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How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Russian: 20 Best Apologies

Have you ever tormented yourself about how to apologize and have your apology accepted? It’s hard even in your mother tongue. But when it comes to a foreign language, you need to be even more considerate and attentive. Just learning to say “sorry” in Russian culture isn’t enough; even your gestures and behavior matter when it comes to apologizing, in any language. So, let’s learn how to say “Please, forgive me” in Russian and be on top in any situation. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Russian Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

  1. Body Language for Apology
  2. The Main Words to Say “I am Sorry” in the Russian Language
  3. Formal Apologies
  4. Informal Apologies
  5. Peculiar Apologies
  6. How to Reply to an Apology in Russian
  7. Conclusion

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1. Body Language for Apology

Russian people don’t differ that much from European people when it comes to body language during an apology. So once you’ve found the best way to say “sorry” in Russian for your situation, you can apply the following body language tips to add sincerity and depth to your apology.

If the situation isn’t very formal or serious, you can look into the other person’s eyes. However, this may not be the best approach if you’re late for a job interview.

Looking down during the apology will make it deeper and more sincere.

Child Kneeling


2. The Main Words to Say “I am Sorry” in the Russian Language

3 Ways to Say Sorry

There are two commonly used verbs for an apology in the Russian language: Извинить (Izvinit’) and Простить (Prostit’). Please, note that here these apology verbs are in the infinitive form, and to ask for forgiveness you’ll need to change it according to the situation, whether formal or informal. We’ll learn more about this later on in the article. Both of these words can be used in both kinds of situations. You can choose either one for your apology. The difference is very vague, and not every Russian can define it.

  • Извинить (Izvinit’) comes from the noun Вина (Vina) which means “fault.” By adding the prefix из- (iz-) meaning “out” it’s like asking another person “to take you out of fault.” This word is typically used to apologize for a small fault or in formal situations. People often say it when they don’t feel any fault and apologize just to follow social etiquette. Use this word if you’re not sure if the person is offended or not.
  • Простить (Prostit’) is used when you’ve really offended someone and know that for sure. It means “I understand my fault, I shouldn’t have done that.” This word is used when your conscience is tormenting you and you sincerely want to change that situation.

Let’s try to feel the difference between these two words for the official phrase “Sorry to trouble you.” If you use the verb Извинить (Izvinit’) then the formal phrase will be: Извините за беспокойство (Izvinite za bespokoystvo). You can use it during a call when you formally apologize that you’re distracting another person from his work.

If you use the verb Простить (Prostit’) then the formal phrase will be: Простите за беспокойство (Prostite za bespokoystvo). It sounds more sincere, such as when you really understand that you’ve distracted the person from doing some important job and feel sorry for that.


3. Formal Apologies

Woman Refusing a Handshake

So, as said, Извинить (Izvinit’) and Простить (Prostit’) are the main apology words. This is how they’re transformed for an apology in a formal situation:

  • Извините (Izvinite)—“Excuse me, sorry.”
  • Простите (Prostite)—“Sorry.”
  • You can use these words just like that. But if you add the reason why you’re sorry, it’ll sound more polite and sincere.

    • …, что… (…, chto…) meaning “…, that…” Though it’s enough just so say that you’re sorry, in the Russian language it sounds more polite and sincere if you explain for what you are sorry. For example, “Sorry, I’m late” in Russian is Извините, что опоздал (Izvinite, chto opozdal).
    • … за… (…za…) meaning “…for…” That’s another way to add a reason. For example, Простите за беспокойство (Prostite za bespokoystvo) means “Sorry for troubling you.”

    Also, your apology will sound more polite if you add Пожалуйста (Pozhaluysta) or “Please” to it. For example, Извините, пожалуйста, что отвлекаю, но вас вызывает начальник (Izvinite, pozhaluysta, chto otvlekayu, no vas vyzyvayet nachal’nik) means “I’m sorry to interrupt, but the boss is calling for you.”

