I'm currently on the German course on Duolingo (trying to learn) and am a little confused about some of the Duolingo translation. It says that Entschuldigung means both excuse me and sorry. If this is true, is there another word that means I’m sorry or Sorry that would be better suited for particular situations?

For example – if a relative of one of my friends passes away I don’t want to be saying

Excuse me for your loss

I’d rather say

I’m sorry for your loss.

Is entschuldigung the word I would use in this situation, or is there something different? Can the proper meaning just be inferred by context clues?

  • 10
    It depends -- did you kill their relative yourself? If so, it is perfectly fine to use Entschuldigung. :p Jun 26, 2015 at 7:46
  • 1
    I most commonly hear this when someone gets in my way when walking or some short interaction. Just as if you are walking with your phone and look up just before you run into the nice old lady.
    – Cayce K
    Jul 27, 2015 at 20:42

5 Answers 5


Entschuldigung (noun, capital E!) is used for I’m sorry and excuse me, but you cannot literally translate being sorry for someone’s loss and use Entschuldigung here. It makes no sense in German. Instead, you’d use

Herzliches Beileid (official, a bit formal)


Das tut mir leid für dich (informal, not if someone passes away, but ok when someone fails a test.)

  • 7
    "Das tut mir leid" is being used even for cases when somebody passed away, but maybe with a little distance: "Kann ich deinen Vater sprechen?" "Nein, der ist letztes Jahr gestorben." "Oh, das tut mir leid".
    – PMF
    Jun 26, 2015 at 6:06
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    @PMF Meiner Meinung nach ist das Denglisch.
    – Robert
    Jun 26, 2015 at 14:24

Your hunch is right, in that Entschuldigung is restricted to cases where you attempt to excuse your own misdoing. It derives from Schuld, fault with the prefix ent- which signifies the loss of something, so it originally meant take away my fault.

But when you are sorry for somebody, you cannot ask for your fault to be taken away because you have no fault. And hence there is the other expression

Das (es) tut mir leid.

This literally means this is giving me pain or hurt; where pain/hurt is to be taken figuratively (it’s hurting the heart, not the body). The term Mitleid (pity, sympathy), literally included pain, derives from this. Therefore, you should be able to easily understand why das tut mir leid can mean I’m sorry in the way you intended.

Beileid is merely a stronger form of Mitleid — but which is also often used ironically.


I would say that - in general - you're right. "Entschuldigung" means sorry and excuse me. The only problem is that you use a fixed expression in german if somebody dies which is Mein Beileid or something like that.

Just two examples for the usage of "Entschuldigung".

1. to be sorry -> Entschuldigung

This is just for excusing if you broke something.

I'm sorry that I broke your window.

Entschuldigung, dass ich dein Fenster zerbrochen habe.

2. Excuse me -> Entschuldigung

You mainly use this expression when you want to ask a stranger for the way or something (Excuse me, where is...). You can also say Entschuldigen Sie instead of just Entschuldigung - that makes it sound more native...

Excuse me, where can I find the next restaurant?

Entschuldigung, wo kann ich das nächste Restaurant finden?

3. to be sorry for sth -> für jemanden leid tun

Now things get a little bit complicated ;). If you want to say that you're sorry for sth you are not responsible for you can use Es tut mir leid für dich.

I'm sorry for your bad grade.

Deine schlechte Note tut mir leid für dich.

I just have to mention that it sounds a bit strange in german, but it works and I don't see another way to express this.

I hope that I didn't make things more complicated for you ;).

  • "für jemanden leid tun" klingt denglisch, nicht nur seltsam.
    – Robert
    Jun 27, 2015 at 1:38

Short answer: No.

You use Entschuldigung in situations like, you broke something and excuse for it.

Unfortunately I can’t remenber any word/phrase fitting your situation (even though I natively speak German …)


Verzeihung für die Unannehmlichkeiten = we apologize for any inconveniences.

  • Ein bisschen kurz als Antwort, zumindest ein Anwendungsbeispiel sollte drin sein, wie etwa: Unser Bestellportal war am Samstagmorgen nicht zu erreichen. ….
    – guidot
    Oct 3, 2021 at 9:09

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