How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean

Last Updated on September 14, 2020 by 90 Day Korean

How-to-Say-Im-Sorry-in-Korean

When living in a foreign country, you are bound to make cultural faux pas, mistakes, and other general errors.

Embarrassing!

It’s OK, though, as long as you know how to apologize for those mistakes. Therefore, learning how to say “I’m sorry” in Korean will be very useful to know if you plan on spending any amount of time in Korea.

Woman on the phone with an expression like she made a mistake and is sorry

Not only will it help you smooth out mistakes and misunderstandings, but it will also show what great manners Mom taught you.

Below, we’ll show you the different ways for saying “I’m sorry” in Korean with the Korean alphabet and romanization. Not only will you be able to apologize, but you’ll also be able to listen for apologies. If you can’t read the Korean alphabet yet, known as the 한글 (Hangeul), we recommend you learn that first. It’ll assist all your future Korean studies.

As a bonus, some of these “sorry” words can be multi-purpose. We’ll show you how to use them. We’ve also included a free PDF guide for how to say “I’m Sorry” in Korean that you can take with you on the go. Check it out below:

Here we go!

“I’m Sorry” in Korean Video Lesson

How to Say SORRY in Korean | 90 Day Korean

Formal “I’m Sorry” in Korean

1. How to Say I'm sorry in Korean formal

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Although the title of this article is “how to say ‘I’m sorry’ in Korean”, when speaking, the “I” part is omitted. In Korean, it is obvious that you are the person who is sorry. Therefore, you just need to say the word for “sorry.”

Secondly, like saying “thank you” in Korean, there are two different words for sorry.

The first one, 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida), is slightly more respectful, and this word would be the one that we recommend using if you only feel like learning one word for “sorry.” Remember to use your body language and voice tone to help convey your message. Face the person you are saying sorry to and slightly bow your head a little bit when saying sorry to acknowledge that you have made a mistake.

The second one, 미안합니다 (mianhamnida), will also work well, so choose which one you like better!

Can't read Korean yet? Click here to learn for free in about 60 minutes!

Association for Formal “I’m Sorry”

We’ll use some associations to help us remember these Korean phrases. Associations are helpful tools that help you recall the vocabulary or phrase by using a story or image that’s easier to remember. You can use our associations or take them as an example to make your own.

Do you know the American cartoon and movies G.I. Joe? It was popular in the 80’s to 90’s and we’ll use them to help help us remember 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida).

Their cartoon intro song was very memorable so imagine that the Joe song is needed to apologize formally in Korea. Just imagine you’re saying to yourself “Joe song, I need it.” This phrase isn’t exactly the same as 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida), that’s not always necessary. What’s important is that it helps you remember 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida).

Standard “I’m Sorry” in Korean

1. How to Say I'm sorry in Korean standard

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This is the standard level of politeness. In this case, both words can be used interchangeably.

When saying sorry, like saying thank you, people often use a level of politeness higher than they would normally. Therefore, often it is better to say 죄송합니다 (joesonghamnida) rather than 죄송해요 (joesonghaeyo).

Associations for Standard ‘I’m Sorry’

This can use the same association of G.I. Joe again, only that -합니다 (-hamnida)is changed to -해요 (-haeyo), but this is really easy!

The G.I. Joe catchphrase was “Go Joe!” which sounds a lot like “Hey yo!” -해요 (-haeyo). So just imagine the “Joe song” uses “Hey yo!” as its catchphrase in standard situations.

Informal ‘I’m Sorry’ in Korean

1. How to Say I'm sorry in Korean informal

When speaking to people of a similar age who are close to you, use 미안해 (mianhae). You can also use it when speaking to young children.

If you are in a relationship with a Korean, then learn this word now as it can save your relationship! Note that 죄송해 (joesonghae) isn’t used.

Try Your Own for Informal “I’m Sorry”

By now you can see that making associations can be fun and easy. Better yet, they help you remember the phrase much better (especially if the association is strange or unique). Can you make your own association for 미안해 (mianhae)? We’ll start you out, it sounds kind of like “me” “and” “hey”. What story could you make for these words to associate with the informal “I’m sorry”?

