In China, it's important to know how to say sorry. Apologizing is the key to emotional harmony as it helps you get through many unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings.
Actuallly, there are many different ways of apologizing in China, which are suitable for different occasions. The next time you need to apologize, try these expressions and fix the problem right away!


5 Ways to Say "Sorry" in Chinese

1- 对不起 (Duì Bù Qǐ)  

"Sorry" literally means "sorry," and it's a word you're sure to use a lot. No matter what language you speak. "Sorry" is a typical apology that everyone uses. If you make a mistake, this word can be used in most situations.
Now, you can simply apologize sincerely by using sorry. But remember, it can also mean that you owe someone a favor, so be careful when you use it as it can be seen as a strong word. This is the most appropriate occasion when you feel the need to admit your mistakes and expect forgiveness in return.
Example 1: Sorry, your document has been deleted by me accidentally. (对不起, 你的文件不小心被我删除了。)
Example 2: Sorry, I broke your vase. (对不起, 我打碎了你的花瓶。)

click to listen the Chinese

2- 不好意思(Bù Hǎo Yì Sī) 

Literally meaning "to feel embarrassed or shy", this indicates a lighter apology for being sorry. For things that aren't that important, or that you personally don't feel terribly bad about it, use this as a polite way to apologize for any minor inconvenience, such as being late. In addition, “不好意思” can also mean "excuse me", especially if you are disturbing someone and trying to get their attention.
Example 1: Sorry, I cannot attend your birthday party. (不好意思,我没法参加你的生日聚会了。)
Example 2: Sorry, may I interrupt for a moment (不好意思,我可以打断一下吗?)

click to listen the Chinese

3 – 抱歉 (Bào Qiàn)

“抱歉” is more likely to be used in formal situations, such as in the workplace or when used with people you don't know. “抱” usually means “hug”, here it means to bear (a feeling or emotion). “歉” means regret or a feeling of regret. Usually saying “抱歉” is a more polite and formal way.
Example 1: I’m sorry about your injury. (对于你的伤势,我感到很抱歉。)
Example 2: Sorry for giving back your car late. (抱歉太晚才还你的车。)

click to listen the Chinese

4 – 是我的责任 (Shì Wǒ De Zé Rèn)

It shows that the responsibility lies with me.
This is a good expression if you are willing to take full responsibility. This will make you look very professional in the workplace -- a great example of how to apologies in Chinese over a relatively serious issue.

Example 1: It's all my fault for not winning the championship this time. (这次没拿冠军都是我的责任。)

click to listen the Chinese

5– 我错了(Wǒ Cuò Le)

It is not easy to say sorry in Chinese if one knows how to admit the mistakes in language. This term is used between child and parents, girlfriend and boyfriend or your spouse. “我错了” is a simple and straightforward word that people use to say sorry in Chinese.

Example 1: I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have blown up at you. (我错了,我不该朝你发脾气。)
Example 2: This time I was wrong. (这次是我错了)

click to listen the Chinese

That's it! With these magic expressions, if something happens, you can say sorry in Chinese! Sometimes an apology will ease the relationship and warm people’s hearts.


Further reading:
Top 20 Most Common Chinese Characters to Learn
China Entry and Travel Restrictions in 2021
Baggage Rules of China Railway