How To Say SORRY In Italian 

Uh oh, . . .  

. . . you forgot to salt the pasta water. 
. . . you forgot your Italian mother-in-law’s birthday. 
. . . you need to interrupt a conversation to ask the time
. . . you’re late to Italian class. 
. . . you’ve stepped on a stranger’s Prada shoes by accident. 
. . . your best friend’s pet died.

It’s crucial to know how to say I’m sorry in Italian in these sticky situations. In English, there is one all-purpose word, sorry, that works in all of these scenarios. But in Italian, there are different words and phrases depending on the circumstances.

Nessun problema! No problem!    

With this guide, you’ll understand which Italian phrase to use to say sorry. Whether it’s  essentially to say excuse me (scusami), forgive me (perdonami), or express sadness (mi dispiace), you’ll find the right phrase here. There are plenty of sample scenarios and examples to help, for example if you interrupt someone, bump into someone, or are late, or have to cancel an appointment. When you’ve really messed up, find out how to say you’re mortified, take responsibility, and fix things. You’ll also find out how to respond to sorry in Italian. And in the sad event that you need to write a sympathy card, there is a breakdown to help you. 



Man with grey hair, black glasses, light blue shirt and navy blue tie putting his hand up to his ear.  There is a speech bubble by his head with 'Scusa?'

There are times when you need to say sorry in Italian and you’re essentially saying excuse me. Like when: 

  • you have to interrupt a conversation
  • you couldn’t hear your mother ask you a question
  • you’re late
  • you accidentally bumped into someone

In this case, use the verb scusare, which means to excuse, as a command. Here’s how.

To say sorry, or excuse me, to someone you have an informal relationship with, like a friend or family member, say: scusa, or scusami (sorry/excuse me).

The pronunciation of scusa and scusami is: SKOO-zah and SKOO-zah-mee

Listen to how to pronounce scusa and scusami here: 

To be respectful to someone you have a formal relationship with, to say sorry use scusi, or mi scusi (sorry/excuse me). Don’t use the informal form or you’ll have even more to say sorry for!

The pronunciation of scusi and mi scusi is: SKOO-zee and mee-SKOO-zee

Listen to how to pronounce scusi and mi scusi here: 

To say sorry in Italian to a group of people, use scusate, or scusatemi (excuse me).

The pronunciation of scusate and scusatemi is: skoo-ZAH-tay and skoo-ZAH-tay-mee

Listen to how to pronounce scusate and scusatemi here:

Quick Trick: If trying to keep track of informal, formal and plural is driving you nuts and you need to apologize quickly before you get punched in the face, use chiedo scusa (excuse me). Chiedo scusa is a good phrase to keep on the tip of your tongue, because no matter who you’re addressing, it will always be appropriate and polite.

The pronunciation of chiedo scusa is: kee-AY-doh SKOO-zah

Listen to how to pronounce chiedo scusa here: 

Here’s an example:

A: Marlena perchè non mi hai risposto? Ti ho chiesto tre volte di venire a cena. Marlena why didn’t you answer me? I asked you three times to come to dinner.
B: Scusa mamma, non ti ho sentito! Stavo ascoltando Måneskin. Sorry Mom, I didn’t hear you! I was listening to Måneskin.


Spilled glass of red wine with 'perdonami' in text in the liquid that's spilled.

There are times when you’ve made a worse mistake, and need to say I am sorry in Italian when you mean forgive me. Perhaps:

  • you accidentally spill red wine on someone
  • you need to apologize

Use the verb perdonare, which means to forgive, as a command. 

Perdonami is the informal way to say sorry/forgive me. Use this when you are addressing friends, family, or anyone else you have an informal relationship with. 

Mi perdoni is the formal way to say sorry/forgive me to use with elders, or people of higher social standing than you.

Perdonatemi is the (plural) way to say to a group of people: sorry/forgive me

And just like with chiedo scusa, if you’re on the spot and you’re worried about mixing up the informal and formal form use chiedo perdono (I ask for forgiveness). Keep it up your sleeve because it’s simple, and polite no matter who you’re talking to. 

