How to Say "Sorry" in Korean

How to Say “Sorry” in Korean

“Oops, I dropped kimchi on your new white shoes! Sorry.” Sometimes a situation arises when you need to say “Sorry” in Korean. This lesson will teach you how to apologize in Korean.

 

There are two main words used to say “Sorry” in Korean:

  1. 죄송합니다 (chwe-song-ham-ni-da)

Honorific Korean Level

죄송합니다 (chwe-song-ham-ni-da) is “Sorry” in Korean.

죄송 (chwe-song) translates to “Apology” or “Sorry” in English.
합니다 (ham-ni-da) translates to “Do” in English and comes from the verb 하다.

Therefore, 죄송합니다 literally means do an apology or “I’m Sorry.”

The honorific level is used:

♦ With people older than you
♦ Strangers
♦ In business situations
♦ To authority figures
♦ And when you are not sure which level to use

Learn Korean Language Tips

죄송합니다 can also be used to say “Excuse me” at an honorific level as well. Use 죄송합니다 to say “Excuse me” when you are trying to move past a person that is in your way.

 

Polite Korean Level

죄송해요 (chwe-song-hae-yo) is “Sorry” in Korean.

The polite level is used:

♦ With people older than you
♦ Strangers
♦ In business situations
♦ To authority figures

The difference between the honorific and polite levels is that the polite level is used with people that you are a little bit closer to. If you are not sure which to use stick with the honorific level.

 

  1. 미안합니다 (mi-an-ham-ni-da)

Honorific Korean Level

미안합니다 (mi-an-ham-ni-da) is “Sorry” in Korean.

The honorific level is used:

♦ With people older than you
♦ Strangers
♦ In business situations
♦ To authority figures
♦ And when you are not sure which level to use

 

Polite Korean Level

미안해요 (mi-an-hae-yo) is “Sorry” in Korean.

The polite level is used with:

♦ People of similar status
♦ People the same age as you or younger
♦ Friends

The difference 죄송해요 and 미안해요 is that 미안해요 is a little more intimate which is why it is used with people that are closer to you.

 

Informal Korean Level

미안해 (mi-an-hae) is “Sorry” in Korean.

The polite level is used with:

♦ People of similar status
♦ People the same age as you or younger
♦ Friends

The difference between 미안해요 and 미안해 is that 미안해 is even more intimate and less formal which is why it is used with people that are very close to you.

Learn Korean Language Tips

미안해 (mi-an-hae) can sometimes be shortened to 미안 (mi-an) to say “Sorry” in Korean quickly. This is very informal so watch when you use it.

 

“Sorry” is used to express sympathy in English after finding out about something bad or unpleasant. Koreans do not use any form of 죄송합니다 (chwe-song-ham-ni-da) or 미안합니다 (mi-an-ham-ni-da) in that type of situation.

Ex.
A: Our aunt passed away.
B: I’m so sorry.

유감입니다 (yu-gam-im-ni-da) means “Sorry to hear that” and can be used in that type of situation.
죄송합니다 (chwe-song-ham-ni-da) and 미안합니다 (mi-an-ham-ni-da) are used when you are at fault for something.

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