"Tut mir leid" vs "Entschuldigung"

I should have asked this a while ago since I am past this now, but I am having trouble understanding the difference between "tut mir leid" and "Entschuldigung". Both mean sorry (well tut mir leid means I am sorry, while leid means sorry), but when do you use which? It's been bothering me for a while. Thanks.

September 6, 2015


In German you have three levels of "sorry".

(Es) tut mir Leid - literally "it does me sorrow" (leiden = to suffer). This is used, for example, when you REALLY messed up and want to say how truly sorry you are, or when you hear some bad news and want to console somebody. Entschuldigung - this means "sorry" in the English sense, but extends down to "excuse me". Used if you want to move past somebody on the train, for example. Or if you accidentally bump into somebody. Sorry - even though it's English, Germans say this ALL THE TIME. It's basically the lowest form of apologising, and really it's just a politeness marker/silence filler? Could be used interchangeably with Entschuldigung to mean 'excuse me'.

Source: lived in Germany for a year

September 7, 2015

This makes sense to me. In the exercises I was using Entschuldigung for excuse me and tut mir leid for I'm sorry.

September 8, 2015

I've recently heard of "bedaure" as well. What is that one used for?

September 7, 2018

bedauern- to regret, to pity, to deplore, to feel sorry for

Ich bedaure nicht genug für den Test gelernt zu haben. (small regret for a day)
Ich bedaure seinen frühen Tod. Wir hatten aber schöne gemeinsame Jahre. (serious regret but not depressing)
Ich bedaure für den Tod des Fussgängers verantwortlich zu sein. (huge regret)

Ich bedaure, dass John Doe bei den olympischen Spielen keine Medaille gewonnen hat. (I pity him, cause he is a likable dude and had only bad luck)

September 23, 2018

Now, keep in mind I am not an expert, but I think the difference is whether or not the situation was caused buy you. As such, "Entschuldigung" is used when you are at fault, partly in fault, or for a general apology, for example if someone was trying to get your attention and you did not realize it. "Tut mir leid" is used for situations that you did not take part in, for example if someone were to tell you that they lost their job (so long you were not the cause of that person losing their job).

September 7, 2015

I'd like to add that you can also use "Tut mir leid" to apologize for something that's entirely your fault: "Tut mir leid, dass ich das getan habe.".


  • "Tut mir leid": You're sorry for doing something or you're sorry for somebody
  • "Entschuldigung": You're sorry for doing something.

Also, "Entschuldigung" is a rather short apology, so if you messed up and you want to set things right, you'll use more than the short version and say something like "(Es) tut mir leid. dass ...". Children who are forced to apologize for doing something by their parents use "Entschuldigung" or the shorter, informal version 'tschuldigung if they think they didn't do anything wrong and therefore don't really want to apologize.

Actually, apologizing can be quite a tricky topic in German. For example, there also are "Ich entschuldige mich dafür, dass ..." and "Ich bitte um Entschuldigung dafür, dass ..." which are alternatives to the short "Entschuldigung". The first phrase uses the reflexive verb "sich entschuldigen" derived from the verb "(etw/jmd) entschuldigen". The latter translates to "to pardon". So "sich entschuldigen" actually means that you pardon yourself for harming someone else, when translated literally. However, only the person you harmed can forgive you and some things might just be unpardonable. Pardon is something you have to beg for. For this reason there are people who avoid this expression although most people probably won't care about this details because it has, despite its literal meaning, entered common usage.

Of course, that's nothing a beginner should bother with. Just pointing this out for people interested.

September 7, 2015

Ok danke. I always feel like sometimes learning German is a walk in the park then all the sudden your climbing a steep mountain, then its another walk in the park, then your climbing yet anoth steep mountain. I like how you told me about the "tschuldigung" thing, it really gives me an insight on culture. But like you said, I won't bother with this too much yet.

September 7, 2015

Immer gerne. Keep climbing the mountain (or tree)! The walks are definitely worth it :)

September 7, 2015

So if I have been using "Entschuldigung" when trying to squeeze past people or bumping into people is that correct? Or it should be "tut mir leid"? I somehow just assumed that tut mir leid would be used if you really messed up so I haven't used it.

September 7, 2015

Using "Entschuldigung" in that situation is perfectly fine. Maybe it's a personal thing but because it is longer I would only say "Tut mir leid" if I really have the impression people are slightly annoyed and possibly (hopefully not!) a little harmed by my reckless way of squeezing past them. So in that situation, I would also restrict use of "Tut mir leid" to cases where you rather "messed up".

September 7, 2015

Thank you I have been wondering about that also.Very infuriating when you get it wrong and it was the other. referring to your first comment.

September 9, 2015

Thanks for clarifying. Votes for both of you!

September 11, 2015

Danke mein freund. I think i got it down now, thanks!

September 7, 2015

Entschuldigung: -I crashed your car, I'm sorry. Tut mir leid: -My friend broke the leg. -I'm so sorry

September 7, 2015

i think that entschudigung is more casual.. and tut mir leid is mor for formal sincere apologies.. not an expert..

September 7, 2015

Tut Mir Leid is more formal, such as used in situations that you messed up a friendship, or you are genuinely sorry. But entschuldigung also means "excuse me" as well as "sorry", so that is used more in situations if you're trying to get out of a crowd or in less formal situations.

September 8, 2015

Entschuldigung can be "excuse me" as in "excuse me, can you tell me the way to the train station?" so more for politeness than remorse

September 10, 2015

To add to this old topic a little bit: Pardon is also a German word. (Or rather French)

Ich bitte (vielmals%...) um Pardon (=Verzeihung). I beg for your forgiving.

Without the proper "ceremonial" sentence i would think saying only Pardon is lesser than Entschuldigung.
Not as much a driveby apology as Sorry, but it sounds not like much to me. But you can level up any apology by: vielmals%...(a lot of times), geläutert (chastened), reumütig (rueful) or anything that describes a feeling or emphasizes somehow your sincereness.

Es tut mir unendlich/mit ganzem Herzen/schrecklich/außerordenlich Leid.
My sorrow knows no limits.
My sorrow is felt wholeheartedly.
I am awfully sorry.

Pardon, kann ich bitte vorbei.
Excuse me, may i please pass.

I like Pardon, especially in public transport.

May 17, 2018

Living in Germany and listening to how Germans speak, it is clear that tut mir leid translates to I am sorry and Entschuldigung translates to excuse me. Bear in mind that the phrase "excuse me" has connotations of being sorry, as you are asking to be excused for your actions.

May 19, 2019
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