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25+ Best Ways To Say Sorry In Dutch

July 26, 2022
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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?

Do people say sorry in dutch?

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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:

  • Sorry
    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.
  • Pardon
    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

DutchEnglishPronunciation
Sorry, ik versta het nietSorry, I don’t understand
Sorry, het spijt mijExcuse me, I’m sorry
Sorry, kunt u mij helpen?Sorry, could you help me?
Sorry, ik weet het nietSorry, I don’t know
Sorry, ik ben vergeten!Sorry, I forgot.
Pardon, ik zoek een/de wasruimteExcuse me, I’m looking for a/the washroom
Pardon, is er hier een bank in de buurt?Excuse me, is there a bank near here?
Pardon, mag ik iets vragen?Excuse me, may I ask you something?

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
DutchEnglishPronunciation
Niet kwalijkExcuse me
Het spijt me voor jouI’m sorry for you
Nee, het spijt mij. Ik weet het nietNo, I’m sorry. I don’t know
Het spijt me, maar we hebben geen martiniSorry, but we don’t have martinis
Het spijt me, maar ik ben hier niet bekendI’m sorry, but I don’t know this place
Het spijt me, de koffie is opI’m sorry, we're out of coffee
Neem me niet kwalijkDon’t blame me too harshly / take me not evil or badly
Excuseert u mijn oprechte verontschuldigingen(Highly formal phrase) Please excuse. My sincere apologies
Excuseert u mijn verontschuldigt u mijPlease excuse me of any blame or wrongdoing
Ik bied u mijn oprechte verontschuldigingen(Highly formal phrase)I offer you my sincere apologies
Vergeef mijForgive me
Ik wil me graag verontschuldigenI'd like to apologize
Het is mijn foutIt's my fault
Ik hoop dat je me kunt vergevenI hope you will forgive me

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

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):

DutchEnglishPronunciation
Het maakt niet uit / het geeft niet(Don't worry) it does not matter
Maak je geen zorgenDon't worry
Ik vergeef jeI forgive you
Je bent vergevenYou are forgiven
Excuses aanvaardApology accepted
Nee ik vergeef je nietNo, I don't forgive you
Nee ik accepteer je excuses nietNo, I don't accept your apology
Het is okIt's ok

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.

Learn Dutch With Ling!

We recommend you learn Dutch with Ling, which uses SRS flashcards. These flashcards are presented to you using our AI system, which changes them according to your level and is proven to increase the long-term memory of a new language.

Learning Dutch with Ling also means that you'll be listening to conversations between real Dutch, picking up on real-life context conversations. You'll also learn to speak, read and write in Dutch. How cool is that?!

Just in case you're wondering how popular Ling App is, our app has over 10 million downloads across Google Play and the Apple Store and pssst...... we also offer over 60 languages!

And if you are looking for a beginner online course to start your learning journey, we recommend the lessons by Ramon Janssen that will get you familiar with the Dutch language easily in a step-by-step way. Try the free course today!

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