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The dictionary definitions seem semantically identical. Do you use one instead of the other in certain situations?

(I am a native English speaker who is learning German)

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@Takkat: I didn't vote against this question, but I added what you have asked to my answer. Perhaps I didn't understand before that this was what he was really after. –  Kevin Mar 18 '12 at 5:15
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2 Answers 2

up vote 15 down vote accepted

Welcome to GL&U!

"Entschuldigen" is the verb form.
"Entschuldigung" is the noun form.

EDIT--additional information:
If you are asking about the difference between "das Entschuldigen" and "die Entschuldigung", then this has to do with a grammar rule rather than just a dictionary entry definition.

"Das Entschuldigen" is an example of a gerund (Gerundium), which is simply adding the neuter article "das" to a verb and then capitalizing it to make the verb act as a noun. In this case, "das Entschuldigen" is the act of excusing, whereas "die Entschuldigung" is the excuse itself.

"Das Entschuldigen" could go on and on while someone continues asking for "die Entschuldigung".

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And generally when you want to say "pardon" in public, you either say "Entschuldigen Sie" or just short "Entschuldigung". Usually you choose the latter version. –  RBloeth Mar 15 '12 at 7:09
    
And never "ich entschuldige mich". You hear that a lot but it's just wrong. –  musiKk Mar 15 '12 at 8:22
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@musiKk But Entschuldigen Sie mich, bitte is again correct and common. –  Em1 Mar 15 '12 at 8:45
    
@Em1: Correct. That's an important distinction. –  musiKk Mar 15 '12 at 10:30
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@elena: On hearing "ich entschuldige mich", some people would ironically reply "oh gut, dann muss ich das ja nicht mehr machen", indicating that you can't lift the blame from you yourself. I wouldn't do that, but also perceive the distinction. In daily use I don't care, however - people do indeed use the different versions synonymously. (When hearing official excuses I'm most happy with "wir bitten um Entschuldigung", which I perceive as most polite!) –  Hendrik Vogt Mar 15 '12 at 13:39
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"Schuld" means debt/fault/blame. if you are in debt / to blame ("schuldig") you have to get ... basically get out of it. so "ent-schuld-igen" is getting out of it. If you hit someone, you are to blame and you can't get "entschuldigen" yourself, you have to ask for "Entschuldigung" (Noun, "um Entschuldigung bitten"). To some very very sensitive people it may appear rude to say "Entschuldigung." ("Sorry") to unblame yourself, instead of asking for it to the one who blames you. Most people don't even notice the difference. In daily life, it doesn't really matter.

"Ich entschuldige mich." -> Sorry, "unblame" yourself (Deutsche Bahn uses this...)

"Ich bitte um Entschuldigung." -> ask to get "unblamed" (generally considered more formal)

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Deutsche Bahn uses pretty much every apologetic phrase possible, from the really polite "Wir bitten um Entschludigung / um Ihr Verständnis", the moderately polite "Bitte entschuldigen Sie XYZ" to the rather thoughtless "Wir danken für Ihr Verständnis" (which just presumes that there actually is any kind of Verständnis on your part). –  nem75 Mar 16 '12 at 11:39
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