Most native English speakers are familiar with the concept and pleasantry of saying sorry. In fact, sorry is used so much in some cultures, such as Canada or the United States, that it has lost its meaning. You’ll be likely to hear apologies uttered multiple times a day, but are they even sincere?
In the Netherlands, they prefer to live by ‘Don’t say sorry, be sorry!’ So how do you say sorry in Dutch to express sincerity in actually being apologetic? Let’s find out about that in the sections below!
Do Dutch People Apologize?
The truth is that ‘sorry’ isn’t a common expression at all in Dutch. In fact, they even have the expression, ‘There are no sorrys in life.’ The average Dutch person isn’t utter any form of apology whether they bump into you on the street or crash into you with their car. Saying this word all the time isn’t a part of the Dutch culture, but do remember that saying thank you is important to the locals!
Fun Facts About Apologies In Dutch
- One quick way Dutch native speakers can immediately spot a foreigner is if they say sorry or pardon. Once you’ve uttered one of these words, locals will likely switch to English to continue communicating with you.
- In many cases, anyone is not expected to offer an apology. If you’re coming from an apologetic society, this will likely seem rude, but the Dutch don’t waste time apologizing for small things.
- There is almost a caste system involved in knowing when to say sorry and which kind of sorry to say in Dutch.
Let’s look at the different situations and ways to say sorry in Dutch!
A Quick Dutch Grammar Lesson
Before apologizing, you must first consider who you’re speaking with. The Dutch language has formal and informal pronouns for ‘you.’ Let’s look at when to use which pronoun.
- The formal pronoun for ‘you’ in Dutch is: u
You would use u when addressing a stranger, a teacher, or someone in a position of power greater than yours.
- The informal ‘you’ in Dutch is: je
You would use je when speaking with people you know, such as coworkers, friends, family, or maybe someone in the service industry you order from daily.
It’s up to you to decide which pronoun to use when addressing Dutch people during apologies, so when you see u or je in the examples below, know that either can be used.
The Best Words To Say Sorry In Dutch
Here are some words for apologies in Dutch for less serious events:
One Dutch word for sorry is actually, sorry! However, be careful and listen to its pronunciation. It isn’t quite the same as English and actually isn’t borrowed from the English language either. The Dutch form of sorry comes from the Dutch word zeer which means hurt, sad, or pain.
To sound Dutch, stress emphasis in pardon is on the second syllable, so you would say it parDON. This word is borrowed from French. However, it is only used when you misheard or couldn’t hear what someone said. ParDON is a more polite word compared to sorry.
- het spijt me / het spijt mij
This phrase literally means it spites me but is more commonly translated as I’m sorry.
Expressions Using The Dutch Words For Apologies
These are some ways you might hear or use apologies in the Netherlands
How To Express Regret In More Serious Situations In Dutch
As mentioned, in Dutch, apologies are usually reserved for more serious situations or when you really, truly mean it. you must really mean your apology in more serious situations such as:
- Offering sympathy
- Apologizing sincerely (if you’ve hurt someone)
- Expressing regret
- A sad situation
- A heart wrenching break up
How To Express Regret For Minor Mistakes In Dutch
Again, the Dutch don’t typically offer any apology for simple mistakes, so you don’t need to worry about this. You won’t come across as arrogant or rude if you don’t utter apologies in most situations.
- Can you forgive me? – Kun je mij vergeven?
- Sorry, I won’t do it again – Sorry, ik zal het niet nog een keer doen
- Sorry, it won’t happen again – Sorry, het zal niet meer gebeuren
How To Respond To An Apology In Dutch
You may be in a situation where a Dutch speaker expresses deep regret to you. It is considered good manners to acknowledge and respond to that person’s effort to apologize. As you recall, “Don’t say sorry, BE sorry” is real in the Netherlands. When a heartfelt sorry is expressed to you, it’s meaningful, and the person truly means it.
Here are some ways to respond to an apology in Dutch (It may be useful also to know how to say yes, no, and ok in Dutch to respond appropriately):
Ready To Learn More Dutch?
Now that you’ve learned the rules and phrases behind how to apologize in Dutch and offer a polite apology, you’re ready to learn more for your journey to the Netherlands!
Learning a new language can be challenging, but thankfully the Dutch language has simple syllables, making it easier to learn. Many words will sound familiar to English speakers, making connections easier to make in long-term memory.
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