There are many ways to say “excuse me” in English and we use different expressions depending on the situation.
Spanish has many ways to use the expression too and if you use them correctly you can speak like a native.
So the next time you need to ask someone for some more time or to move from in front of you try one of these 16 expressions.
You will sound more fluent and also seem more polite if you use the best expression.
16 ways to say “excuse me” in Spanish
- Con su permiso
- Lo siento
- Un momento…
- ¿Cómo fue?
- Me apena
The most commonly used expression for “excuse me” in Spanish is ‘permiso.’ When you say this everyone will understand that you are saying “excuse me.”
You can use this at any time for any situation and there will not be any confusion about what you are saying. It is great in colloquial or formal settings.
Since the expression is only one word and it literally translates to “permission” you do not need to worry about formality.
For the following example you are standing in the grocery store and want someone to move from in front of your way.
Other person: Pase.
2. Con su permiso
If you want to be courteous for interrupting someone during a meeting you could say, “con su permiso.” Because of ‘su’ you know this is a formal sentence.
You should use this in a formal situation such as in an office or at a university. You always say this when you want to go and do something.
‘Con’ means with and ‘permiso’ means permission so you are asking someone for permission to do something.
In the following example you are in an office meeting. You need to excuse yourself to print something and bring it to the meeting.
Excuse me while I fetch the prints.
Boss: Échale ganas
The boss is replying by telling you, “go for it.” You can reply to this sentence in many ways and échale ganas can also mean many things.
When you interrupt someone you can use an interjection like in English. ‘Perdón’ is an interjection in Spanish that means “excuse me” and you can use it when you will bother someone for something.
If you are entering a meeting and want to sit in a seat, you could say this to get someone’s attention. Once you have their attention you will follow up with a question.
In the following example you are in the grocery store and you need help finding ice cream. You will need to interrupt the person who is working so he can guide you to the ice cream.
Excuse me, can you tell me where to find the ice cream?
Worker: No se preocupe, está en el tercer pasillo.
No worries, it’s on aisle 3.
Make sure that when writing this you add the tilde on the letter ‘o’ because it is stressed in speaking. If you do not include this it will be difficult to understand as “excuse me.”
If you accidentally bump into someone in a line, you could say ‘perdóneme.’ You should reserve this for small mistakes that require an apology.
Sometimes people will add extra words before this when they want to exclaim. If you want to make this more interesting or if you are surprised you can add ‘uy’ in front of the word.
When you say, ‘uy, perdóneme’ it indicates that you are both apologizing and saying “excuse me” in the same sentence.
For context in the following example you are walking into a building and looking at your phone. Because you are looking at your phone you bump into someone.
The person you bumped into has dropped all of their items. You want to say “excuse me” and express apologies.
Ah, I dropped everything. Watch where you are going!
You: ¡Perdóneme, no te vi!
Excuse me, but I didn’t see you.
The verb is ‘perdonar’ which ends in ‘-ar.’ When you replace the ‘ar’ with ‘e’ and add the reflexive pronoun ‘me’ you are using the subjunctive.
Reflexive pronouns tell you who the verb is meant for. In this case the reflexive pronoun is ‘me’ so it is directed at yourself.
Since we cannot ensure the person you’re saying “excuse me” and “sorry” to will accept your apology you must use the subjunctive. The subjunctive is always used for situations which you cannot affirm.
5. Lo siento
Although technically this is an apology, you can use it as “excuse me.” You will need to use this in certain situations.
You can use this in a similar fashion to ‘perdóneme.’ Usually people use this for actions that have consequences other than what they intended.
For context in the following example, you have told your friend that her boyfriend kissed another person. You saw this and wanted her to know.
She has not received the news well and is very upset. You want to excuse your action and apologize at the same time.
Excuse me, I didn’t mean to make you cry.
You are both excusing yourself and apologizing at the same time because the result was unintended. You now feel a bit out of place having told your friend.
Here is another example of a reflexive pronoun in a verb. The verb here is ‘permitir’ which means “to permit.”
You can probably guess that this means you want to excuse yourself and are politely asking for permission. You would use this in a formal setting when you need to excuse yourself.
In the following example your phone is vibrating. You see that it’s a doctor and you need to take the call.
You do not want to be rude so you tell your boss you will step out to take the phone call.
Excuse me, I need to take this call.
7. Un momento
If you are being incorrectly accused of something, you may want to use ‘un momento.’ It is a polite way of saying “something is not right.”
The literal translation could be “one moment.” You should use this when you have additional information to add after telling someone they are not right.
In the following example your boss is upset that a report is not complete. It was supposed to be ready for the morning meeting but it’s not done yet.
He thinks he assigned the report to you, but he assigned this to another employee. You want to let him know about his error politely.
Maria, why is this report not ready? I told you we needed it for the morning meeting.
You: Un momento, no me asignaste esto y no lo vi en mi calendario.
Excuse me sir, you didn’t assign this to me and it’s not on my calendar.
In informal settings you can opt for ‘espere’ instead of ‘un momento.’ Both of these mean that something isn’t quite right and you need to set the story straight.
You would not use this when speaking to a boss or someone in a position of power. Instead, you should opt for this when talking to friends or family members.
In the following example your friend has just said you’ve taken her pencil. You do not have it and want to show her that it’s not in your pencil pouch.
Give back my pencil, I need it for the exam.
You: Espere, no lo tengo. Busca en mi bolsa de lápices.
Excuse me, but I don’t have it. Take a look in my pencil pouch.
