Please consider the following sentence:

Er läßt sich für heute entschuldigen, da er dringend nach Österreich muß.

I understand that "sich entschuldigen lassen" means to apologize / to send one's apologies or regrets / to ask to be excused, but:

  1. How does it differ from "sich entschuldigen" (without lassen) then?

Would the following convey the same meaning:

Er entschuldigt sich für heute...

  1. Does the sich in "sich entschuldigen lassen" belong to "entschuldigen" or "lassen"?

4 Answers 4

  1. "Er entschuldigt sich" means he apologizes, usually in person, or maybe in writing.
    "Er läßt sich entschuldigen" means he asked the person who is talking to relay his apology. Of course the relay person can also use the short "Er entschuldigt sich", because from context it is obvious he is not present.

  2. The word "sich" belongs to "sich entschuldigen".

  • So "sich" is an accusative object to "entschuldigen"? Aug 17, 2021 at 9:52
  • 1
    @KeNSmilePachI: basically yes, but it's more precise and common to say that "sich entschuldigen" is an (accusative) reflexive verb. deutsch.lingolia.com/en/grammar/verbs/reflexive-verbs
    – HalvarF
    Aug 17, 2021 at 10:51
  • @HalvarF then where is the accusative object of "lassen"? Aug 17, 2021 at 12:51
  • 1
    @KeNSmilePachI Excellent question, there is none, it is implicitly the person speaking. Other examples: "Herr Moser lässt ausrichten, dass er heute nach Österreich abreist.", "Der Chef lässt bitten, diese Unterlage heute noch zu bearbeiten."
    – HalvarF
    Aug 17, 2021 at 13:43
  • @HalvarF sorry but I don't get how the object is implicitly the person speaking, could you please elaborate further, or perhaps, provide me with some resources to read up more on the topic? Aug 17, 2021 at 15:06

The phrase "sich entschuldigen lassen" is typically used if a person is expected to attend a meeting, but is prevented from being there for some plausible reason. In that case the person will ask another participant to inform about his absence with words like "Frau Maier lässt sich entschuldigen, weil sie gerade zum Vorstand gerufen wurde."

In this situation "entschuldigen" does not mean to apologize for some misconduct, it means to express regret for not attending.


Man lässt sich entschuldigen, statt sich selbst zu entschuldigen, in dem man die Botschaft an denjenigen delegiert, der dann sagt: "Er lässt sich entschuldigen."

So, wie sich jemand anwaltlich vertreten lässt, oder sich mit Sonnencreme einreiben lässt.

  • I'm not convinced this fits with the sentence given. To me it seems more likely that lassen is being used as in meaning 2b in DWDS, so I'd render it in English as "He can be excused for today, since he urgently needs to go to Austria." In the above interpretation it's more like he's sending apologies for needing to go to Austria, which may be a reason missing some prior engagement, but does not in itself require an apology. Perhaps the sentence is ambiguous?
    – RDBury
    Aug 17, 2021 at 2:55
  • Wenn man bewerten wollte, dass die Abwesenheit in Ordnung geht, müsste man sagen: "Seine Abwesenheit lässt sich entschuldigen, da er verreisen musste." Man kann aber Abwesenheiten mit "er lässt sich entschuldigen" berichten, ohne in die Entschuldigung einzuwilligen. Tatsächlich ist die Floskel, dass jmd. sich entschuldigen lässt so häufig, dass Mehrdeutigkeit ausgeschlossen werden kann. Aug 21, 2021 at 3:49
  • That seems to agree with the other answers. I'm thinking "he can be excused" and er lässt sich entschuldigen mean pretty much the same thing; not so much that an apology was accepted but that the reason for absence was reasonably explained.
    – RDBury
    Aug 21, 2021 at 15:01
  • 1
    No the claim is not that an apology was accepted, but that an apology was made and transmitted via a third person. Whether this is accepted or not is orthogonal to the issue. It's neither a judgement, whether the apology was reasonable, it's only a reporting of the fact that an apology was given. "Er lässt Euch grüßen" is of the same kind: He is transmitting greetings via another person. He does not greet himself (because he is not here), so I do it for him, in his mission. Aug 21, 2021 at 23:38

Sich entschuldigen means to apologize for a wrong. For example, I would understand

Er entschuldigt sich für heute.

to imply that "he" misbehaved earlier today, and is now sorry for this. In contrast, sich entschuldigen lassen is about giving notice that one is unable to attend something (eg a meeting, school, etc).

Er läßt sich für heute entschuldigen, da er dringend nach Österreich muß.

Here, "he" was expected somewhere (eg a meeting), but will be unable to attend (as he is urgently travelling to Austria). There is no misbehaving or contrition involved.

  • 2
    The absence from the meeting is the misbehavior, for which one apologizes, which does not imply, that the reason for absence is bad or weak. It's just a very formal kind to let the others know, that he regrets to be in this situation, where the reason not to come is stronger. In contrast: "Er lässt ausrichten, er habe Besseres zu tun, als Deinen 100. Geburtstag zu feiern". Aug 21, 2021 at 23:45

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