Bonus Ways to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean

How to Say Im Sorry in Korean

You can use “I’m sorry” in Korean to express apologies. However, there are alternate expressions that you should use in certain cases where you’d use “sorry” in English.

1. How to Say I'm Sorry in Korean - just a moment

This phrase means “just a moment” or “hold on a second”. You would use this phrase when you’re trying to get through a crowded subway in Seoul. Rather than say “sorry”, you’d say 잠시만요 (jamsimanyo).

You might also use this phrase when you’re on the phone or in the middle of a conversation and someone is trying to get your attention. This will be useful to tell the other person to hold on a moment.

2.  How to Say I'm sorry in Korean - Excuse me

This phrase means “excuse me“, as in “I am sorry for interrupting.” You might use this if you’re about to interrupt someone. The word 실례 (sillye) means “discourtesy or bad manners”, so the phrase translates to “I do/have bad manners.”

Using “I’m Sorry” in a Sentence

I'm Sorry in a sentence

At the end of a sentence:

1. -아/어서 죄송합니다 (a/eoseo joesonghamnida)

If you want to say I’m sorry that I am … then you can use the above structure.

Example:

늦어서 죄송합니다 (neujeoseo joesonghamnida)

I’m sorry that I am late.

At the start of a sentence:

1.

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Alternatively, you can put the word “sorry” at the start of the sentence.

Example:

죄송하지만 못 가요 (joesonghajiman mot gayo)

I’m sorry but I can’t go.

This can also be used when asking for a favor.

Example:

죄송한데 사진 좀 찍어 주시겠어요? (joesonghande sajin jom jjigeo jusigesseoyo)

I’m sorry but could you take a picture for me please?

Now that you know how to say sorry in Korean, you can start using it with other basic phrases like hello and goodbye. Remember that its usage is slightly different from how the word “sorry” is used in English, so listen to Koreans, watch Korean dramas, and try to see how the word “sorry” is used naturally in everyday Korean.

Want more Korean phrases? Go to our Korean Phrases Page for a complete list!

    33 replies to "How to Say “I’m Sorry” in Korean"

    • Avatar for Namulindwa Hillary gift Namulindwa Hillary gift

      Wow at least l have learnt what was confusing to me but how do you know how are in Korean which is informal and formal

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Namulindwa! The most simple way you can tell is how the sentence ends! If a sentence ends with ‘요’ or ‘입니다’, the sentence is formal! If it doesn’t, it’s very likely informal. ^^

    • Avatar for 래인 래인

      안녕하세요 선생님. I sometimes hear the phrase ‘내가 잘 못 해서’ used to mean I am sorry. Please could you explain how, why and in what situations this can be used? 감사합니다!

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, 래인! “내가 잘못했어” means “I was wrong.” “잘못하다” means “to err or to make a mistake.” ^^

    • Avatar for Tasneem Tasneem

      wow this page is very useful ,thanks really I love this site , but I think I get lost , I want to ask about the most formal and informal phrases from “sorry” in korea ?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Tasneem! As in the article, the most formal form would be “죄송합니다” and the informal one would be “미안해”. ^^

    • Avatar for Marta Marta

      Hi! I have also heard 죄곰안야 as “I’m sorry” and I assume it somehow comes from the verb 죄송합니다, but when is it correct to use 죄곰안야? Is it formal or not?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Marta! I’ve never heard of 죄곰안야 even as slang! It might be an inner joke for someone. ^^

        • Avatar for Marta Marta

          Hmm, so what exactly it means? Does it mean anything at all? Haha I wrote it as I heard it from a video, so it may be incorrect, but when I type it into some dictionaries it is translated either as “I’m sorry” or “you are guilty”. And I’m just really confused T_T

    • Avatar for Vihu Vihu

      Can we use 미안해 version in sentences? If yes, how?

      • Avatar for 90 Day Korean 90 Day Korean

        Hi, Vihu! You can say “마이크, 미안해” (I’m sorry, Mike) and he’ll say “괜찮아” (It’s okay). ^^

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