The pronunciation of perdonami, mi perdoni, perdonatemi and chiedo perdono is: pehr-DOH-nah-mee, mee-pehr-DOH-nee, pehr-doh-NAH-teh-mee, kee-AY-doh pehr-DOH-noh

Listen to how to pronounce perdonami, mi perdoni, perdonatemi and chiedo perdono here: 

Here’s an example:

A: (After spilling hot coffee all over a friend): Perdonami, Carlo! Stai bene? Forgive me Carlo! Are you ok?
B: Non ti preoccupare Stefano, non mi ha bruciato. Ma la mia camicia bianca è rovinata. Don’t worry Stefano, I didn’t get burned. But my white shirt is ruined.


Woman holding fluffy white dog and sneezing into tissue.  Graphic speech bubble with 'mi dispiace.'

Use mi dispiace to express your sorrow and sadness about something. You can also use mi dispiace to say I’m sorry because you have really screwed up, and excuse me and even forgive me (scusami or perdonami) just won’t cut it. Like when:

  • You get caught cheating on your spouse
  • Your friend has been having a lot of bad luck lately
  • Your kids want a dog but you’re deathly allergic

Mi dispiace uses the verb dispiacere, which means to displease or to upset. So the direct translation of mi dispiace is it displeases me, or it upsets me. The everyday meaning of mi dispiace is I’m sorry.

The pronunciation of mi dispiace is: mee dis-pee-AH-cheh

Listen to how to pronounce mi dispiace here:

Here are some variations of I’m sorry:

Quanto mi dispiace! I’m so sorry!
Mi dispiace tanto! I’m very sorry!
Non mi dispiace. I don’t mind.

Here’s an example:

Mi dispiace, non posso venire con te a La Scala. I’m sorry, I can’t go to La Scala with you.


So you’ve messed up big time. Forgetting your Italian mother-in-law’s birthday, or forgetting to salt the pasta water fall into this category. 

Time to apologize. Here are some phrases for when you really have to grovel and convince someone you are sincerely sorry in Italian. Use them along with the appropriate sorry phrase from above.

Sono mortificato/a. I’m mortified. 
Sono desolato/a. I’m extremely sorry.
Ho sbagliato. I made a mistake.
Non volevo offendere. I didn’t want to offend.
È colpa mia. It’s my fault.
Non lo farò mai più. I’ll never do it again.
Garantisco che non si ripeterà. I guarantee it will never happen again.
Come posso rimediare? How can I fix things?


Here are some scenarios to help you understand just how to say I’m sorry in Italian:


You are lost in Milan and need to ask for directions. The only two people nearby are involved in an animated conversation.

Say scusate, to say sorry/excuse me, then proceed to ask for directions:

Scusate (se vi interrompo), mi potete dire come arrivare al Duomo per favore? Sorry (to interrupt), can you please tell me how to get to the Duomo?


On the way to the bar counter to order your morning cappuccino you collide with a gorgeous Italian stranger. 

As long as there are no broken bones, you can say Mi scusi (formal, singular), or Chiedo scusa! Excuse me! Then flash your best smile and strike up a conversation by saying salve (hello).

However, if you’ve really smashed into them and they end up in the hospital, Mi dispiace, mi perdoni (I’m sorry, forgive me, formal form) is more appropriate. This phrase also works if you’ve stepped on their Prada shoes.


You arrive late to your dentist appointment. Tell your dentist: Scusi! (excuse me, formal form) or scusi il ritardo (excuse me for being late)!

You arrive late to your Italian class. Address the whole class: Scusate! (excuse me, plural form), or scusate il ritardo (excuse me for being late)!

You’re late to your wedding. Tell your future spouse: Perdonami (forgive me) and start begging. 


Pushing your way through the crowd to get into the soccer stadium? Say Scusate! (excuse me, plural form)

Elbowing your way through the throng to the bar counter during the morning coffee rush? Say Scusate! (excuse me, plural form)


What if you’ve been invited to a party, a wedding, or some other event and you can’t go? Use mi dispiace to say you’re sorry you can’t make it. 

For example:

Mi dispiace ma non posso venire alla tua festa di compleanno. I’m sorry, I can’t come to your birthday party

How about an occasion you’re expected to attend, but can’t, like a work event, a rehearsal, or a sports practice? What if you must break an appointment? Scusami, mi scusi, scusatemi, or chiedo scusa (depending on the person you’re addressing) to say excuse me is the right phrase to use. 

For example:

Chiedo scusa, devo cancellare il nostro appuntamento. I’m sorry, I must cancel our appointment. 


When I first came to Italy as a student, I yearned to blend in with locals. My dream came true after a few weeks, when an Italian student came over to me and started talking a mile a minute! To my horror, I didn’t understand a thing he said.

