Mistakes are inevitable, but a sincere apology can help fix the situation. Let’s see how to apologize in Russian.
The Most Common Ways
The most popular ways to apologize are using the noun “извини(те) [iz-vi-NEE-(tye)]” and “прости(те) [pras-TEE-(tye)].” When talking to someone you know and address in “ты,” use “прости” and “извини.” If talking formally or to several people, add “-те” to the end of these verbs.
They both translate as “sorry” or “excuse me.” In fact, there is almost no difference between them. Since these words are synonymous, there are no rules for using any one of them in a particular situation.
However, there are at least two contexts for using an apology.
“Извинить” comes from the “вина (fault)” and the prefix “из (out of),” which means the elimination of guilt. “Извините” is more for use in formal situations when apologizing for something insignificant.
“Простить” has a slightly different meaning. This verb is usually used when someone admits that they did something wrong (like offended someone) and tries to fix it.
Sometimes we all can do something wrong. Although, it is valuable to admit these mistakes and maybe even ask for forgiveness for them:
Прости, но я разбил твою любимую кружку. – Sorry, but I broke your favorite mug.
Извини, я забыла ответить тебе вчера вечером! – Sorry, I forgot to reply to you last night!
Nevertheless, saying “извини(те)” or “прости(те)” does not always mean being guilty of something. Speech etiquette shows politeness, demonstration of respect. So, an apology as a courtesy is used to attract attention. For example, before asking a person for a favor or asking them a question. Most often, this is an element of addressing a stranger, orsomeone of higher authority.
On the other hand, in Russian culture, people more often use other linguistic means, including indirect questions.
Простите, что отвлекаю, вы не подскажете, сколько времени? – Sorry to distract you, could you tell me what time it is?
Извините, вы не подскажете, сколько времени? – Excuse me, could you tell me what time it is?
Подскажите, пожалуйста, сколько времени. – Could you tell me what time it is?
Most likely, you are already familiar with the term “пожалуйста (please).” Adding “пожалуйста” to one of the above words will turn the apology into a more polite tone:
Простите, пожалуйста, вы не подскажете, сколько времени? – Excuse me, please, could you tell me what time it is?
For a better picture, I would recommend reading THIS BLOG.
Alternatively, you can indicate the reason you are sorry using “что (that)” или “за (for):”
Извините за опоздание! – Sorry for being late!
Простите, что я опоздал немного! – Sorry I’m a little late!
It will add some emotion to your apology.
Прошу прощения/Прошу извинить меня
Another way is to add the word “прошу ” before the noun “прощения” or the verb “извинить ” and the pronoun “меня:”
Прошу прощения, мадам! – I beg your pardon, madam!
Прошу извинить меня, но я должен покинуть вас! – I beg your pardon, but I must leave you!
Жаль/Мне (очень/искренне) жаль
“(Мне) (очень) жаль” is a versatile expression with the “sorry” meaning that is used for general apologies:
Мне искренне жаль, но я не думал, что так получится! – I’m truly sorry, but I didn’t think it would turn out this way!
(Я) сожалею, (что…)
The formal way to apologize in Russian “(я) сожалею” translates as “I am/feel sorry” or as “I regret.” It is frequently used in official speeches:
Сожалею о Вашей утрате. – I am sorry for your loss.
Я сожалею, что смог исправить ситуацию. – I regret that I was not able to rectify the situation.
While some apologies are more appropriate in formal situations, others are more common in everyday speech. Below are some examples.
This apology comes from French. The term is only used with friends and family:
Пардон, я нечаянно! – Sorry, that was an accident!
“Виноват(а)” is the same as English “my bad/fault.” It is also a standard apology in the army. The expression can be used on its own or as part of a longer phrase:
Виноват, спорить не буду. – My fault, I won’t argue.
Obviously, this is just English “sorry.” The use of English words in Russian has recently become extremely popular:
Ой, сорри, я не хотел тебя обидеть! – Oops, sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you!
However, in Russia, younger people like to modify words. So the word “сорри” turned into an incomprehensible “сорян”. This one is even more informal than the previous one:
Сорян, дружище! – Sorry, buddy!
In conclusion, I would like to point out that different countries have different cultures. So, one of the apparent differences is the frequency of using a formal apology. When you pass a person in a narrow aisle of a store in Russia, it is not common to apologize. But if you accidentally hit them with your cart, it’s definitely better to say, “I’m sorry.”
Finally, it is important not only to ask for forgiveness but also to forgive others.