I understand that "es tut mir leid" means sorry in a way that reflects the English "I'm sorry about that" but say I have the following brief discussion in which my noun gender is politely corrected:

A: Wie viel für eine Bier, bitte?
B: "ein Bier"
A: Ah, ________. Wie viel für ein Bier, bitte?

What would be the most appropriate way of saying "sorry" in that scenario? As in "my mistake". "Es tut mir leid" seems over the top to me.

Furthermore, what are the variations of sorry and the general uses of each?

  • 5
    I had to read the conversation a few times, and the answers, to understand what the conversation is about (as a native German speaker). "Wie viel für ein Bier" is a very literal translation of the English phrase. "Was kostet ein Bier" would be the more common form. Be prepared to not just be corrected, but also overwhelmed by a barrage of questions about the brand, kind (Pils/Helles/Weizen ...), size of glass ("ein großes Bier" means very different things in different parts of Germany), alcoholic/non-alcoholic etc. of the beer you are inquiring about ;-) Jul 14 '16 at 7:59
  • 2
    At least in my experience (Berlin), apologizing is a huge cultural difference between anglophones & Germans. We use "sorry" to mean many different things, which, understandably, is confusing when we say it in German the way we would in English. That also means don't expect people to say sorry or even apologize in contexts which, in English, would be expected and appropriate to do so.
    – user19407
    Jul 14 '16 at 8:47

I would not apologize in this case, but thank them instead.
That said, only if the situation doesn't feel condescending. Correcting someone out of the blue can be rather impolite.
(Normally, it would be better for the corrector to include the correct form in their answer, not just throw it at you. That is, answering with something like "Ein Bier kostet...", or repeating in a questioning tone, allowing you to correct the "misunderstanding" and save face.)

A simple Danke will acknowledge their correction without running danger of sounding annoyed.

Addendum: a simple mistake with the grammatical gender of a word is a minor error that does not warrant an apology, especially as you are still learning German. Consider also the fact that some words exhibit differing genders depending on the region you are in (der, die, das Butter). There is an issue, when you do it to a person, but that's due to the actual gender getting mixed in. The beer will not be offended by wrong gender attribution.


Not for this situation but in general: "Entschuldigung" would be appropriate. Another option is "Verzeihung". You can also use these words as "excuse me": Entschuldigung, wo ist die nächste Bushaltestelle? (Excuse me, where is the next bus stop?)

  • I think even in this context, one can use "Entschuldigung" (or more colloquially: "'tschuldigung") without a problem. But I think it would be quite common to hear the English word "sorry" being used quite frequently nowadays (in spoken language).
    – Gerhard
    Jul 14 '16 at 6:48

I'd say it like this:

A: Wie viel für eine Bier, bitte?
B: "ein Bier"
A: Ah, Entschuldigung. Wie viel für ein Bier, bitte?

Even though Entschuldigung is a noun it's often used as a shorter phrase for

Bitte entschuldigen Sie mich.

Which means

Please excuse me.

That would be a formaly correct way to admit that you made a mistake and fell sorry for that. Also it's quite commen to shorten Entschuldigung down to tschuldigung and a lot of younger people just use sorry as well. So both would be fine.

A second solution would be

A: Ah, mein Fehler. Wie viel für ein Bier, bitte?

Which would be the direct way to say my bad and would be fine as well.


In German, you don't say "sorry" (or the equivalent) for minor offenses, such as misunderstanding or "bumping into" people. Instead, the apology, Entschuldigung, which translates literally as "Take away guilt," has English equivalents of "excuse me" or "pardon me."

"Es tut mir leid," literally translates as "It does me hurt," and has the meaning of "I feel really bad." This is for serious offenses, perhaps crashing into or injuring someone, as opposed to a mere "bump." Or an insult, as opposed to a mere misunderstanding.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.