  • Прошу прощения (Proshu proshcheniya)—“I apologize”. This apology is very official and can be used in a public speech. Note that if you’re apologizing on behalf of a whole company, use Просим прощения (Prosim proshcheniya) meaning “We apologize.” Don’t forget to add …, что… (…, chto…) meaning “…, for…”. For example, Прошу прощения, что отвлекаю (Proshu proshcheniya, chto otvlekayu) means “Sorry for distracting you.”
    • Я бы хотел попросить прощения за… (Ya by khotel poprosit’ proshcheniya za…)—“I want to apologize for” (for a male). This is another apology phrase with the same meaning.
    • Я бы хотела попросить прощения за… (Ya by khotela poprosit’ proshcheniya za…)—“I want to apologize for” (for a female).
  • Я извиняюсь, что (Ya izvinyayus’, chto…)—“I apologize for…” This is another form of the formal apology. It’s usually used when you don’t expect an answer or reply to your apology and apologize just to keep social etiquette. For example, Я извиняюсь, что так получилось (Ya izvinyayus’, chto tak poluchilos’) meaning “I am sorry that it happened that way.” If you want to make a deep apology and say “I’m very sorry” in Russian, use the phrase Я сильно извиняюсь, что (Ya sil’no izvinyayus’, chto…).
    • Я бы хотел извиниться за… (Ya by khotel izvinit’sya za…)—“I want to apologize for” (for a male). Another form of the same apology. It’s a bit longer, so it feels more profound.
    • Я бы хотела извиниться за… (Ya by khotela izvinit’sya za…)—“I want to apologize for” (for a female).
  • Приносим свои извинения (Prinosim svoi izvineniya)—“We apologize.” The phrase is usually used for an official announcement from a company. The phrase Приносим свои извинения за доставленные неудобства (Prinosim svoi izvineniya za dostavlennyye neudobstva), meaning “We apologize for any inconvenience,” is often used for official announcements. For example, if one of the metro lines or metro stations is closed for reconstruction, the company in charge may make a similar announcement.
  • Мне очень жаль (Mne ochen’ zhal’)—“I feel so sorry.” This phrase emphasizes the regrets that you have about something. Note that it may be not only an apology, but also a way of showing compassion about some negative event. If you’re wondering how to say “I’m sorry for your loss,” or “I’m sorry to hear that,” in Russian, this is a good place to start. For example:
    • Мне очень жаль, что так получилось (Mne ochen’ zhal’, chto tak poluchilos’)—“I feel so sorry that it happened that way.”
    • Мне очень жаль, что так вышло (Mne ochen’ zhal’, chto tak vyshlo)—“I feel so sorry that it happened that way.”


4. Informal Apologies

Woman Apologizing

This is how the main apology words Извинить (Izvinit’) and Простить (Prostit’) look like in an informal situation:

  • Извини (Izvini)—“Sorry”
  • Прости (Prosti)—“Sorry”

So, “Sorry, comrade” in Russian translates to Прости, друг (Prosti, drug).

You can also add Пожалуйста (Pozhaluysta) meaning “Please,” or the reason, or even address the person. For example:

  • Прости, пожалуйста, что не позвонил раньше (Prosti, pozhaluysta, chto ne pozvonil ran’she)—“I’m sorry that I didn’t call earlier.”
  • Извини, что звоню так поздно (Izvini, chto zvonyu tak pozdno)—“I’m sorry that I’m calling so late at night.”

There’s an interesting informal apology when you refer to yourself in the third person. Though it’s rarely used nowadays, you can find it a lot in books, films, and series:

  • Прости дурака (Prosti duraka)—“Forgive me for being such a fool.”
  • Прости идиота (Prosti idiota)—“Forgive me for being such an idiot.”

You can add some phrases after the main apology to make it stronger:

  • Я не хотел тебя обидеть (Ya ne khotel tebya obidet’)—“I didn’t want to offend you.” For a male.
  • Я не хотела тебя обидеть (Ya ne khotela tebya obidet’)—“I didn’t want to offend you.” For a female.
  • Я больше так не буду (Ya bol’she tak ne budu)—“I won’t do it again.”


