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Lesson Transcript

Hi everybody! Anja here. Welcome to Ask a Teacher, where I’ll answer some of your most common German questions.
The question for this lesson is: What is the difference between Entschuldigung, Entschuldigen Sie, and Entschuldige?
Let’s start from the beginning. The verb entschuldigen can be literally translated as "to take away the guilt," with die Schuld meaning "the guilt." This means you're asking the other person to free you from feeling guilty for whatever you're apologizing for.
Both Entschuldigung and Entschuldigen Sie which are formal and Entschuldige, which is informal, are used to apologize to someone. Entschuldigen Sie and Entschuldige are the imperative of entschuldigen, which means “to excuse” and Entschuldigung means “apology.”
While both expressions can often be used interchangeably, a conversation between a parent and their child might go like this-- Entschuldige dich! “Apologize!” to which the child will reply Entschuldigung. meaning “Apology!” or more naturally in English, “Sorry!”
Entschuldigung can often stand on its own as an apology, but Entschuldigen Sie or Entschuldige often need another sentence to explain what you're apologizing for, such as Entschuldigen Sie, dass ich zu spät war. Which means, “Excuse me being late.” or Entschuldigen Sie die Störung. meaning "Excuse the disruption."
Entschuldigen Sie is formal, so this would be used at work, for example when a colleague disrupts a meeting or, very politely, simply before asking a colleague a question.
Another common phrase is Entschuldigung, das wollte ich nicht, meaning, "Apologies, I didn't want that (to happen)." This can be used in many situations, and the das wollte ich nicht implies that whatever you did was an accident. This phrase can be used for anything from apologizing for dropping a plate at home, to apologizing to your boss for breaking your computer at work. It's usually used when your mistake was noticed by another person and that person makes you aware of what you did.
Another example is Er ist entschuldigt, which directly translates as, "he's excused." This is commonly used at school, when parents write a note for their children when they are sick. Their absence is then called an entschuldigt.
In casual situations, for example if a friend is a few minutes late, many people would just shorten this phrase by saying, Tschuldigung! For example, Tschuldigung, ich stand im Stau which means, "Sorry, I was caught in traffic." Increasingly, people also say just "sorry" in very casual or friendly situations.
If you have any more questions, please leave them in the comments below, and I'll try to answer them!
Tschüss, bis zum nächsten Mal! “Bye, see you next time!”