3 ways to say I’m sorry in Chinese and their differences


#1. 不好意思 (Pinyin:bù hǎo yì si)

You can use it to say sorry about things or situations that are not too important, but you still feel embarrassed about, such as being late or rejecting an invitation. Another meaning of 不好意思 (bù hǎo yì si) in English is “excuse me”. It’s a formal phrase that can be used to get someone’s attention when you need to ask something

 #2. 抱歉 (pinyin:bào qiàn)

抱歉 (bào qiàn) is another way to say sorry. 抱 (bào) means hold, 歉 (qiàn) means regret. There are two ways to translate 抱歉 in English. It can first mean: feeling sorry and guilty for an inconvenience that you caused. It can also mean regretting something that happened to someone.

#1. 对不起 (Pinyin:duì bù qǐ)

对不起 is a classic apology that everyone uses. It can be used in most situations if you’ve made a mistake. 对不起 is a simple and straightforward word that people use to say sorry.  As it can immediately defuse a situation, this is a great word to know! 对不起 means “unworthy”, and conveys a meaning of “I owe you”. As such, when you’re saying 对不起, you’re pretty much admitting your mistake directly and apologizing for it. So, in English, it is translated as ‘‘sorry”.