When saying this you could be a bit sassy. Quite literally you are telling your friend to “hold their horses.”
Sometimes if you mishear someone you may want them to repeat what they’ve said. In Spanish it is common to say ‘¿cómo?’
You can use this when talking to anyone and in English it can mean “come again?” or “excuse me, can you repeat that?”
It is not uncommon for long phrases to be shortened in Spanish. Much of the shortening comes from context.
In the following example you are at the doctor’s office and you did not hear how often to take your medication. You want the doctor to clarify this for you.
Take your medicine twice a day for three weeks and you will feel better.
Excuse me, can you repeat that?
You can use this if you do not understand something too. It indicates you want someone to repeat something slowly or using different words.
10. ¿Cómo fue?
Similar to ‘¿Cómo?’ you can say, ‘¿Cómo fue?’ when you do not understand something or miss what was said. You can use this with anyone.
The difference between the two is ‘fue’ which means “was it” in English. The expression translates to “what was it?”
You can use this when you want more clarification on something. The connotation here is slightly different than just ‘¿Cómo?’ because it shows you want clarification and a repetition.
In English this can translate to “excuse me, can you say that again more clearly?”
In the following example you are in a Spanish speaking country. You need directions to the nearest store to make a purchase.
You mostly understand the store clerk but got lost when he told you to turn right on 10th avenue.
Take the first right on 10th avenue and then make an immediate left and the store is on your right.
Excuse me, what do I do again?
11. Me apena
An intense form of saying “excuse me” is ‘me apnea.’ You should not use this lightly as it translates to “I regret.”
It also indicates you are sorry about an action you have taken but can translate to “excuse me.” To use this as an “excuse me” you need to be very sorry for an inconvenience you have caused.
In the following example you have just interrupted someone’s phone call. You are telling them that there is a car accident that just happened.
You thought the car accident was much worse than it is. You only quickly glanced at the accident.
Oh no! Look at that accident, we must go help them!
Other person: Estoy en una llamada importante, pero vamos si es un accidente grave.
You: Mi error, no es tan malo como pensaba. Me apena haberte molestado.
It’s not as bad as I thought. Excuse me for bothering you.
You can use ‘lamento’ in the same way you use ‘me apena.’ You use this expression when you want to excuse yourself for an error you made that has caused a situation to become bad.
‘Lamentar’ is a verb that means “to regret” but it can also be used as a noun “lamento’ for “a regret.” When using this as “excuse me” it is a verb.
You know it is a verb because you replace the ‘ar’ ending with an ‘o’ for ‘yo’ in Spanish.
In the following situation you are a doctor. You are telling someone that their family member is in critical condition after a surgery.
You are walking into the waiting room and interrupt their conversation to break the bad news.
Excuse me, I regret to inform you that your father is in critical condition.
Although this expression can also mean “I’m sorry” it can also be used when interrupting someone to give them bad news.
The doctor is also using ‘le’ instead of ‘tu’ for “you” in Spanish. He is being quite formal.
When speaking to someone in Spanish and you need to interrupt them, you can say ’disculpe.’ You can use this in any formal or informal setting.
Take note that this verb is used in the subjunctive form. You can ask someone for permission to interrupt them, but you cannot affirm they will grant it.
The verb ‘disculpar’ can translate to “excuse,” “apologies,” or “sorry.” Using this as “excuse me” will depend on the situation.
For context, in the following sentence you are trying to ask a question about someone’s presentation. They are speaking too quickly and you cannot understand an important detail.
Today we are going to talk about the effects of global warming on the polar ice caps.
You:Disculpe, ¿puede repetirlo?
Excuse me, can you say that again?
Using ‘excúsame’ does literally mean ”excuse me” you cannot use this in the same way as the other examples on this list.
When you use this it means you are excusing an action taken by someone. You use this more commonly as “I am sorry” in Spanish.
You only use ‘excúsame’ to excuse yourself for your actions. In the following example you have done something that had a negative outcome.
You want to excuse yourself for having been rude to the CEO of your company. You did not realize it was him and were upset.
Excuse me for my actions, I did not know it was you.
Although you are saying “excuse me” a more accurate translation is “I’m sorry.”
Using ‘mande’ is a very colloquial expression from Mexico. You can use this when you want clarification on something.
It is an informal and extremely colloquial way to say ‘¿Cómo?’ The saying is so informal that you should only use it when talking to your family or very close friends.
For context in the following example, you are in the kitchen. Your mom is yelling to you from the kitchen.
It is hard to hear what she is saying so you mute the tv.
Stop watching the TV and come help me clean the kitchen.
Excuse me, what did you say?
If you want to express anger with someone, you can say ‘oiga.’ You should only use ‘oiga’ when you are angry with someone as it can be quite rude.
If someone is accusing you of an action that you did not commit you can say ‘oiga. You can also use it when someone has offended you.
For context, you are talking to someone in Spanish. You are happy to practice, but the person you are speaking to does not welcome it.
How are you and where are you from?
Other person: Habla inglés. El español es mi idioma y tú lo hablas mal.
Speak English. Spanish is my language and you speak it badly.
You: Oiga, no me hables así.
Excuse me, how dare you talk to me like that.
Here you are trying to make conversation. You start by asking how the person is and “where are you from” in Spanish.
You did not expect the rude response and wanted to let them know it was very rude.
If you want to express “excuse me” in a variety of settings and styles use one of the examples in this blog post. It will intensify your Spanish appropriately and make you sound more native.
Using a variety of expressions is key to speaking any language well.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.