How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Dutch

How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Dutch Audio

Apologizing is an essential part of human communication, and it’s no different in the Dutch-speaking world. Knowing how to express regret and say “I’m sorry” in Dutch can help you navigate social situations and build meaningful connections.

In this article, we will explore various ways to convey apologies in Dutch, from the basic “sorry” to more nuanced expressions.

Why Apologizing Matters

Before delving into the different ways to say sorry in Dutch, it’s important to understand why apologizing is significant. Apologizing not only mends relationships but also demonstrates empathy and respect for others’ feelings. It is a crucial social skill that can help you navigate various situations, whether you accidentally bump into someone on a busy Amsterdam street or make a language blunder in a conversation.

Basic Apologies

1. “Sorry”

The simplest way to apologize in Dutch is by using the word “Sorry.” It’s widely understood and used in informal settings. You can say it when you accidentally step on someone’s foot or make a minor mistake.

2. “Het spijt me.”

This phrase translates to “I’m sorry” in Dutch and is slightly more formal than just saying “Sorry.” You can use it in everyday situations or when you want to convey a more sincere apology.

Apologies for Specific Situations

3. Apologizing for Being Late

  • H1: “Late to an Appointment”
    • H2: “Expressing Regret”
      • H3: “Apologizing Verbally”
      • H3: “Sending a Message”
    • H2: “Providing an Explanation”
      • H3: “Traffic Troubles”
      • H3: “Unforeseen Circumstances”

If you find yourself running late for an appointment or meeting, it’s courteous to apologize. Here are some ways to do it:

Apologizing Verbally

You can say, “Het spijt me dat ik te laat ben” (I’m sorry that I am late) or simply “Sorry voor de vertraging” (Sorry for the delay).

Sending a Message

If you can’t apologize in person, sending a message is a considerate option. You can text, “Het spijt me dat ik laat ben” (I’m sorry I’m late) or “Sorry voor de vertraging.”

Providing an Explanation

Explaining the reason for your delay can show that you value the other person’s time. Common explanations include:

Traffic Troubles
  • H4: “Heavy Traffic”
    • H4: “Accidents”
    • H4: “Road Closures”
Unforeseen Circumstances
  • H4: “Emergency”
    • H4: “Public Transportation Delays”

4. Apologizing for Misunderstandings

  • H1: “Misunderstanding in Conversation”
    • H2: “Clarifying and Apologizing”
      • H3: “Using ‘Sorry’ to Clarify”
      • H3: “Explaining the Misunderstanding”

Sometimes, misunderstandings can occur in conversations. Here’s how to handle it:

Using ‘Sorry’ to Clarify

You can say, “Sorry, ik begreep je verkeerd” (Sorry, I misunderstood you) to acknowledge the misunderstanding.

Explaining the Misunderstanding

Follow up with an explanation to ensure clarity and avoid future misunderstandings.

Apologizing for Serious Offenses

5. “Excuses aanbieden” (Offering Apologies)

In more severe situations, where a heartfelt apology is necessary, you can use the phrase “excuses aanbieden.” This phrase signifies a deep regret and is suitable for situations like major mistakes or misunderstandings.


Apologizing is an essential aspect of effective communication and social interactions. In Dutch culture, using the appropriate apology demonstrates respect and consideration. Whether you’re apologizing for minor mishaps or more significant offenses, knowing how to say “I’m sorry” in Dutch can make a positive impression.

By incorporating these Dutch expressions of apology into your vocabulary, you’ll be better equipped to navigate various social scenarios and build stronger connections with Dutch speakers.


1. Is it necessary to apologize in Dutch culture for minor inconveniences?

  • In Dutch culture, it is considered polite to apologize for minor inconveniences or mistakes, as it shows respect for others.

2. Are there regional variations in how apologies are expressed in Dutch?

  • Yes, there can be regional differences in how people apologize in Dutch. However, the basic phrases are widely understood throughout the Netherlands and Belgium.

3. When should I use formal apologies in Dutch?

  • Formal apologies, like “Het spijt me,” are suitable for situations that require a more sincere and serious expression of regret, such as professional settings or when you’ve made a significant mistake.

4. Can I use English apologies in the Netherlands if I don’t speak Dutch fluently?

  • While many Dutch people speak English, making an effort to apologize in Dutch is appreciated and shows respect for the local culture.

5. What if I’m unsure which apology to use in a specific situation?

  • When in doubt, a simple “Sorry” or “Het spijt me” is generally well-received in most situations. However, assessing the severity of the situation can help you choose the most appropriate apology expression.
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Shawn Stolting

Shawn Stolting

A proud Dutch speaker from Suriname. Nestled on the northern coast of South America, Suriname is where my heart and heritage reside. I call the charming capital city of Paramaribo my home.