Now I was in a tight spot. Sigh. My cheeks went bright red as I said:

Mi dispiace, non capisco. I’m sorry, I don’t understand. 

If you want to make a full confession, say:

Mi dispiace, non parlo italiano. I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian.


Use mi dispiace to say I’m sorry in Italian to someone when their loved one dies (that is, if you really are sorry). 

For example:

Giuseppe, mi dispiace. La tua mamma era una donna molto speciale. Ti faccio le mie condoglianze. Giuseppe I’m sorry. Your mom was a very special woman. I give you my condolences.



Man and woman hugging.  The woman is smiling and a speech bubble says 'fa niente.'  They are in a backyard and you can see a window, the grey wall head, a small tree, and green lawn.

When someone apologizes to you, you might want to forgive them. Here are some ways to respond to I’m sorry, and forgive someone in Italian:

Non fa niente or Fa niente: It’s nothing, It doesn’t matter
Nessun problema: Not a problem
Non è successo niente: Nothing happened, It was no big deal
È tutto a posto: All is sorted, All is ok 
Scusami tu (informal) or Mi scusi lei (formal): Excuse me
Figurati (informal) or si figuri (formal): Don’t worry
Non ti preoccupare (informal) or Non si preoccupi (formal): Don’t worry


Sometimes even the most sincere apologies are hard to accept:

Mi dispiace, ho dimenticato di dare da mangiare al tuo gatto mentre eri in vacanza. Perdonami. I’m sorry, I forgot to feed your cat while you were on vacation. Forgive me. 

Cara figlia mia, mi dispiace di averti dato il nome di una famosa spogliarellista. My dear daughter, I’m sorry I named you after a stripper. 

What if you just can’t find it in your heart to forgive someone? Here are some ways to respond in Italian when someone says they’re sorry:

Chiedere scusa non basta: Sorry doesn’t cut it, Saying sorry isn’t enough
Non ti perdono (informal) or Non la perdono (formal): I don’t forgive you
Non ti perdonerò mai or Non la perdonerò mai: I’ll never forgive you


When someone says they’re sorry about the death of your loved one, there’s a simple way to respond:

Grazie: Thank you


Hand writing a condolence card on a wooden table.  It reads, 'Caro Marco, Mi dispiace per la scomparsa di tua mamma.  Ti abbraccio, Angelica."

A sympathy card is probably the best way to tell someone you’re sorry that their loved one died. Even if you’ve also told them in person, they are sure to appreciate a heartfelt note. It can be difficult to find the words even in your native language, but here are some guidelines for writing a condolence card in Italian.


For someone you know well, use:

Caro (+ man’s name) Dear (name) 
Cara (+ woman’s name) Dear (name)

If you don’t know the person very well, and you have a formal relationship:

Gentile Sig. (+ man’s last name)   Dear Mr. (name)
Gentile Sig. ra (+ woman’s last name)  Dear Mrs. (name)


Next comes your message. Here are some sample phrases.

Mi dispiace per la perdita di (name) I’m sorry for the loss of (name)
Mi dispiace per la scomparsa di (name) I’m sorry for the passing of (name)
Ti/Le faccio le mie condoglianze I give you my condolences (informal/formal)
Ti/Le/Vi porgo le mie condoglianze I offer you my condolences (informal/formal/plural)


Then you can sign your letter.

Ti abbraccio With a hug (informal)
Con affetto With affection

For more information, read Condolences in Italian (coming soon).


Woman sitting on couch inbetween two other women says in speech bubble, "Non mi dispiace di aver svelato il tuo segreto."  The woman on the left looks shocked.

Maybe you’re just not sorry. 

Say: Non mi dispiace di aver + past participle 

The grammar of this might feel tricky, so here are some examples:

Non mi dispiace di aver svelato il tuo segreto. Mi pesava. I’m not sorry for telling your secret. It was weighing on me.

Non mi dispiace di averti fatto le corna! Mi hai tradito mille volte! Ciao! I’m not sorry for cheating on you! You betrayed me a thousand times! Goodbye!

Note: by itself, non mi dispiace means I don’t mind.

A: Ti va bene fare l’aperitivo prima di cena? Is it ok with you to have an aperitif before dinner?
B: Non mi dispiace. I don’t mind.
A: Ok, andiamo a prendere un prosecco. Ok, let’s go have a prosecco.

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