5. Peculiar Apologies

Say Sorry

Of course, some people get bored with the more popular apologies and find ways to sound more original when apologizing. Most of these should be used in informal situations:

  • Тысяча извинений (Tysyacha izvineniy)—“Thousands of my apologies to you.” This apology is used a lot in old books and stories. It gives a slight feeling of the time of knights and kings.
  • Пардон (Pardon)—“Pardon.” This apology comes from French and is often used in Russia. However, use it carefully as it gives off a feeling of insincerity. Also, a lot of Russian guys use it when they’re drunk. You can also use Пардоньте (Pardon’te) meaning “Pardon” when you ask someone for an apology in a casual way.
  • Виноват (Vinovat)—“I’m guilty.” This apology comes from the military world.
    • Виноват, исправлюсь (Vinovat, ispravlyus’)—“I’m guilty, I will not do that again.” This is another military apology. You show that you understand that you did something wrong and that you’re ready to make amends or behave better.
    • Виноват, каюсь (Vinovat, kayus’)—“I’m guilty, I confess that.” This apology is a bit on the religious side. You emphasize that you confess the sin you’ve committed. This apology is also used only in books now, or you can sometimes hear it used in casual situations.
  • Ну, извиняйте (Nu, izvinyayte)—“Sorry.” This is a very informal apology in front of friends. You accept that you did something wrong, but you arrogantly show that you’re higher than that.
  • Сорри (Sorri)—“Sorry.” This informal apology comes from English.
    • Сорян (Soryan)—“Sorry.” This one is even more informal than the previous one. It’s used among millennials.
    • Сорян, чё (Soryan, cho)—“Sorry.” This is another version of the previous one. By adding чё (cho) which is the informal abbreviation of что (chto) meaning “what,” it’s sort of like asking “So, what? So what can you do about that?”
  • Я сожалею, что… (Ya sozhaleyu, chto…)—“I feel sorry for…”. This is a formal but outdated apology. You’ll find it a lot in books, but rarely in real life. For example, Я сожалею, что заставил вас ждать (Ya sozhaleyu, chto zastavil vas zhdat’)—“I feel sorry for keeping you waiting.”


6. How to Reply to an Apology in Russian

1- General Answers

People Shaking Hands

  • Ничего страшного (Nichego strashnogo)—“Nothing bad happened.” This is a frequently used answer both in formal and informal situations. For example, if you’re late for a job interview and apologize, you’ll probably get this phrase as a reply.
  • Всё в порядке (Vsyo v poryadke)—“Everything is okay.” This is another answer to an apology in formal and informal situations. You can even combine both phrases: Ничего страшного, всё в порядке (Nichego strashnogo, vsyo v poryadke) meaning “Nothing bad happened, everything is okay,” to emphasize that the apology was accepted.

2- Informal Answers

Child Leaning on a Shoulder

  • Проехали (Proyekhali)—“Already forgotten.” The word Проехать (Proyekhat’) means to pass by on a car or some other vehicle. So, this answer means that you passed that uncomfortable situation quickly and it’s not worth even noticing.
  • Бывает (Byvayet)—“It happens.” You express to the person apologizing that it’s not that much of a fault. By using this phrase, you even support the person a little bit, so he won’t worry too much about what happened.
  • Ладно, забыли (Ladno, zabyli)—“It’s okay, let’s forget about it.” By using this phrase, you show that you’re not interested in listening to any further apologies. Be careful when using this phrase. It can mean that you still feel angry about what the other person did, but want to stop the conflict and swallow your grudge.
  • Ничего (Nichego)—“It’s nothing.” This is a really light and frequently used reply to an apology. It’s a short version of Ничего страшного (Nichego strashnogo) which means “Nothing bad happened.”
  • Ничего-ничего (Nichego-nichego)—“It’s okay.” This is another version of Ничего (Nichego) meaning “It’s nothing.” Use it when you want to quickly switch the topic to other things.


7. Conclusion

As you can see, there are a lot of ways to say “I apologize” in Russian, but 90% of all apologies include either the word Извинить (Izvinit’) or the word Простить (Prostit’). Make sure to remember how these infinitives change in formal and informal apologies. For formal ones, use Извините (Izvinite)—“Sorry” and Простите (Prostite)—“Sorry.” For informal ones, use Извини (Izvini)—“Sorry” and Прости (Prosti)—“Sorry.” Once you feel comfortable using these common Russian “Sorry” words, choose some other apologies and learn them to expand your vocabulary and impress your Russian partners and friends.

The wide range of Russian apologies can be confusing at first, especially if you’ve just started to learn the language. Consider taking some lessons in our MyTeacher program for Russian-learners to get a great head start and save time by minimizing study efforts. With the help of our teachers, you’ll improve your Russian language skills in no time and start to sound like a real Russian very soon.

Увидимся! (Uvidimsya!)—“See you!”

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