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I would like to know how to express “Sorry that I am late” in German. What would be the best and most common way to say that?
Would any of the following be right?

  • Entschuldigung / Entschuldigen Sie, dass ich verspätet bin.

  • Entschuldigung / Entschuldigen Sie, dass ich Verspätung habe.

I found out that to say I am late in German, you can say verspätet sein or Verspätung haben – which one is actually the best?

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I think something like:

  • Entschuldigen Sie die Verspätung.
  • Entschuldigen Sie meine Verspätung.

sounds more natural.

Verspätung haben is more commonly used when, for example, a train or a bus is late and its whole schedule is delayed.

4

The other answers are correct, yet quite formal. In a less formal setting, e.g. when meeting friends, I would rather say

Tut mir leid, dass ich zu spät bin!

(= I'm sorry that I'm late!)

One final note on the other answers: Everybody proposed

Entschuldigen Sie die Verspätung.

which technically means "Excuse my delay!", that is, it requests the adressed person to excuse the delay (by using an imperative). Some people consider this rude, which is why I'd always say

Entschuldigen Sie bitte die Verspätung!

Small word, big difference.

2

It's sich verspäten and you would use the present perfect.

Entschuldigung, dass ich mich verspätet habe.

You would say that right in the moment when you arrive.
A good alternative is suggested in the answer of aiwaldmeister.

If you are, however, still on your way, you could technically say:

Entschuldigung, ich habe Verspätung.
Entschuldigung, ich werde Verspätung haben.

That's not really common, though. Verspätung haben is rather used in phrases like:

Wir hatten X Minuten Verspätung.
Der Zug hat Verspätung.

When you're still on your way, you say instead:

Ich werde mich verspäten.

Technically, Ich bin verspätet would be correct here, too. You can rarely hear someone say "Sorry, ich muss los. Ich bin schon verspätet", but more common would be "Ich bin schon zu spät" or "Ich bin spät dran".
Ich bin verspätet is also correct in a phrase like "Ich bin verspätet losgefahren".

  • Sorry, ich muss los, ich bin spät dran is very common too. – Barth Zalewski Jan 28 '15 at 15:07
  • Hab's mit übernommen. Danke. :) – Em1 Jan 28 '15 at 15:08
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Ich würde sagen:

Entschuldigung für die Verspätung.

  • One guy I know once tried to say that but as a beginner he used wrong word. Eventually he said: Entschuldigung für meine Verstopfung. ;-) – Piohen Jan 28 '15 at 17:50
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    @Piohen: That can indeed cause some delay ;) – O. R. Mapper Oct 22 '17 at 18:08
  • "Entschuldigung für die Verspätung" is rude imo. a) you ask for an excuse, you don't deliver it. without "please" this is a request; correct would be "Entschuldigen Sie bitte die Verspätung", the other person may - if he likes - exuse. not you, and not forced – Tommylee2k Oct 24 '17 at 6:44

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