry for your loss

To express that you’re sorry for a loss, use the expression: “Toutes mes condoléances”.

For example:

  • Toutes mes condoléances. Votre mère va manquer à toute la communauté. Sorry for your loss. Your mom will be missed by the entire community.
Sorry for your loss

Saying sorry for something

To say sorry to somebody for having done something in the context of making amends, use the following expression: “Présenter ses excuses”.

For example:

  • Je voudrais vous pésenter mes excuses. J’avais tort. I’d like to say sorry to you. I was wrong.

To feel sorry for yourself

In the context of feeling sorry for yourself or self-pity, the French uses the following expression: “s’apitoyer sur son sort”.

For example:

  • Il s’apitoie de son sort et ne voit jamais son rôle dans ses problèmes. He feels sorry for himself and never sees his part in his problems.

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David Issokson

David Issokson is a lifelong language enthusiast. His head is swimming with words and sounds as he speaks over six languages. Of all the languages he speaks, he's the most passionate about French! David has helped hundreds of students to improve their French in his private online lessons. When procrastinating working on FrenchLearner, David enjoys his time skiing and hiking in Teton Valley, Idaho.

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